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Utilization of modern technology in agriculture in Sri Lanka – ‘a story not heard by policy makers’

By Pradeep Ranaweera

The 2021 budget proposals have, as usual, placed a ‘greater burden’ on agriculture. Meanwhile, in the face of the current corona epidemic, agriculture is once again under intense scrutiny and strict restrictions on the import of essential food items have given rise to hopes for a revival in agriculture.

Despite these positive expectations, Sri Lanka’s agriculture is not in a state of ‘growth’ but in a state of gradual decline or stagnation. The sector’s contribution to agriculture’s GDP in 2019 was 7% and in 2018 it was 7.1%.

The contribution of paddy cultivation to GDP (2019) was 0.7% and that of vegetable cultivation was 0.6%. According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, nearly 25% of the country’s labor force is employed in agriculture and agriculture (fertilizer subsidy) accounts for 9.2% (2019) of government subsidies.

In this situation, serious problems (shortages and rising prices) of the basic agricultural products such as rice, vegetables and coconut develop annually, creating serious complications not only economically and socially but also politically.

In all these cases, the government has planned to ban the slaughter of cattle on the grounds that it is necessary for agriculture and ‘organic farming, promotion of local paddy varieties and home gardening are being carried out with the full blessings of the state.

But experts point out that there are serious discrepancies and inconsistencies between all these activities. They allege that Sri Lanka’s agriculture is heading back to the ‘Sinhala King’s Day’, especially as agriculture is increasingly mechanized or modernized globally.

In view of all these, the 2019 Central Bank Annual Report discusses at length the application of modern technology to agriculture (Central Bank Annual Report 2019, pp. 62-66) to the reader (if you read something like this) that only current policymakers are covered. But researchers and even officials say the article is ‘unseen’.

We believe that this article is a timely and timely analysis at a time when there is a wide-ranging discussion and focus on agriculture and its development in Sri Lanka, so we have taken steps to quote that article directly.

The story of the Central Bank on the application of modern technology to agriculture in Sri Lanka

Global demand for food continues to grow due to population growth and changes in food patterns, and according to the United Nations World Population Expectation-2019 report, the world population is expected to grow from the current 7.8 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050.

As the population grows, so do the problems of global sustainability, including food security. As a developing country, Sri Lanka also has a number of issues such as food security among the growing population, significant post-harvest losses and the impact of persistent adverse weather conditions, and effective agricultural practices must be used to address these challenges. The importance of food security for a developing country like ours has been re-emphasized by the recent Kovid-19 global epidemic.

Through the accumulation of knowledge and experience of farmers, traditional agriculture has in the past provided food for the entire population for centuries. Agro-biodiversity irrigation systems , such as agro-biodiversity systems, have played a significant role in the efficient water management, climate change adaptation, and buffer protection against natural disasters such as floods, droughts and pesticides. Inland paddy fields (helmalu and irrigation systems developed in the past) can be introduced.

However, during the colonial period, plantation agriculture was given priority and not much attention was paid to crops other than subsistence agriculture. With the government’s lack of attention, subsistence agriculture alone was not enough to meet the growing food demand in the country.

Subsequently, in the 1960s, the Green Revolution, a major policy policy in many developing countries, developed high yielding varieties, hybrid seeds, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and the use of various crop strategies, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Was received. Despite significant growth and improvement in the agricultural sector as a result of the Green Revolution, the past few years have seen a slowdown in agricultural productivity levels, raising issues of food security as well as low income of farmers.

However, due to other industrial activities and urbanization, the resources required for agricultural activities such as land and water resources are rapidly declining and the return to the ‘agro-ecosystem’ based on traditional agriculture is not feasible at present.

Although a significant portion of the SHIRMA force is employed in the agricultural sector, it can be seen that there is a severe shortage of SHIRM for high cultivation. In addition, recent unpredictable weather patterns and the resulting natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, pose additional obstacles to agriculture. These trends emphasize the importance of improving the productivity and efficient use of resources in the agricultural sector through innovative technologies.

The rapid technological advancement that has taken place around the world over the past two decades has given rise to various innovations that have enabled us to meet the technological needs of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders faster and more accurately than ever before.

Countries such as India, Israel and Brazil have achieved rapid growth in the agricultural sector through rapid mechanization and the use of high technology . Although new technologies such as vertical farming , vertical farming , hydrophonics (GAP) and Geographic Information Systems (GSP) are currently available in Shangri-La, the use of such technologies is relatively limited and therefore modern technologies are standardized for agriculture. There is much more that Sri Lanka needs to do to make the most of it.

Use of new technology to improve the performance of the agricultural sector

The latest advances in technology, from microcomputers to large computer networks, have completely transformed modern global agriculture.

Modern agricultural technology no longer considers inputs such as water, fertilizer and crop protection to be applied equally to all fields. Accurate or familiar agronomic techniques have been developed to take into account the limited resources available for agricultural products and the growing demand for agricultural products, and to monitor the variability of conditions within and between crop fields using modern information and telecommunication technologies. Making and responding accurately determines the amount of agricultural inputs to be applied to crops. Therefore, the concept of smart farming enhances the richness and quality of agricultural products by integrating modern farming practices with modern technology.

The Internet of Things (IoT) artificial intelligence AI ( AI) drones and robots can be used effectively to increase the productivity of the agricultural sector, the 4IR technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Today, billions of physical devices, such as cell phones, computers, and smart electronics, connect to the Internet around the world to collect and share data. The inclusion of sensor sensors in this network of devices will add a certain level of digital intelligence, enabling real-time data communication between the devices without any human intervention. (Ranger, 2020). This technology is called the Internet of Things. Tools related to the Internet of Things, land, vehicles, water, etc., to obtain data on moisture levels, soil nutrient levels, pests and diseases, vehicle location determination, storage capacity determination, livestock monitoring and other farm operations. Plants and livestock can be mounted on the surface or inside.

By collecting and analyzing the collected data using artificial intelligence, farmers and other stakeholders can easily access and generate information that can be accessed through computers or mobile phones. Using artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence enables real-time analysis of a wide range of data on temperature, humidity, weather, water use and other field conditions collected at the farm level. For example, artificial intelligence with sensors and irrigation systems that measure moisture levels can determine the specific water requirement of a crop based on soil moisture level, crop stage as well as weather forecast, and thus provide water to the relevant field without human intervention. will be.

For example, the Nigerian ‘Hello Tractor’ Internet of Things service connects tractor farmers and tractor owners who wish to rent a tractor with the aim of selecting resources and making full use of existing tractors.

Furthermore, the inefficiency of the food supply chain indicates the weakening of the relationship between suppliers and retailers in this sector. Blockchain technology creates a direct connection between all stakeholders in the supply chain and ensures that traceability and transparency at the production chain and the location of the product in the supply chain are ensured at every stage of the production process. For example, the Thai government has introduced a pilot project to identify organic rice as a blockchain technology solution, particularly in Thailand, from jasmine rice production to exports.

With the advancement of technology, drone and automated robot technology have come to the fore as multi-purpose technologies used for smart farming. Drone technology is used for soil and cultivation field analysis, planting, spraying of various inputs for crops, crop quality monitoring and analysis, watering and crop health assessment. Drone technology, therefore, facilitates time savings in cultivation, minimizing limited human and other resource use, storing data for future analysis, and increasing yields using effective resources.

For example, farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, have started using drones to spray pesticides on their farms. Furthermore, private technology companies in India use drones to provide insurance research services to insurance companies as well as the government for the efficient operation of crop insurance programs.

In addition, virtual robotic systems such as weeding robots, driverless tractors and soil disinfection robots provide inputs to agricultural fields, land preparation, weed control, pruning, spraying, harvesting and harvesting unwanted seedlings. Used for collection, and sorting and packaging. Therefore, drone and robotic technologies help farmers manage resources efficiently and reduce production costs by reducing energy consumption.

Today, nanotechnology has evolved into a mature science field that has the potential to be used extensively in agriculture. Broadly speaking, nanotechnology is the field of applied science and technology (ScienceDaily, 2020) that aims to control molecular-scale matter in the range of 1 to 100 nanometers and to create devices of that size.

Nanotechnology is used in all stages of agrochemical production, such as manufacturing, value addition, storage, packaging and transportation. The application of nanomaterials, such as nano capsules and nanoparticles, is primarily intended to enhance the absorption of the substance by plants and to make efficient use of plant protection products by transporting constituents to specific locations in the plant.

For example, the application of nanomaterial fertilizers minimizes the wastage of nutrients by releasing those nutrients to the plant in a slow and controlled manner, thereby increasing the yield through efficient use of resources and minimizing the environmental damage caused by fertilizers.

Furthermore, nanotechnology is used in the fields of soil fertility enhancement, crop diagnosis and control, seed application, pesticide application, livestock sector pharmaceuticals as well as plant breeding and genetic evolution. Post-harvest losses reduce the supply of food to consumers and increase retail prices. Therefore, post-harvest technology plays a very important role in maintaining the quality of food, maintaining perishable products for a long time and minimizing food spoilage.

Careful handling from harvest to market is required for post-harvest damage management. In addition to cold storage facilities, chemical corrosion treatments (application of antioxidants, application of antioxidants and antimicrobial agents, and application of physical corrosion agents (radiation, heating, and edible wrapping) are also available.

The use of these technologies aims to slow down the quality of food due to physical degeneration and maturation, while minimizing the risk of microbial growth and contamination.

In addition to post-harvest treatments, the use of enhanced packaging packages helps to minimize post-harvest losses at various stages of the food value chain such as storage and transport. Packages containing oxygen and ethylene absorbers slow down the physical metabolism of foods, thereby improving their shelf life.

At the same time,advanced ‘intelligent’ packaging is increasingly being used, including sensors, indicators, and radio frequency identification systems that can monitor the quality and quality of food. Furthermore, geneticists have developed plant varieties that are resistant to post-harvest changes.

Efficient exchange of farm knowledge is a very important prerequisite for smart farming. Farmers and stakeholders need the most up-to-date information on the most effective cultivation practices, the best prices available in the market, the available credit rating, soil quality, nutrients and crop protection.

Furthermore, farmers regularly expect early warnings of droughts, floods, pest and disease outbreaks and wildfires. Electronic extension programs can be activated using digital technology to obtain information and advance notice to stakeholders.

Instead of meeting farmers on a regular basis, extension agents can use a combination of voice messages, text messages, videos and online agronomics to keep in touch with farmers’ increasing mobile phone use. For example, India’s Agrostar Technology Foundation provides agricultural inputs and services to farmers with a wide range of agronomic advice needed to improve their productivity and product quality while solving common problems in farming.

Today, AgroRostar operates in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, India, connecting more than 500,000 farmers with its digital services. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Commodity Exchange of Kenya (KACE) has introduced an SMS service called SMS SOKONI, which allows farmers in any part of the country to receive up-to-date and reliable information on market prices and offerings via SMS or mobile applications at a discounted rate. Facilitation is provided. To balance supply and market demand conditions through data-based digital technologies, the agriculture sector has shifted from production-centric activities to more market-centric activities.

Current status of the introduction of new technology in Sri Lanka to Sri Lanka

The use of high technology in the agricultural sector of Sri Lanka is limited not only among farmers but also among agribusinesses. Several e-agriculture programs such as ICT and mobile platforms and software applications have already been created to bilaterally disseminate agricultural information with the aim of using ICT to enhance the productivity of the agricultural sector. With the participation of the Department of Agriculture and several private agencies, Wikigoviya website, AgMIS (Market Price Information System and SMS Service) Electronic farming services such as Govipola ( Recommended Mobile Phone App ) and Govt.

Meanwhile, a Seed and Plant Material Management Information System, a QR code system for GAP certification for good agricultural practices and a system for monitoring the progress of the National Food Program are currently being developed. In addition, Shrinri Lanka Nanotechnology Institute SLINTEC is involved in research related to nanotechnology for low speed application of fertilizers, nano fungicide compounds, herbicides based on organic acids, seed coatings to reduce the negative impact of fertilizers and soil rehabilitation and soil treatment. A lot of work is done In addition, many private technology companies in Sri Lanka have launched a number of technological solutions for agricultural purposes, such as drone technology and weather forecasting. (E.g., WeatherGuru has made extensive use of sophisticated technology and social media to support the agricultural supply chain, connecting wholesalers, retailers and end consumers, within the limits imposed on traffic and mobilization by the public under the current Kovid 19 epidemic. By itself, sophisticated technology can be used effectively to connect agricultural producers to the market, such as managing harvest time, minimizing post-harvest losses and waste, and ensuring a better price for the farming community.

However, the research and development of advanced agricultural technologies carried out by the private sector in Shangri-Lanka
is limited to a few pioneering companies in the field and is not yet widely used.

Furthermore, the adoption of new technologies has shown that agricultural companies in Sri Lanka, as well as farmers, have been slower than expected, and
investment in technologies to increase productivity has slowed down due to competitive protection. Problems with adaptation to new technologies, limited capital investment for initial investment in high-tech agriculture, lack of technical education and skills, and reluctance of young people with technical knowledge to engage in farming have led agricultural companies and the agrarian community to adopt new technologies. Is slow.

Farmers in rural areas are limited in their use of technology due to their lack of access to internet connections, their speed and lack of awareness of available services.


Over time, all agricultural activities in the agricultural sector of Sri Lanka have undergone a significant transformation. However, further focus on technology-based agriculture with a view to enhancing agricultural value chains is crucial to move to the next level of development and to address the emerging challenges in the agricultural sector. Identifying existing limitations for the use of technology in the agricultural sector and at the grassroots level will help to reduce barriers to the transition from traditional uses to technology-based agriculture.

In order to address the persistent structural barriers that hinder the technological development of this sector, it is important to revise the policies on capital funding and technical education required for technological transformation as well as to strengthen the digital infrastructure.

Enhance public investment to carry out research and development of agricultural applications using sophisticated technology through a number of existing agricultural research institutes in the country, create a favorable investment environment for private sector investment in such ventures as well as loans at concessionary interest rates. Increasing awareness is very important to promote technological innovations in the agricultural sector.

In addition, raising awareness of available services and increasing access to concessional loans to support farm-level investments are essential to address barriers to the advancement of new technology at the grassroots level. In recent and long term, the inclusion of subjects related to advanced agricultural technology in the scope of industrial and tertiary education programs is also very important for the advancement of agricultural technology in the field of agriculture.

At the same time, it is worthwhile to reconsider the historic agricultural systems of Shangri-Lanka with a view to integrating the best practices of the old systems with modern technology as much as possible in order to improve the resilience and eco-friendliness of the agro-industries.

1 Hyea, W. L. and Vikas, C. (2017) Agriculture 2.0: How the
Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector.
2 Manoj, T. and Nimesha, D. (2019) Farm Smart! Developing
Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Sector in the 4IR.
3 Matthieu, D. C., Anshu, V. and Alvaro B. (2018) Agriculture
4.0: The Future of Farming Technology. World Government
4 Ranger, S. (2020) What is the internet of things : everything
you need to know about the IoT right now. [online] Available
5 ScienceDaily (2020) Nanotechnology. [online] Available at:

Extract – Central Bank of Sri Lanka – Annual Report 2019, pp. 62-65