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giampaolor's picture
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Question 1
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Many stakeholders agree on the strategic importance of developing a national e-agriculture strategy, while others may doubt the potential impact of such a strategy and raise concerns that many of the strategies that have been developed to date have not been implemented. Do you think that a “National E-agriculture Strategy” is needed? Why? How best can a strong case be made for its development?  

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Welcome and practical tips for the forum

Welcome everybody to our online forum discussion! Today we are launching the first question of four to learn more about e-agriculture strategies, why they are needed, how they should look like and what we have learned from experiences with e-agriculture strategies and policies. 

Everybody is welcome to share his ideas and experiences on this forum page. In order to be able to do so you will have to login! Not yet a member of e-Agriculture? No problem. You can register here: www.e-Agriculture.org/user/register    It is fast, simple and free!

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My name is Alice, and I will be facilitating this forum. Please let me know if you have any problems registering, logging in or sharing your comments. You can send me a message or write to: info@e-agriculture.org

For those who prefer to write contributions in French or Spanish, we will try to translate it back to English as soon as possible, or at least a summary of your contribution. 

Looking forward to the discussion.

Kind regards,

Alice 

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Welcome and practical tips for the forum

Thanks Alice, we look forward to start contributing on this forum.

Kind Regards

Mireille

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National E-agriculture Strategy” is needed? Why? How best can...

Dear All,

Thanks for this first question concerning the need of National E-Agriculture Strategy. For me and my country  I strongly beleive that it is needed.

Current literatures suggest that the agriculture is a source of livelihoods for 86% of rural people in developing countries and it provides 1.3 billion jobs for small-scale farmers and landless workers. Moreover, the contribution of agriculture in growth of GDP in much more as compared to other sectors. In recent years, with the advent of ICT tools, potential contribution of ICT can be seen in achieving agricultural development objectives and contributing to broader economic, social and institutional development. ICT helps in growing demand for new approaches, business models, good practices and design guidance in agriculture and rural Development projects. Lot assistance is available for the farmers with the use of ICT.

The proper awareness and understanding about crops, seeds, fertilizers, marketing and other related information, are achieved through several media using ICT tools. ICT also helps in empowering the poor and rural people by providing better access to natural resources, improved agricultural technologies, effective production strategies, markets, banking and financial services; local and national policies related to agriculture etc. I thing this might help to make a proper case for an national e-agriculture strategy.

Mireille

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Coordinated e-Agriculture implementations at National level

A Strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. 

The growth of ICTs in the last decade has been phenomenal - from the reach of mobile connectivity to the increase in speed of broadband, low-cost sensor, computing networks to cloud computing facilities. For agriculture, this has tremendous potential in increasing the capacity and livelihood opportunities of small-holder farmers and rural communities.

We have seen the introduction of many e-Agriculture projects/initiatives in many countries aimed at increased the efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural processes by using ICT in agriculture. However, a conservative estimate would note that only 20% of such initiatives move from the pilot stage to the sustainable phase. Mainstreaming many e-Agriculture initatives has been a major challenge faced by many countries. The reason for the this are many-fold - a lack of clear strategy and failure to take note of synergies in other sectors together with overlooking linkages with other parallel developments are often the reasons for that initative not being sustainable.

It is in this milieu that the need for an e-Agriculture strategy is strongly felt. An e-Agriculture strategy is developed taking the national agriculture strategy as a guiding framework.

Once a National e-Agriculture Strategy is developed in partnership with key stakeholders, it prevents ad-hoc creation/development of unsustainable e-agriculture initiatives and streamlines implementations at the national level in a much more sustainable manner.

 

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If done well, a national strategy can be very helpful

As with any application of technology, in their early days there is likely to be lots of experimentation and lots of failures. This is all part of the process towards mainstreaming the technology into society. The same is the case for e-Agriculture, although in this case we are actually talking about many different types of technologies (mobile services, remote sensing, radio, video, etc.).

The downside of all of the experimentation, is that it is often done in a way that is uncoordinated and inefficient, this is where a national strategy can help. It is important to note that such a strategy cannot be top down and driven by only one party. Doing so will not only make its adoption unlikley to yield benefits, but can also have negative effects by constraining innovation and experimentation. It needs to be developed using a collaboration process, that engages all stakeholders (from farmers to government agencies to the private sector). The output then becomes not a fiat as to how e-agriculture should be implemented in the country, but rather a shared vision from all stakeholders that can help them to reduce inefficiencies and maximize coordination.

The case for its development is all around. Just look at the uncoordinated efforts in e-agriculture in most countries, often resulting in a failure for e-ag to live up to its expectations in bringing wide benefits to farmers and throughout ag value chains. Now in fairness, even with a national e-ag strategy there will always be some shortfalls in terms of what is delivered and what is expected. Again though, if well done, a strategy is likely to yield greater returns on investments in e-ag in a country than uncoordinated efforts.

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Inclusive e-agriculture strategy

The idea of developing e-agriculture strategies is a very laudable one. This will bring about consistency and better coordination of actors in the e-ag sector for increased impact. Regional level e-agriculture strategy could be drafted but fine-tuned at the country level taking into considerations resource availability, commitment and availability of actors expecially private sector service providers and farmers. Ghana could benefit from such initiative. 

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Regional vrs National strategies

An e-agricultural strategy truly has the tendency of bringing about consistency and better coordination in agricultural development if developed based on good-practice principles.  There is the argument for a regional level e-agriculture strategy as a precursor to the development of a national strategy.  Much as this could be a good strategy, there are ample examples to show that regional strategies do not necessarily result in country level strategies.  In most cases, if the regional level institutions do not have resources to support the country level strategy development, thus the success levels are normally very low.  On the other hand, if country level structures identify e-agricultural strategy as a priority and invest in it, they can develop implementable e-agricultural strategies.  Regional institutions like the ECOWAS could develop broad frameworks for the development of e-agricultural strategies for their sub-regions but they will have to secure strong by-ins from the member countries, and also have strong support structures to ensure success at the country levels.

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A strategy is a pretext for all this to happen!

While a strategy does not guarentee reaching out your objectives, with no strategy, you are almost sure not to!

Moving from pilots to scale is not an easy process. A strategy is essential to create the environment in which the right discussions and collaborations happen to initiate and support such process and more importantly, to respond to some of the key issues that impede the adoption and mainstreaming of ICT in Agriculture. Several questions need to be answered:

Who is supposed to adopt e-Ag; who should pay for it and who should decide on investment decisions; how to evaluate its impact; how to ensure consistency and consolidation of efforts rather than competing or duplicating; What are the priorities and what is the roadmap; what overall policies are required; who should steer and govern and how to make sure that the solutions respond to problems (rather than the opposite), etc.

One should see that the strategy developmet process itself has it own value that is almost as important as the strategy end product. This is where stakeholders come to know each others and when the real issues are discussed.

In several cases, what is needed is just few adjustments and some key decisions to be made by the right people to make it happen. The best innovations and best ideas can just be ignored because no one took ownership of them and no serrious discussion happened on how to best leverage those.

A strategy is a pretext for all this to happen.

 

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E-Agricultural Strategies should be implementable

There is definitely no doubt about the fact that having an National e-agricultural strategy is critical for any nation that is serious about its agricultural development, and especially for development countries who claim agriculture is the sector with most contribution to their economic development.  As has already been expressed by earlier contributors, a National e-agricultural strategy has the potential of consolidating the impacts of the various e-agricultural tools being implemented, thus enhancing agricultural development.  Experiences however shows that the existence of a strategy does not guarantee its implementation.  There are many examples of many “fine” strategies that have been developed, but have never been implemented.  The beauty of a strategy is that it can be implemented to improve the living standards of its beneficiaries.   This implies that if a ‘fine’ strategy is developed but it is not implementable, or the strategy is not implemented to benefit the citizenry, then that strategy could be said to be “useless”, and would not be worth the energy and resources invested in its development. The current situation where there is an explosion of e-tools for agricultural development, it is essential to have an e-agriculture strategy that will coordinate all those activities.  The question however is, what makes a strategy implementable?  How do you make the strategy impact on the lives of its beneficiaries?  These questions I believe will be addressed in the second question on this forum

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Strategy helps to serve farmers better

A subsistence farmer in a developing country typically grows crops- food, fibre, vegetables, fruit or plantation crops, rears animals and quite likely is involved in aquaculture or agroforestry. However, in many countries it’s often noticed that these sub-sectors are addressed administratively by different Ministries or Departments- each one working individually in their silos and trying to provide services and support to the same farmer.  Having a strategy could bring these organizations on one platform and help in coordinating their activities to serve the farmer better. This will ensure synergy, increase efficiency, avoid duplication of efforts and save money.      

The transformative power of ICTs  will be best realized when they are implemented as per a well-developed national e- Agriculture strategy. 

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An e-agri national strategy provides the enabling environment!!
ICTs and mobile money can have multi-disciplinary impact given the nature of their technology(ies).  As such, to leverage the power of these technologies requires the formation of agriculture ICT/mobile money strategic alliances with multiple stakeholders.  A national e-agriculture strategy will provide the frameworks, parameters, guidelines and best practices for inviting potential partners, negotiating each partners roles/responsibilities and subsequently forming committed e-agriculture partnerships.    
 
In the case of agriculture mobile money there are a number of dynamics that can strategically align a large commodity buyer with a mobile financial services provider and other supporting entities.  The commodity buyer wants to replace its obsolete cash payment scheme with an efficient, low-cost digital payment mechanism, the mobile financial services provider wants more transaction fees and farmers benefit from convenient and safe receipt and storage of crop payments and option to use mobile money for more input supplies, health, education, solar power/lanterns, credit, savings, insurance and much more.  
 
An e-agriculture strategy that accommodates mobile money and other ICT strategic alliances will create the enabling environment at the policy level that will match - and accelerate - the groundswell of interest in using these technologies to benefit agriculture!  
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You are right!

Dear LeeHBabcock,

Just wanted to support your contribution. This option is being explored in Democratic Republic of Congo! we shall hopefully come out with good result as soon as possible.

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How can we best make the case for e-strategies

I believe that generally, and for its principle, allmost all stakeholders in the agriculture sector would agree that a strategy for better inclusion of ICT in the agriculture strategy would be useful. This because most people literate or illiterate, would recognise that for all human endeavours, having a strategy is better that having none. But, it appears that most agricultural stakeholders, including many who are ICT savvy, have been doubious about e-agriculture strategies, not about its needs per se. 

With agriculture stakeholders in general (including agriculture officials), the first issue lies with the full understanding of ICT benefits for agriculture. Until recently and maybe this is still the case, many of them understand the usefulness of ICTs only through the possibilities they give to process texts (office tools), to send messages across regions and to search now and then some information online. Fortunately for the sector and for all of us, the revolutionary social penetration of the mobile phone and the increased use of SMS to access market information and advisory services by farmers themselves and extension officers are changing the picture. However, we still need more awareness raising, more training and this will change the perception about e-agriculture strategy need with these stakeholders.

On the other hand, many stakeholders who fully understand ICT benefits including many ICT specialists who work with agriculture actors, are doubious about e-agriculture strategies, because they seem to me "afraid" of the cumbersomeness of policy processes; for them, the ICT dimension complicates the matter. Indeed, especially in African countries, experiences have shown that policy processes have taken too much time and financial resources, while concrete results taken time to emerge. ICT for development policy development processes in a great number of African countries offer the best "bad examples"; we have many countries that have developed beautiful e-strategies since a decade or more, but opening a webpage still take minutes in many cases in urban areas as well. Similarly, many beautiful strategies are not implemented, sometimes have not been even officially adopted by the government. Rural cyber-strategies or ICT strategies for rural areas or for agriculture have been initiated in some countries, mobilising stakeholders for months, without official adoption (cases of Mali and Burkina Faso). Therefore, e-Agriculture strategy advocacy and implementation processes need to learn from ICT4D policy processes. To make them acceptable and win the full commitment of these "ICT strategy-aware" stakeholders, the advocacy and development mechanisms need to be displayed as NOT cumbersome and displayed as pragmatic, with quick-wins. If those "ICTstrategy-aware" agriculture stakeholders are convinced, they will convince more easily agriculture stakeholders/officials.

Two elements can help here: regional e-agriculture strategy blueprints and the promotion of sub-sectoral e-agriculture strategies (for extension, agriculture trade, etc.), with the holistic strategies in mind.

More later.

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Feeding the world through advancements in e-Agriculture

The uses of approved e-Agriculture methods will be an incredible expansion to inventive horticultural generation, draw in youthful era in horticulture and help shield agriculturists from misfortunes, particularly little holders," said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. "These applications could go from a rancher utilizing a PDA to output the standardized tag of a parcel of affirmed seeds – something that could guarantee quality and a reasonable cost, to the establishment of ease sensors at the town level for hyper neighborhood climate da

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how can we bring eAgriculture into the mainstream Agriculture

There is no denying that we all agreee that eAgriculture is important. We are all researching in the area or stakeholders, policy makers etc. There has been a massive increase in the application of ICT in agriculture. This has mostly been at the  research level and I agree with Gerald Sylvester that the problem is the level of adoption of these technologies. We are a very disjointed bunch of researchers crossing many disciplines. There is a percentage of agricultural researchers who view ICT as a means to complete their statisical analysis or some out-of-date production modelling tool. Likewise those coming to eAgriculture from a computing background lack the knowledge and context of what tools they are developing.  This has lead to a fairly disjointed number of attempts to show the potential of eAgriculture technologies.  

i fell the issue is to try and move eAgriculture into the mainstream, promote its potential and a strategy for research and development, engagement with farmers and other stakeholders, and a plan for the uptake and adoption of these strategies as part of the overall agricultural industry strategies.  

One issue in Australia seems to be lack of focus for a body that is solely aimed to promote eAgriculture, There seems to be a conflict between what is termed as Precision agriculture and the more broad aims of eAgriculture.  I do feel a discourse on developing a eAgriculture strategy that can be used to lobby the government and research organizations and farmer bodies to focus more on how eAgriculture can facilitate not only other agricultural research but also farmer practices is needed  We have  formed a national society in Australia , ASICTA  http://www.asicta.org/ (which is dedicated to such aims ).

 How do we determine the stakeholders and create discussion amongst them to get the dialogue going. And more importantly how can we get the funding to dedicate time to determine these strategies.

We have discuss these matters amongst our ASICTA members in terms of starting to develop a white paper on eAgriculture strategies at a national level.  This is one of the goals of of our national society. 

I would also agree that there needs to be a development of a regional strategy (Asia for example) as well as perhaps statewide strategies which could be tailored from the national and regional strategies. I suggest that all the other national ICT in agriculture societies  and regional bodies such  AFITA, EFITA work on developing white papers on this. 

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ASICTA in Australia - Other countries?

Thank you Leisa for your contribution. It is interesting to learn about existing structures within countries that promote e-agriculture at a national level. We would really like to learn more about it. 

How does ASICTA go about it? Who is involved? What is essential for ASICTA to function well and to obtain results? 

To all other participants in this forum. Do you have similar structures or initiatives in you country? 

Thank you all for your contributions ! 

 

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Nécessité d'une feuille de route claire

Dear all,

Les discussions sont intéressantes. Merci pour vos contributions respectives. Je les apprécie.

Je partage pleinement les avis émises sur la nécessité de faire intervenir toutes les parties prenantes dans l'élaboration d'une stratégie e-agriculture. Dans ce cadre, les ONG et les associations ont parfois beaucoup d'avance, d'expériences et de réalisation que le gouvernement. Les ministères en charge de l'agriculture devraient capitaliser les acquis de ces dernier et les associer étroitement au processus.

Afin de faire face à des situations très disparates des pays en termes de priorités en matière d'agriculture et d'usage des TIC, je verrais la stratégie e-agriculture comme une sorte de feuille de route fixant différentes étapes qu'un grande région géographique, un pays, un groupement, une coopérative, ...à laquelle ces derniers se réfèreraient pour pouvoir tirer plienement profit de l'introduction et de l'usage des TIC dans leurs pratiques quotidiennes.

Cette feuille de route devrait, notamment, comprendre une phase de caractérisation du terrain (e-readiness), une phase de préparation du terrain (choix des actions prioritaires), une phase de déploiement (pilote, progressif), une phase d'extension et une série d'évaluations.

Cette stratégie en e-agriculture devrait avoir un noyau générique tout en donnant des possibilités d'ouverture afin de pouvoir être taillé sur mesure pour tenir compte des spécificités propres à différents espaces géographiques. 

Continuons ...

 

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Translation

As promised e-Agriculture provides a quick translation of comments in French or Spanish to English to facilitate the discussion. And if needed we are still here for other questions : info@e-agriculture.org 

Merci Marius pour votre contribution. 

Translation of post above:

Need for a clear roadmap

The discussions are interesting. Thank you for your respective contributions. I appreciate them. I fully share the opinions expressed on the need to involve all stakeholders in the development of an e-agriculture strategy. In this context, NGOs and associations sometimes are way ahead, concerning experience and realization compared to the government. The ministries of agriculture should build on the achievements of these last and closely involve them in the process.

In order to meet the very different situations of the countries in terms of priorities in agriculture and use of ICT, I would see the e-agriculture strategy as a kind of roadmap setting stages for a large geographical area , a country, a group, a cooperative, ... that they can refer to, to fully benefit from the introduction and use of ICT in their daily practices.

This roadmap should  include, among other,  a characterization phase (e-readiness), a site preparation phase (choice of priority actions), a deployment phase (pilot, progressive), and an extension phase a series of evaluations.

This strategy e-agriculture should have a generic "core" while providing opportunities opening in order to be tailored to take account of the specificities in different geographical areas.

Let's continue the discussion 

 

 

 

 

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question1

Bonjour à tous, 

La discussion est vraiment interresant, 

Il est bon temps de susciter l’exploitation de TIC dans les stratégies de développement nationales. La mise en place d’une politique nationale d’e-agriculture ou de TIC au service du développement rural s’avère nécessaire. Pour définir une stratégie e-agriculture, pour Madagascar, il faut une contribution participative des OP organisation paysanne, les facilitateurs comme les ONG qui interviennent dans le développement rural, les collectivités territoriales Fokontany, commune, région ; sans oubliés les opérateurs et réseaux (TELMA, ORANGE, AIRTEL…) et grande partie les responsables du développement rural.

Un axe stratégique national d’e-agriculture doit comporter les points suivants :

  • infrastructures et équipements TIC ;
  • applications et services adaptés au monde agricole ;
  • cadre juridique et institutionnel ;
  • programme de renforcement des capacités en TIC ; 
  • système d’information agricole.

Bonne continuation!

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Translation

Hello everyone,

The discussion is really interresant. It is a good time to encourage the exploitation of ICT in national development strategies. The establishment of a national e-agriculture or ICT policy for rural development service is necessary. To define an e-agriculture strategy for Madagascar, we need a participatory contribution of farmers organization, facilitators such as NGOs involved in rural development, local authorities, town, region, without forgotting operators and networks (Telma, Orange, Airtel ...) and largely responsible for rural development.

A nationalof e-agriculture strategy should include the following points:

- ICT infrastructure and equipment;
- applications and services tailored to agriculture;
- legal and institutional framework;
- ICT capacity building program;
- agricultural information system.


Good luck!

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Checklist for an E-Agriculture Strategy

A checklist for an e-agriculture strategy could, after establishing an appropriate vision, be around the following elements:

1. Infrastructure D3velopment - Hardware, Software, Connectivity, Storage/Cloud, Human Skills

2. Content generation and management

3. Integration of information and information systems, Intellectual Property Rights/copyright, Systems Security annd management

4. Enabling Effective use of Data and Information including developing capacities at various levels for systems management to actual user.

The most effective approach is to consider all elements together and starting from element 4, with effective use being the ultimate goal of the strategy.

 

Ajit

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Articulating stakeholder interests

Strategic documents are only useful where they voice the actual intent of those who will act with reference to them. With too many stakeholders, or very ambitious near-term objectives by those who operate in different real frames of reference, a dilution of the document results. Any such document is likely to communicate little by virtue of it being too broad.

A strategic plan that is developed bottom up, from an understanding of the ground realities of execution and anticipated execution, situated in real environments, is likely to make for a good reference. Where exisiting stakeholders strategic objectives are taken as the basis for the National Strategy, it is likely to valuable as a guiding document too. An empowered, funded oversight body is likely to be able to translate strategy into directives.

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Dash7 is a good part of the answer

When it comes down to it, this will be an M2M/Internet of Things network.  Therefore, it will make the most sense to use sensor networks which operate at near-perfect throughput.  The DASH7 Alliance, which is built upon ITU 18000-7 global specification, is the only M2M/IoT protocol stack that runs at ~100% throughput.

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e-Agriculture without Agriculture?

According to FAO, e-Agriculture "is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, e-Agriculture involves
the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to
use information and communication technologies (ICT) in the rural domain, with a primary
focus on agriculture."

However, at present, developing countries have a poor technological infrastructure, and in countries like Venezuela, the deterioration of the ICT has been scored in the last five years. But worse was the decline of agriculture to the point that 85% of agricultural production in general and up to 100% of many products in particular are imported due to the inability to produce locally as a result of the destruction of the productive apparatus by the application of totalitarian ideologies and outdated policies.

This phenomenon is not unique to Venezuela. Does it has sense to speak of e-Agriculture without a minimum developed agriculture? It means, in Venezuela agriculture barely covers 15% of its needs, so agriculture is almost nonexistent or does not contribute significantly to the safety and food sovereignty of the country. 

Or, in other words, can e-Agriculture by itself, constibute to a real developmen of basic agricultural process?

Consequently, before speaking of the use of ICT to promote agricultural development must begin with the most fundamental issues:

- Investment in education to train farmers to apply the sustainable intensification of production principles to achieve a Climate Smart Agriculture.

- Investment in basic and applied research to generate knowledge locally to solve the specific problems of the regions without rely on technology and inputs of the great powers and transnational enterprises.

- Loans and grants to local agricultural production focusing on sustainable agriculture.

- Improvement of rural roads, ports, airports, postharvest technologies (sorting and cold storage) to avoid 40-60% of losses of agricultural products during the postharvest and marketing.

- Policies that favor local production and not "agriculture of ports", that only leads to corruption and destruction of the local production system.

That is the scene of Venezuela and many developing countries. So, does it has sense to think in an e-Agriculture without Agriculure? Please don't hesitate to express your valuable thoughts.

Thanks a lot for this marvelous opportunity to share our exoperience and problems globally and consider possible solutions locally.

Greetings from Venezuela.

 

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