Myanmar at the crossroads of a tech-driven agriculture boom

Myanmar at the crossroads of a tech-driven agriculture boom. Source: AFP

Myanmar at the crossroads of a tech-driven agriculture boom

  • With an increasing population and decreasing landmass in Myanmar, tech in agriculture plays a key role
  • Developers begin to see the potential of using mobile app tech as a means to revolutionize the agricultural sector

In Myanmar, the agricultural sector accounts for some 38% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), but yields are low due to farmers being cut-off from modern technology under the previous regime for decades.

In fact, farmers in Myanmar are still among the country’s poorest. A 2017 World Bank study found that farmers in some areas of the country still earn as little as US$2 per day. 

Compared to other rice-yielding nations in the region, rice paddy generation is also low in Myanmar at 23kg a day as opposed to Cambodia (62kg), Vietnam (429kg), and Thailand (547kg) respectively, as per data from The World Bank.

The upside is the country today has a smartphone penetration rate of 80%, out of which 41% are connected to the internet as of January 2020. Additionally, Myanmar — which has a population of 55 million — has 68.24 million mobile connections as of the start of the year, which is equivalent to 126% of the total population.

This means most people in Myanmar, including farmers, are connected and tech-enabled, and some of the brightest minds in agricultural technology are at work right now to join the dots. 

Transforming farming through technology

Now, with output on the rise and modernization efforts picking up, change is on the horizon – if not here already. 

Digital agriculture offers new opportunities through the ubiquitous availability of highly interconnected and data-intensive computational technologies as part of Industry 4.0 

As a country of growers, the agricultural sector employs 70% of its labor force and generates 25% to 30% of total export earnings, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Myanmar has a huge land area and a wide variety of growing conditions. It has more than 65 million hectares of terra firma, among the highest in Southeast Asia. But, only about 20% of its land area (12.6 million hectares) is actually used for agriculture. 

To put this in perspective, Vietnam uses almost the same amount of land for agriculture despite being only half the size of Myanmar.

Many are tapping into the burgeoning local agritech sector creating a revolution in how farmers access and use the information to improve their harvests.

Impact Terra, for example, was designed to address farmers’ lack of access to high-quality information about weather, growing conditions, and markets. Through the free Golden Paddy mobile app, Impact Terra allows content partners to connect with, engage, and impact farming families. 

Partnered with the Department of Agriculture, the Impact Terra team has also been able to provide real-time updates on weather, pest management, and prices across different markets. 

They also educate and entertain their user base with non-farming services, from teaching management skills and providing health lessons, to disseminating horoscopes, games, and news.

Besides that, Tun Yat is Myanmar’s first tech-enabled tractor and harvester rental service platform, connects growers with harvesting machine owners while Green Way is a social enterprise app that links over 42,000 registered farmers with agronomists that help solve farming issues such as pest infestations, fertilizers, and crop growth rates.

Another agri-tech game-changer in the country, Htwat Toe is a product of “Village Link” launched in March 2018. It is partly owned by one of the biggest manufacturing and distribution companies of Agricultural Technology in Myanmar – called Awba Group. 

In Htwat Toe, farmers can ask questions to agronomists in the style of Quora. It even has daily commodity prices from different regions of Myanmar, weather forecast, and has a function that will help to check the expiry dates and usage of fertilizers and pesticides using DM codes.