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The NPUST Center for Smart Farming Officially Inaugurated with Plaque Unveiling

For several years now, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) has been making use of its expertise in tropical agriculture to pursue the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals— and based on its solid agriculture science and technology foundation, the university has been coordinating with its various departments, including Agriculture, Biomechatronics, Vehicle Engineering, Information Management, Wood Science, Wildlife Conservation, and Agricultural Industry Management to jointly pursue eco-friendly cultivation, biodiversity and circular economies. This has involved establishing cross-disciplinary teams to conduct related education and research activities, and developing demonstration sites to get familiar with industry practices.

In order to bring things to the next level, when the Ministry of Education’s “Project for Optimization of Practical Learning Environments at Technical Schools” was launched in 2019, NPUST began working to set up its Center for Smart Farming –and on On May 28th, 2020 a plaque unveiling ceremony took place to officially inaugurate its operations.

A number of important public figures and academic representatives were in attendance for the ceremony, including Ministry of Education Deputy Minister Mon-chi Lio, Director General Yu-Huei Yang, Legislative Convener Hsiao-hung Nancy Chen, NPUSTPresident Chang-Hsien Tai, Plant Industry Professor Chung-Ruey Yen, and National Taitung Junior College President Jiun-Shen Wang.

Hopes are that the new Center will serve to strengthen cooperation between industry, education and research organizations and help promote the cultivation of technological agriculture professionals.

In his remarks at the ceremony, NPUST President Tai stated that “real agriculture depends on practical experience in the field. In addition to specializing in academic research, the NPUST Center for Smart Farming aims to bring in a variety of different programs and departments to make use of the facilities— not only to develop a wide variety of different agriculture equipment and smart sensory instruments but also to cultivate students’ skills in data collection and analysis and teach them how to repair and maintain equipment while also emphasizing the promotion of environmental consciousness.”

Deputy Minister Lio expressed that “the plaque unveiling at the Center for Smart Farming is primarily the result of a forward looking project that was implemented from 2007 and 2011. The project strongly emphasized having the right kind of learning environments for technical education; and improving levels of quality. NPUST is a very distinctive technical university in Taiwan, and it has been instrumental in efforts to transform the Taiwan agriculture industry. It has also playing a highly strategic role in the implementation of the New Southbound Policy. This is why, in the future, we hope that with respect to issues related to agriculture quality and the aging agricultural work-force, NPUST will be able provide necessary solutions”.

Legislative Convener Chen stated that: “beginning in Japanese colonial times, until now, NPUST has been a leader in the efforts made in agriculture education. Considering the university’s interdisciplinary education philosophy and their plans to use the Center for Smart Farming as a resource to facilitate cooperation among their various colleges, with the goal of developing top quality education in agricultural technology, the government looks with great expectation to see Taiwan’s higher education rise to the next level.”

The Center for Smart Farming was established with joint funds coming from both the Ministry of Education and NPUST. With Smart agriculture as the main axis of development, it will pursue interdisciplinary education related to level 6 industry, production, environmental monitoring, machine R&D, big data collection, Internet of Things, food processing, marketing and the recycling of resources.

The Center is the only demonstration site in the nation which has industrial grade crop cultivation and circular agriculture education. The site covers 10 hectares which are divided between the “Fruit Tree Genetic Recourses Collection Zone” and the “Crop Cultivation Zone”. The Genetic Resources Zone has more than 300 types of valuable genetic resources under its care, which is more than any other university in Taiwan. In the Crop Cultivation Zone, work is done on long- and short-term crop cultivation using different types of large scale Smart agriculture equipment for education and production purposes. The goal is not only to cultivate the skills of the students from the College of Agriculture, but to work with the Department of Biomechatronics and Department of Vehicle Engineering to develop new agriculture equipment and UAVs to use for production and education. And with the objective of promoting education and “level-six industry” R&D objectives, the general public will be request appointments to visit the site, observe activities at the Center, and take part in “DIY cocoa classes”.

In addition to the on-campus education activities, the Center will be cooperating with industry to establish interdisciplinary courses and organize local internships to strengthen capabilities and train well-rounded professionals. Currently, for the purpose of developing Smart agriculture and cultivating talent cultivation, the Center is already cooperating with such organizations and companies as the Taitung Junior College, Fengshan Tropical Horticultural Experiment Branch, Beehive Data Technology Co., Ling Cheng Technology Co., Ltd., Kubota, Huang Lin Machinery, Taiwan Tea Corporation, and Ming Chuan Ecological Leisure Farm.

In order to allow students to become proficient in Smart agriculture machinery, the Center is continuously bringing in and developing various types of smart, time-saving machines and sensors, such as GPS tractors, plant protection drones, vegetable transplanters, remote controlled mowers, fertilizer and insecticide spraying vehicles, and sensors for detecting pests damage. They are also coordinating with government agencies, businesses and schools from different counties, municipalities and townships to organize visits as part of the university’s effort to promote social responsibility through learning and sharing. Hopes are that in the future, the Center will not only continue to advance Smart agriculture R&D and production while simultaneously working to cultivate talent, but that it will also will be able to drive local agricultural development and also serve as a place for public leisure and the promotion of education.
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