Organic Agriculture on Display in Bangkok

December 6, 2014 The World Soil Day exhibition by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives on Ratchadamnoen Road showcased a variety of agricultural innovations you'd generally have to travel outside of the city to see in use. It included a detailed explanation of water management and irrigation, aquaculture of catfish and tilapia, caring for livestock and also the generation and use of biogas.

 Biogas is of particular interest because not only is it a long-proven technology in creating cooking gas, it has been adapted to produce electricity as well. The ability to create electrical infrastructure independently of the national power grid is good for many reason. First, it negates the need to use fuels such as coal to produce energy. Biogas serves as a form of waste management, removing organic waste that would otherwise be buried or burned. The waste is converted into fertilizer and methane gas which can be used for cooking or running electrical generators.

Cheap electricity allows rural communities to use technology that would be otherwise prohibitively expensive because of utility costs. Farming automation, electrical vehicles, agricultural processing equipment and a number of key technologies become one step closer to accessibility. 

The system on display yesterday looked almost exactly like the one we've covered in Phetchaburi province and which we will be visiting in January. 

a community garden build around permaculture concepts
The World Soil Day exhibition also touched on another key concept, that of polyculture and permaculture farming.

Farmers dependent on a single crop are vulnerable especially if the climate or markets are not cooperating. A crop failure in monoculture can be catastrophic for farmers who grow nothing else. On the other hand, farmers who cultivate a number of crops not only have access themselves to a diverse and healthy selection of food to consume, but also to sell and profit from. Assets invested in for one crop may be of use for others. Cows for example, make it possible to feed a biogas generator that could power equipment used to process and package rice.

Cultivating multiple species of plants and animals on a single farm also provide other benefits. Certain plants grow well alone, but better when paired with certain other species. Chickens, ducks and fish can help fertilize rice paddies and reduce pests naturally without chemicals. This is a topic we hope to explore further in the future.

Unfortunately the exhibition is over today. But similar museums and demonstrations can be found around Thailand. One in Pathum Thani offers a look at the many innovations farmers can use to improve their productivity and income as well as creating more value for the people that enjoy and depend on their products. The Royal Chitralada Projects within Bangkok also has everything from actual rice fields, working rice mills, processing plants, tilapia ponds, dairy cows and biodiesel and ethanol demonstrations. It includes free internships for all interested. 

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