SEJONG ― SK Group, the third-largest conglomerate in South Korea, opened a start-up incubator for agriculture in Sejong City, Tuesday, with a particular focus on using smart technology in farming.
In line with the Korean government’s flagship creative economy policy, conglomerates have been collaborating with the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning to set up innovation centers across the nation. The Sejong center is the 14th of its kind.
SK Group has operated another center in Daejeon since March last year.
Participating in the opening ceremony in the administrative city, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn pinned high hopes on the new creative economy center.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (third from right) and ICT Minister Choi Yang-hee (second from right) look at smart robots displayed at SK Group’s Center for Creative Economy and Innovation, which opened on Tuesday in Sejong City. At right is SK Group’s SUPEX Council chairman Kim Chang-keun. (ICT Ministry)
“I hope that the new values and opportunities are made in the agricultural sector and that rural areas become more vibrant through the government’s creative economy initiative,” said Prime Minister Hwang, urging government institutes and private firms to make joint efforts to help agricultural start-ups succeed.
The launch of the creative economy and innovation center was also attended by Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Choi Yang-hee, Sejong City Mayor Lee Choon-hee, SK Group’s SUPEX Council chairman Kim Chang-keun, and around 150 residents of the region.
Aiming to rejuvenate local communities in Sejong, most of which are dependent on agricultural businesses, SK Group will use the ICT capabilities of the firm’s telecommunications business wing, SK Telecom, to set up “smart” farms there.
The conglomerate has been testing its smart farm technology in Yeondong-myeon, a small village of the city over the past year.
Collecting real-time data through temperature and humidity sensors, and surveillance cameras installed at greenhouses in the town, SK Telecom’s smartphone-based monitoring system saves farmers from having to visit their farms to check produce such as strawberries and tomatoes at midnight.
Around 100 households out of 120 in the village have adopted a smart monitoring system. The ICT Ministry’s data shows that productivity and labor efficiency have increased around 23 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
The company and the ICT Ministry plan to have more greenhouses installed with smart farming technology in other villages of the Sejong region.
They are also trying to set up online and offline retail shops where local farmers can sell fruit and vegetables directly to consumers.
The company will also establish a mobile platform to share a variety of agricultural information such as agricultural technology and prices of produce.
In order to narrow the information gap between people in cities and rural areas, the company will run programs to teach local residents how to use ICT devices. Some grade school students will learn about computer coding.
Pledging to make efforts to grow local agricultural start-ups, SK said it would join hands with state-run research organizations, including the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology, and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, for the cause.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)