Chairman’s message.Yang Wei-fuu, chairman.

Agricultural engineering covers a vast scope. In general, any engineering technology used for agricultural purpose is considered the scope of agricultural engineering. Previously, in Taiwan, agricultural engineering consists of both “farmland irrigation” and “agricultural machinery”, mainly focused on improving the agricultural production and operating environment of farmlands. However, industrial advancement, diversification of agricultural production structure, and modernization and diversified development of agricultural operation lead to the expansion of the scope of agricultural engineering. Technology is used to improve soil/water resources and environment, and machinery, electrical/electronic equipment and power are used to expand agricultural business operation. Precision and efficient utilization of agricultural resources create agricultural production efficacy and contribute to the welfare of humankind. Thus, the scope of agricultural engineering may be expanded to include farmland irrigation and drainage, farmland readjustment, development and utilization of marginal land, construction and improvement of farm roads, farm housing construction, farm infrastructure building, improvement of rural living environment, treatment of agricultural wastes, prevention of agricultural water pollution, agricultural automation, facility construction, improvement in transportation of agricultural products, handling of agricultural produce, mechanization and automation of irrigation facility, pasture fencing, animal housing, husbandry water supply facility, and fishery water supply/drainage facility.

Taiwan’s industrial technology has seen rapid development and excellent accomplishments. Thus, the agricultural engineering sector should pay wide attention to achievements made in various types of engineering equipment and technology, and requirements in agricultural development, pursuing the feasibility of applying modernized engineering equipment and technology in agricultural development. This will help boost agricultural productivity and operating efficiency, overcome obstacles and limitations in the natural environment, reduce damage from flood/drought/fire, stabilize agricultural business operation, improve agricultural production and quality, promote modernization of the agricultural sector, solve the operational problem of inadequate and incompetent manpower, reduce operational and production cost, and increase added value of agricultural products. The agricultural engineering sector should actively explore technology for effective utilization of water/soil resources and limits allowing for sustainable utilization of the natural environment specific to the conditions of Taiwan’s natural environment. It should then establish a set of technical guidelines and standards for agricultural engineering planning, design, implementation and management that is permissible given the conditions of Taiwan’s natural environment.
The aim of agricultural development revolves around production, ecology and everyday living. The structure of agricultural production consists of farming, forestry, fishery and husbandry. Running an agricultural business traditionally means finding the right land, the right time and the right produce but today, it has become a market-oriented planned enterprise, taking produce from its place of origin to the hands of consumers via a distribution network. In addition to solving the problem of food supply, the governing of agricultural development must take into consideration increase in farmers’ income, improvement in rural living environment and conservation of the natural ecological environment. In light of these new developmental trends, there will be many applications for agricultural engineering technology.

Being a field science, agricultural engineering should expand its scope of service from primarily crops to include all of living things and their environment, and even going further to explore the interrelationship between living things and the environment. As many of these issues are new territory and even on an international level, efforts are just being made, increased participation in international technical exchanges and taking in technical experience of advanced countries will help accelerate establishment of technology in this area.
New agricultural policy for the 21st century in many advanced countries worldwide is now orienting toward “respect for life”, “recycling of resources” and “symbiosis of living things and humankind”. Taiwan’s agricultural engineering will also follow in this direction when planning for the future prospect of the agricultural industry and farms, in the hope of optimizing the functionality and role of the agricultural industry and farms.

Water is an important resource essential to human living, everyday maintenance and economic/industrial activities, and it has now become a strategic substance. Accounting for 70% of overall water use, agricultural water is essential to the safety of food production. Water sources and irrigation facilities must be regularly maintained to ensure normal functioning and appropriate management has to be implemented for effective performance. Furthermore, 50% of cultivated land in Taiwan does not yet have irrigation facility and water source. In order to stabilize agricultural production, it is necessary to counsel them to establish irrigation facility for water saving and drought cultivation. Due to the increasingly high cost of developing new water resource, steps must be taken to improve agricultural water saving and increase water usage efficiency, which is what the public hopes for as well.

The recycling and sustainable utilization of resources has become the mainstream of socio-economic development in the 21st century. The use of farm and agricultural water resource in Taiwan is currently considered sustainable and plays an important role in maintaining the hydrologic cycle. To ensure the sustainable utilization of agricultural soil and water resources, effective management has to be implemented to prevent excessive use, and contamination of irrigation water and farmlands.
It has become the responsibility of the 21st century generation to maintain bio-diversity in the ecological environment; and the symbiosis and co-existence of living things and humankind have also become a consensus in the international community. Agricultural waters and wetlands are habitats for many living things because living things depend on water for survival. The intricate network of pipes for farmland irrigation and drainage are like the blood vessels of the nation. Thus, one of the policy goals of farmland irrigation is to take into consideration the conservation of ecological environment while constructing irrigation facilities. Agricultural engineers should actively study the knowledge and technology that are related to the conservation of the ecological environment, and include these in their work plans and designs.

Like the rest of the world, Taiwan faces the challenge of sustainable development. The thought and determination that “human can triumph over nature” must be reflected upon and rectified. Henceforth, agricultural engineering should take into consideration harmonious symbiosis with the natural environment; and technological development must be based on sustainable development, responding to the worldwide trend and Taiwan’s requirements. The conservation of agricultural water resources, water quality and eco-system should be promoted in concert with the programs and specific actions related to water resources in Agenda 21, which was adopted in the Earth Summit.