Ask any average 20-year-old if he or she wants to be a farmer, and the answer will likely be an unsurprising "No." But 22-year-old Kunlanuttha Kunsiri is different. Studying agriculture at Kasetsart University, she returns to her hometown in Suphan Buri province every weekend to help her family grow rice and sugar cane.
Her family grows the sugar cane and rice on owned land and leases 80 rai for growing corn.
"I help to provide fertiliser, take out the grasses, drain the water into the field and other land preparation work," Ms Kunlanuttha said as she joined the Kubota Smart Farmer Camp organised by Siam Kubota Corporation, Thailand's leading maker of agricultural machinery.
The event is part of Siam Kubota's social contribution activities, said marketing manager Chamornwut Tamnarnchit.
"These children grew up with technology and seem to be interested in the machinery we offer," he said. "If they had to go back home and transplant rice seedlings, they would not do so. They don't even want to be in the sun."
Aimed at the children and grandchildren of farmers, this year's camp for the first time accepted applications from those who are not from agricultural families but are interested in taking part.
Half the 200 participants do not have an agricultural background.
At the event, Ms Kunlanuttha had the opportunity to drive a tractor that her family plans to purchase.
"The question lies in how to make farmers use [the machinery]. They won't use it if it's not cost-efficient," said Mr Chamornwut.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there is a correlation between the use of farm machinery and productivity per rai. This can be seen in developed countries.
"I've seen the developments in the farm sector for 12 years and found we need to provide a model for the farmers to learn and practise," said Mr Chamornwut. "Although they are conservative, I see the new generations becoming more open to change."
Kubota has cooperated with the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) to propose a new idea to farmers. By forming groups of them, each farmer will become a "shareholder" and be able to use pooled money to buy machinery.
"The FTI proposed that the grouping should be formed as a private company consisting of shareholders and a chief executive, who makes the highest profit for shareholders. This will result in a large number of the new generation going back to do farming," said Mr Chamornwut, adding that the FTI's renewable energy club and food producers are also interested in the idea.
He urged the government to turn the idea into policy to make the biggest impact.
Professor Sujin Jinahyon, the president of Naresuan University, agrees that machinery and good management will help to lower costs and make Thailand more competitive in rice production, but added that any scheme should take be supported by farm cooperatives.
This would start with researching whether the land is appropriate for using farm machinery, and the outcome would then be applied to different zones in the country.
"If we're able to do form cooperatives, then we'll stay in the top ranks of rice producers," said Prof Sujin.
Nonetheless, independent community researcher Somnuck Jongmeewasin said setting up a company would result in maximising profits as the first priority. He said other companies would be set up to compete, eventually leading to a price war.
"Maximising profits is against the way of agriculture. It's not sustainable," he added.
About the author
- Writer: Nanchanok Wongsamuth
Position: News Reporter