• The programme will allow farmers, cotton scientists and researchers to visit a virtual cotton field and learn best practices of integrated pest management and sustainable cotton production strategies derived from all over the world.
The programme will allow farmers, cotton scientists and researchers to visit a virtual cotton field

The programme will allow farmers, cotton scientists and researchers to visit a virtual cotton field

The International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC) is teaming up with German development agency GIZ to launch of a new virtual reality (VR) training programme to help cotton farmers learn best practices in sustainable cotton production strategies.

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is acting on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to support the Virtual Reality Cotton Training Programme, which will allow farmers, cotton scientists and researchers to visit a virtual cotton field and learn best practices from all over the world.

ICAC, an association of cotton producing, consuming and trading countries, has shot initial footage for the programme, which will consist of two modules that will:

  • Allow farmers anywhere in the world – whether in a classroom or in the field – to understand the cotton ecosystem comprising a variety of insect pests, diseases and beneficial insects, as well incorporate the very latest integrated pest management practices.
  • Lead farmers and researchers through all the development stages of the cotton crop and highlight globally acknowledged sustainable best management practices to optimise natural resources and inputs to obtain high yields and increased profits, especially on smallholder farms.

The project will build on analytical research on global trends in the sustainable use of water and agrochemical inputs.

"With the support of BMZ and GIZ, we'll be developing this exciting new innovation that – due to the enormous amount of knowledge that can be transferred in a very short period of time – will help transform the way farmers grow cotton, often in some of the least-developed places on earth," says ICAC executive director Kai Hughes.

"Of course, VR will never replace real field trips and travels – nor should it – but it does enable people to have experiences that would otherwise be impossible."

ICAC adds that providing information on best farm management practices through VR technology will help smallholder farms, especially in least developed countries in Africa, to achieve greater yields and improve farm income while producing better quality cotton in a more sustainable way.

"Better production practices will contribute to minimising environmental damage, reducing pesticide use as well as greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity and improving water use efficiency," adds Felix Ruhland, project manager at GIZ. 

The VR training programme will debut at World Cotton Day in Geneva on 7 October.

It is is one of two major technology initiatives being developed by the ICAC, with the other being an interactive, voice-based Soil and Plant Health app that will enable cotton farmers to diagnose and treat pests and diseases, even if they're illiterate.