Farmers are at the forefront in the effort to restore Indonesian spices to their former glory and pepper farmers are no exception. The best examples of pepper producing regions in Indonesia are Lampung, Bangka-Belitung, Central Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan. 

In the hands of the farmers, the performance of Indonesia’s pepper exports once had experienced an increase in each harvest period. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the price of pepper internally in Indonesia still tends to fluctuate. Furthermore, many farmers are still practicing conventional cultivation and harvesting techniques, even though many advanced and more-developed techniques are available for application in their farms.

Pepper: a promising commodity

There is a valid reason why pepper farmers remain loyal to the cultivation of this commodity even though prices often experience fluctuations. The price of pepper once reached its peak of glory in 2015 at IDR 150,000 per kg although, during its worst period, prices slumped down to around IDR 30,000 per kg in 2017.

Yet despite this situation, farmers have continued to cultivate it. The reason for this is because they believe falling pepper prices do not necessarily mean this commodity is unable to bring a profit. Some factors that make farmers consider pepper a promising commodity include:

Plant spacing

Pepper farmers know that to grow pepper shrubs, they only need to place the plants at a distance of about 1-2 meters apart. Farmers can optimize the use of their land through plant density as they can have approximately 2,000 pepper plants on one hectare of land. Additionally, the crop yield is also an important factor that needs to be taken into account. In one harvest period, a farmer can obtain around 4 tonnes (4,000 kg) of pepper per hectare. Note: this is not an absolute figure as each farm has distinctive factors that can affect crop yields.

Continuous increase in crop yields

Pepper plants are ready to be harvested 2 years from the time of planting. Although the plants begin to flower and bear fruit in the first year, these flowers should be discarded. Flower removal aims to stimulate vegetative growth, which is the growth of leaves and stems. This will allow the plants to increase its production from year to year. Well maintained pepper plants will be able to continue being harvested for more than a decade.

From this perspective, pepper cultivation does look quite promising. However, so far in Indonesia, innovative technology has not been used often in both the cultivation and utilization of the crop.

Optimizing yields

The old paradigm that pepper farmers are untouched by technological innovation is now outdated and irrelevant. On the contrary, farmers are now increasingly embracing technology to maximize the potential of their agricultural practices.

The SpiceUp mobile application is now available for pepper farmers to access via a smartphone. The services are available exclusively to farmers and are tailored to their individual user needs to increase their farm’s productivity and boost their yields. Receiving tailored content on topics such as water management, weather forecasts, pests and diseases and fertilizer advice, is important as every farm has unique conditions that require specific information to improve its productivity.

So how exactly is this done? The information from SpiceUp is generated based on the farm location coordinates farmers register upon installing and using the mobile application for the first time. Once a farm is registered, farmers will be able to receive inputs based on the data they shared.

SpiceUp mobile application services

All the information provided by SpiceUp is processed and generated from data gathered via field and satellite sources. The services have also been made as user friendly as possible to ensure that farmer’s will have no issues in accessing the services from their device.

In addition to providing customized notifications for individual pepper farms, SpiceUp also provides four main services:

  1. Recommendations on fertilizer and disease prevention;
  2. Advice on management of irrigation system;
  3. Good Agricultural Practices; and
  4. Sustainable traceability system

The presence of agricultural applications such as SpiceUp can also bridge pepper farmers, companies, exporters, and other relevant stakeholders in the crop’s distribution process.

With the utilization of technology, pepper farmers will be able to improve their welfare in the long run, as increased access to information and technology on pepper cultivation will help them optimize the management of their pepper farm and practices. If yields can be maximized, not only will the livelihood of pepper farmers become better, but Indonesia’s pepper exports will increase and Indonesian pepper will return to its status of glory.

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