The layman’s understanding of agriculture has taken a new turn since the introduction of technology in agriculture.
Agriculture and technology have been combined together to form a new term tagged as “Agritech”. Agritech can be regarded as the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability in the industry.
Ten years ago, agritech would have been a topic with no valid participation on the subject matter but fast forward to the year 2018, it has become the new story to talk about. The interest rate has grown so high, which signifies good progress and acceptance of the importance of agriculture.
I have been given the privilege to speak about this topic across some of these conferences across the African continent and beyond and this has brought more opportunities to educate and enlighten the youth with potential interest.
The process of adapting technology to agriculture involves the use of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Precision Farming, Robotics and many other applications we see today. These applications are not just restricted to core agricultural production, but extends to the entire agriculture value chain.
Digital agriculture makes use of software, sensors, communication networks, unmanned aviation system (UAS), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and advanced machinery. For example, it usually would have been impossible to tell how much fertilizer and in what exact quantity a crop needs just by looking at it, but with a precision GPS, farmers can apply fertilizers exactly where it is needed without guessing.
By using sensors, predictive analytics and a clear user interface, farmers are able to make accurate predictions about when water contaminants are too high. The sensors can also be used for locating an impending disease outbreak so that proactive steps can be taken to reduce loss.Farmers and researchers can now forecast drought and flooding with the advent of satellite technology
More emphasis should be placed on Digital Agriculture and this is because Digital Agriculture is the use of new and advanced technologies integrated into one system, in order to enable farmers and major stakeholders within the agriculture value chain improve food production.
Infact, our agri-tech platform Farmcrowdy, was born as a result of a challenge that turned into opportunity. One of major challenges was that rural farmers couldn’t raise funds to farm their land and that was the short story behind Farmcrowdy.
There have never been a better time to practice Agriculture and this is evidenced by several innovative startups that have launched in this sector with brilliant solutions like the ones we’ve seen today who are looking at how to create solutions in the sector.
Examples of such start-ups includes UjuziKilimo, a Kenyan startup, uses big data and analytic capabilities to transform farmers into a knowledge-based community, SunCulture, which sells drip irrigation kits that use solar energy to pump water from any source thereby making irrigation affordable. M-Farm also provides pricing data to remove the pricing wars between farmers and buyers, making it possible for farmers to earn more. Ghana’s CowTribe deploys mobile technologies that bring farming advice, weather forecasts and market information to farmers.
But while it is still early to evaluate the impacts of this digitalization of farming systems in Africa, in terms of productivity and improvement of human welfare, there is already a promising trend: Technology is making farming exciting for young people. As they see that developing mobile apps alone cannot feed Africa, many will turn to farming as a business.
Stakeholders need to also understand that digital agriculture is an opportunity as much as it is a challenge. As we progress, farmers, producers, processors, consultants, suppliers need to be aware that existing knowledge will be challenged, new types of businesses will be created, existing jobs will change and some may totally become irrelevant. These changes mean that we all need to adapt – fast. Digital agriculture is presenting us with an opportunity to quickly examine the individual roles we play and challenge us to be at the forefront from Nigeria to the rest of Africa.
There are over 720 million people employed in the Agriculture space today across Africa. The sector currently generates over $660 Billion dollars in GDP with over 592 million acres or uncultivated arable farmland. Africa can feed the world and this can be driven also by agritech. Infact, West Africa as a whole has the potential to become a super-power house in Agriculture, but until something is done to take advantage of this opportunity, we would achieve very little results.