The agricultural sector is faced with several challenges ranging from climate change to water scarcity. Without the right tools and knowledge, productivity can be hampered and farmers left counting losses. Technology is providing an unprecedented opportunity to improve yields and mitigate some of the losses associated with the various challenges in the agricultural sector. Adoption of technology is increasing rapidly due to the tremendous value technology brings to farmers.
Smallholder farmers in developing countries are more susceptible to the risks that come with lack of information and knowledge on changing weather patterns, determining the right time to plant, and market prices of the various produce. Technology is enabling stakeholders to collect agricultural data and use that data to advise farmer on how to boost their yields.
Agriculture is the backbone of most developing economies and employs a majority of the working age population in these countries. Agriculture employs over 60 percent of Africa’s workforce and it is the largest economic sector representing 15 percent of the continent’s GDP.
Technology is transforming the agricultural sector through:
Detection of disease, pests, or weed; Through the use of satellite imagery and drones, precision agriculture is adding value to farming through the use of hyperspectral imaging used to detect diseases, pests, and weeds. Timely response enables farmers to mitigate losses that may result from such diseases and pests thus improving yields.
Genetically produced plants; With the use of technology, plants such as potatoes and cassavas that are genetically produced are usually resistant to droughts, pests and diseases. Such crops ensure good yields for farmers who would otherwise experience losses due to changing weather patterns.
Cooling facilities; Farm produce needs to get to the market while still fresh. Lack of cooling facilities increases post-harvest losses. It is estimated that a third of harvested produce goes bad due to lack of proper storage facilities. With cooling facilities installed in truck and farms, perishable goods such as tomatoes get to the market while still fresh.
Irrigation of plants: Only 5 percent of cultivated land in Africa makes use of irrigation. In dry areas, farmers are embracing technology to irrigate their crops. Farmers are using water pumps to collect fresh water and irrigate their crops. Fresh water collected from rivers and boreholes is used to boost production and is enabling farmers to plant crops throughout the year. More advanced technology uses sensors to collect information about the soil and water allowing farmers to determine the right time to irrigate their farms.
Crop scouting; Farmers can use mobile phones and tablets to collect data about their crops and use various platforms to analyze collected data. There are platforms that can make meaning out of the data farmers collect in the field. This assists farmers to monitor weed activity and pest populations on their farms enabling them to take appropriate measures thus boost their yield and consequently make more money.
The future of agriculture is bright. Leveraging on technology will ensure small holder farmers continue to enjoy improved crop yields thus sustaining their incomes.