IN the face of drought, water shortages and climate change, technology will play an increasingly important role in the production and quality of produce. Globally, agriculture is tasked with increasing food production, despite these challenges. The way forward is thus smart agriculture!
The past few years have seen major changes, in terms of digital agriculture, but it is actually not a new concept. Farmers have a history of being early technology adapters. In fact, farmers used GPS, long before private cars, to steer their tractors along certain paths, in order to avoid overlapping in the spreading of fertiliser.
Recently, technologies such as remote sensing, digital soil maps, drones, smartphones, big data and cloud-based computing have all been introduced to the agricultural industry.
Digital crop sensors help determine the correct use of precious resources, like water, fertiliser and arable land. This data can be stored and analysed in the cloud, alongside weather reports and soil maps.
This information is accessed by farmers through their smartphones, and can be sent back to sensors, which then spread the right amount of resource. This is what we call smart agriculture or digital farming, and it is completely changing the way we think about agricultural production.
Water scarcity has become one of the biggest challenges we are facing. Droughts, such as the one caused by the recent El Niño weather phenomenon, have caused a major lack of water resources in Africa.
It is therefore important to embrace new irrigation technologies, to reduce water waste.
Digital farming does not only help produce more food, it helps produce better quality food. Many crops today are used as animal feed, because they are not deemed fit for human consumption. By gaining more and better output of crops, Namibia can help combat food insecurity.
For farmers, gaining real-time access to information about weather, soil, nitrogen levels and water, can avoid the overuse of valuable resources, when they are not needed, while assisting in the changing of farming practices, when required.
Africa needs to import a lot of its food, despite the fact that 65 percent of continent’s population is involved in farming.
The mobile phone has already been one of the most important developments, in terms of how they farm, and once other technologies are adapted, African farmers can become more food self-sufficient. Therefore, I have very little doubt that sustainable and digital agriculture can make a tangible difference in the lives of millions and millions of Africans.
Innovations, as well as massive interventions on locally and regionally-adapted levels, are all needed to gain the momentum needed. While a precision farming future is an ultimate goal, the here and now also calls for more educated methods, requiring widespread knowledge sharing, infrastructure development and the inducement of enabling environments, for functional value chains in the agricultural sector.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015