12 Ways Tech Is Uplifting Agriculture Industries In Africa

By Peter Pedroncelli AFKI Original Published: August 4, 2017, 5:26 am

As with many sectors in modern business, the agricultural industry in Africa is embracing technology to enhance production and ensure a more profitable future while maintaining food security.

Tech is able to reduce costs, upskill farm workers and save effort and time in Africa’s largest economic sector.

From drone technology to mobile apps that assist farmers across the continent, Africa is a pioneer on the agritech front, and the technologies that are being incorporated into agriculture are helping to put food on the tables of people all over the world.

Here are the 12 ways in which tech is uplifting the agricultural industry in Africa.

Sources: CleanLeap, FarmingPortal, HBR, WWC, BBC.

With EZ Farm, the farmers are able to use sensors to make their farms more efficient. Photo - CleanLeap

With EZ Farm, the farmers are able to use sensors to make their farms more efficient. Photo – CleanLeap

Remote sensing tech and cloud-based data

The EZ Farm is an IBM project that is being trialled at farms in Nairobi. Sensors monitor the soil, collecting and streaming data to IBM’s cloud-based data centers and updating the information continuously. Farms are equipped with water tank sensors to water the soil as needed, ensuring high yields and low farming costs.

Farmers can become more productive thanks to FarmDrive. Photo – textually.org

Data collection for farmers

FarmDrive is a fintech company that has developed a mobile application that collects data and provides an alternative risk assessment model for smallholder farmers, determining their credit worthiness and helping to facilitate loans for farmers, increasing agricultural productivity.

Drone Technology

Drone Technology is being put to use for farmers in South Africa’s Western Cape. Photo: wiki.usask.ca

Drone technology

South African farmers have found valuable ways to use drone technology to boost their agricultural output and methods, leading to an upskilled workforce and general cost cutting. Elsenburg farmers are using drones to conduct general monitoring flyovers, assess vegetation health, track and monitor animals which may need assistance, as well as to assess stressed zones among crops that require watering and fertilisation

Farmers are able to use text messaging to save costs. Photo – FarmerWeekly

Text messaging for cost-saving

M-Farm leverages the internet and text messaging to help farmers access market prices for produce, make aggregated orders of farm supplies, lowering purchase costs, and sell their produce in bulk in order to reduce costs overall.

Agritech challenge - Entrepreneurs use digital technology to increase farm productivity

A farmer checks her mobile phone before deciding whether to harvest her crops. Photo: Panos/Piers Benatar/.un.org/africarenewal

Farmers educating themselves through apps

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, even in rural farming communities, mobile apps are being used by farmers to access to educational content that can teach them about feeding practices and disease control, while some apps such as iCow provide record keeping tools and can connect farmers with buyers.

investing in African agriculture

Mali rice farmers. Photo: wikicommons

The internet of things in farming insurance

Farming insurance companies are now taking advantage of internet of things to deliver better services. By using historical satellite data, micro-agricultural insurance scheme in in Mali and Uganda – Scaling Up Micro-insurance in Africa – predicts yields and compensates farmers if predicted yields fall below a certain level.

embraced mobile

Kenyan farmer uses her mobile phone to contact buyers for her crop. Photo: africagreenmedia.co.za

Mobile technology to communicate easily

Extended telecommunications networks into rural areas throughout Africa has meant that farmers are now able to communicate via mobile with potential buyers and fellow farmers, while facilitating better communication between farmers and field technicians at work.

tomato leaf miner

Nwanedi farmers in the Vhembe district of Limpopo. Photo: capricornreview.co.za

Access to better suppliers via apps

While some apps offer record-keeping functionality and others access to credit, MbeguChoice is a mobile app that helps farmers to access better, drought tolerant seeds in varieties offered by various suppliers. By connecting farmers with their ideal supplier, a number of obvious advantages are gained.

Farmers can better plan for the best possible results thanks to tech. Photo: wikimedia.org

Tracking the weather

It may seem obvious, but being able to track the weather and forecast weather patterns is incredibly useful for farmers, and until fairly recently, African farmers could not do so. Now tech such as farmerconnect supply information to farmers about weather, pricing trends and other updates, empowering farmers to track and plan their farming efforts much better.

Image: globalexchange.org

Image: globalexchange.org

Drilling down to specific types of farming through tech

For cocoa farmers, for example, CocoaLink is a free mobile application used in rural parts of West Africa, enabling farmers to access information on good farming practices, farm safety, pest and disease prevention and poor-harvesting methods that should be avoided. It uses text messaging and voice messages in native African languages, catering specifically to cocoa farming.

Having a tractor makes farming for more efficient. Photo - Sustainable Solutions

Hello Tractor – Having a tractor makes farming for more efficient. Photo – Sustainable Solutions

Cheaper machinery through startups

Startups can assist in making farming machinery available at better prices than is typically available. Hello Tractor, for example, sold over 1,000 tractors, at $4,000 each, to farmers in Nigeria. That’s 10 times cheaper than the average tractor found in Africa. Also, use of an Uber-like cost shared tractor could assist small-scale farmers to plant on time in an efficient and cost-effective way of accessing labor.

The Nuba People are primarily farmers. Photo: HuffingtonPost

The agricultural industry in Africa can be assisted through innovation. Photo: HuffingtonPost

AgriTech Challenge and similar initiatives

The World Bank and venture capital firm Nest run an initiative called the AgriTech Challenge in Kenya. The initiative is the first open innovation program of its kind in the country, and thanks to technology, it connects promising startups and innovators with leading agribusiness corporates for the benefit of the agricultural industry.

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