AgTech: Key Tools Farmers Should Embrace to Address Challenges in the Agricultural Sector
This post is written by the EZYAGRIC Team.
Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050. Growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among impoverished communities, when compared to other sectors.
Analysis in 2016, from a study of 89 developing countries, found that 65 percent of working adults made a living through agriculture. The commonly notable aspect is that the major players in this sector are smallholder farmers — with women taking majority share, and youth participating the least, despite their representing the largest percentage of overall population in focus countries (Africa, in particular). Many youth have negative perceptions of and attitudes toward agricultural livelihood as an income-source and future career path. This situation is only compounded by the numerous challenges across the sector that inhibit smooth growth: access to credit from financial institutions; fake/non-standardized agro-inputs on the market; inadequate access to agricultural extension service; and limited market access for produce locally, regionally, and internationally (to name a few).
As a result, many key players in the private sector have become involved, creating cheap yet convenient solutions to help avert these core challenges and make agriculture more lucrative through digitization. Information and technology companies like Cropt, PlantVillage and EzyAgric (among others) have developed the IT Farmers app that has helped to support farmers in a variety of ways and become a major game-changer. These tech companies are continuously offering solutions to ensure maximum leverage for small scale farmers across their agricultural yields. For example, EzyAgric offers an end-to-end farming solution, featuring simplified planning options; access to genuine agro-inputs and e-extension services; and other benefits (linkages to market for farmer produce and access to credit from financial institutions).
As examples of the impact that innovative technology can have in communities, over 100,000 farmers have been served and over 8,000 jobs have been created in specific regions in Uganda. As farmers have been introduced to better and modern solutions, they have seen an increased yield and production. As another example, Cropt in Mexico uses data from hundreds of on-farm and experimental sites, as well as a network of seed companies, to develop machine-learning models that can predict the performance of seed varieties in particular conditions, so as to advise maize farmers in the region on what to plant. This drives key decisions that lead to more productive farms.
On a different front, PlantVillage has developed a triple A model (algorithmic agricultural advice) that works to increase the yield and profitability for millions of farmers. The algorithms come from integration of artificial intelligence, satellite technology and a unique field force. Once a farmer inputs three critical details (crop type, location and planting date), the algorithms within the PlantVillage engine can send out advice via smartphone, SMS, TV or real-world social networks.
Initiatives from ICTforAg have provided an interactive virtual experience focused on technical dialogue and fostering collaboration across the digital agriculture community. The majority of innovators have pitched their ideas and shared their experience working alongside several stakeholders to make their ideas a success and improve farmer livelihood levels across the globe.
In conclusion, agriculture is crucial to economic growth. In 2018, it accounted for 4 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and in some developing countries, it can account for more than 25% of GDP. This implies that increased innovation across agricultural technology will address ongoing challenges and shifting landscapes, such as:
- The role of digital agriculture in preparing for and responding to local and global disruption;
- Impacts of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, satellite imagery, and drones on agriculture; and
- Support for change in sustainable system environments — change that moves beyond individual farmers, empowers smallholder farmers, and bridges the digital gender divide.
Overall, technology can help boost shared prosperity levels and create sufficient, long-lasting solutions to farmers across the globe.