Globalization has made new technologies and innovations available to people in Africa like never before. Africans must as a matter of necessity take advantage of these technologies by localizing and using them to improve agriculture which is the major source of employment in the continent.
It began with the advent of the computer and internet which has drastically changed the way thing are done in every aspect of human life. Today, Individuals, companies and countries are harnessing these technologies and using them to improve productivity and quality of life.
For Africa, this is huge opportunity to solves many lingering problem as it is the first industrial revolution the continent is actually participating in.
New Technologies and Innovation
The technologies of 1st and 2nd industrial era are mostly large and expensive machines or equipment as they consist mainly of mechanical part. Though most African nations have never practice mechanized farming beyond the use of tractors, local farmers mostly depends on government for tractors and other machinery for farming, leaving them at the mercy of bad governments. The new technologies of the digital era however have changes all this.
Digital revolution has empowered individuals and small businesses in a tremendous way as digital revolution is less about singular massive machines and equipment but more about small remotely interconnected machines and processes.
Production is moving from cranking out millions of identical products to producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims.
Computer and the internet, has eliminated geographical and communication barriers, enabled knowledge sharing, and made information easily available to farmers and agribusiness people for problem solving.
New technologies and innovations like mobile phones, machine learning, drones, gene modification, waste reuse and reduction, big data, genomics, cloud computing, supply chain analytics, precision agriculture, Internet of things, hydroponics and aeroponics are increasing been used in agriculture globally, and are known as Agritech.
African farmers can apply them on their farm; distributors can apply after harvest; and food companies can apply during processing. This will give African farmers the ability to grow more food — for a growing African population — with fewer, environmentally-damaging resources.
Some Farmers in Africa are already using Agritech
Tech-savvy farmers sometimes called ‘Telephone farmers’, are making use of their mobile phone to access agricultural solutions and utilities that help choose and manage their crops, and generally keep an eye on their farms more efficiently. They use mobile apps like MbeguChoice Farm and WeFarm SMS to seek advice from researchers and extension workers in Kenya.
They can monitor water tank levels, the amount of moisture in the soil, as well as the performance of irrigation equipment in their out-of-town farms while working in the city with the help of IBM cloud computer.
African farmers are also using data analytics and mobile phone technology to build a credit profile and input their financial information on FarmDrive, a platform that helps them access lending institutions in rural Kenya.
A project currently going on will help farmers diagnose plant disease by to snapping pictures of visible symptoms of diseases (e.g. white blotches on leaves of a cassava plant) with mobile phones, and instantly find out whether their plants are diseased, what the infections are, and what to do about them.
Farmers in Nigeria now receives fertiliser and seed support through their mobile phones, or ‘electronic wallets’ in a government Agricultural initiative called the ‘Growth Enhancement Support Scheme’.
Mobile app, iCow, billed as “the world’s first mobile phone cow calendar,” allows dairy farmers to track the gestation periods and progress of their cows through SMS and voice services. They now have access to Smart irrigation systems like SunCulture drip irrigation kits, that use solar energy to pump water from any source.
Drones are being used in Precision farming in Ghana. Equipped with special sensors to capture vast amounts of data to a higher degree of accuracy than satellites, they allowing farmers to detect weeds and diseased crops, gauge post-disaster damage, and estimate how much fertiliser they need to use.
In Nigeria, farmers are using aeroponics to solve Nigerian yam diseases and low yield problems that has resulted from many years of a flawed farm practice.
With the help of biotechnology, local scientists are addressing food problems in Africa. Vitamin A deficiencies in Uganda was addressed by substituting, at scale, white sweet potato – which is low in Vitamin A – with a Vitamin A-rich alternative. In Ethiopia, food supply was improved for hundreds of millions of people by increasing the production of sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the parasitic Striga weed.
Africa has never had access to modern technology like this before. Africans must take advantage of these technologies as they open vast untapped potential for Africa to create mass employment, and improve the efficiency of food production and consumption in the continent.