Enhancing Agriculture Using IoT
“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, policeman and a preacher, but every day three times you need a farmer.” Brenda Shoepp
The role played by Agriculture cannot be underestimated. Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies. It provides a large base of employment opportunities in various capacities both directly and indirectly. A World Bank Report (2008) on agriculture revealed that 69 per cent of all sub-Saharan Africans work in agriculture. According to the report, 63 per cent of Africans live in the rural areas.
But perhaps the greatest role that agriculture plays is the provision of food. Adequate food supply is a very crucial prerequisite for economic development. Agriculture also contributes greatly to other economic sectors such as the hospitality industry among others.
However ,as crucial as the agriculture sector is to Africa economies, it is not devoid of challenges. Some of the challenges that IoT can attempt to solve are:
- Poor farming techniques : Most farmers use obsolete traditional farming techniques that lead to very poor yields.
- Poor Marketing System : This is due to poor marketing channels which involve middlemen (brokers) who take advantage of the farmers by buying at low costs, creating artificial scarcity and selling at very high prices.
- Lack of finances to enable large scale farming
- Lack of agricultural education
The following are some of the ways that IoT can tackle some of these issues. Herein you’ll find some biz ideas that you try out.
Farming with Apps
Due to the advent of smartphones, apps are now very popular among mobile phone users. Apps could be designed to achieve the following
- Provide a platform for buying and selling farm produce. This will provide ready markets for farm products while at the same time eliminating the middlemen.
- Provide educative information to farmers regarding new technologies, availability of new seeds, new government policies regarding farming etc
- Micro-financing options where loans could be advanced to farmers to be paid back once their harvest was ripe (at some interest of course)
- Weather prediction apps could aid the farmers in determining which seasons could be best to plant, rear their animals etc
- For animal farmers, apps could be made to manage the animal records . One such Kenyan-made app is RabbitIQ and as the proprietor said in an interview with the Daily Nation, “Technology is the tool, agriculture is the opportunity”.
Use of Drones
I recently attended a conference dubbed African Women in Technology and a team presented an in-depth talk on how drones could be used in agriculture. Since this is a wide topic, I will just do a brief and then hopefully in future expand on the same.
So what are drones? Drones are unmanned air crafts,in other words, they are robot planes that are either controlled autonomously or via remote control. They are fitted with cameras as well as other sensors to be able to collect data from the farms over which they are flown.
Some of the tasks they achieve are as follows
- Identify pests, weeds and plant diseases
- Soil analysis(moisture measurement, fertility levels)
- Maturity evaluation
- Visual inspection
- Crop counting
- Irrigation and spray of pesticides
- Yield forecasting
The data collected is then used constructively e.g if the soil water levels are low, automatic irrigation is enabled.
Some of the benefits that result from the use of drones in farming are:
- Increased crop yields
- Lack of time loss in doing manual monitoring of crops
- Return on investment
However, the major downside of the use of drones is the capital required to purchase and maintain them. Probably if could find VCs who could buy into your idea and pump in some good amount of investment into it, its worth trying.
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