Today’s agricultural sector has undergone a massive digital transformation in the last decade. New digital tools are reshaping how farmers grow crops, and consumers buy them. With the use of information and communication technology (ICT), the way we farm is changing for the better. The growth of mobile phones and other digital devices has made it possible to monitor everything remotely, from soil conditions to weather patterns. That has made it easier for farmers to monitor their crops, respond quickly to threats such as disease or pests, and increase yields while using fewer resources. From data analytics to drones, these are some of the ways that ICT is improving farming methods and increasing yields.
Data analytics refers to analyzing large data sets to uncover insights that farmers can use to make better decisions. The impact of data on decision-making in agriculture cannot be gainsaid. Access to data innovations and different ICTs are of great value to farmers: access to credit and insurance, farm inputs markets and delivery, provision of technical advisory services, interaction with information on weather markets, as well as interfacing with local and county authoriti
In the farming industry, farmers can use the real-time data generated by sensors on machines, tools, and animals to identify areas for improvement. For example, if a field’s soil lacks a particular nutrient, sensors can detect this and send an alert to the farmer. From there, the farmer can feed the soil using data analytics and computer software designed to optimize crop yield and nutrition. The same concept can be applied to livestock. Sensors placed on cows, pigs, and chickens can detect factors such as their overall health, the quality of their feed, and the amount of time it takes them to reach full maturity. Farmers can also use data analytics to track the health and location of livestock, making it easier to contain and eliminate diseases.
Remote Monitoring and Alerting
In order to monitor crops and livestock, farmers need to be able to see what’s happening on their property. That’s where remote monitoring via sensors, cameras, and satellite imagery comes in. Remote sensors – such as automated weather stations and soil sensors – can be programmed to collect data like soil moisture and air temperature. Remote sensors can then send that information to a cloud-based software platform, which can be visualized and analyzed in real time. Remote cameras are another way to monitor crops and livestock. Some cameras can be programmed to send images to a server, making it easier to identify potential issues from afar. Remote satellite imagery is another way to monitor farms from afar. Specific satellite imagery can be programmed to send images at a set frequency – for example, every few hours – allowing for near-continual monitoring. Some farmers may not be able to see their crops or livestock in person, but they can still monitor them remotely.
Drones are uncrewed aircraft that can be programmed to fly over a field and collect data on soil quality and plant health. Drones that collect plant data can calculate leaf area, canopy width, and growth rate. Drones that collect soil data can help farmers identify areas where nutrients are low and apply them using fertilizer. Farmers can also use drones to apply pesticides. Some pesticide drones can be programmed to fly over a field and spray pesticides at specific intervals. Drones can help farmers save time and money. Pesticide drones, for example, can reduce the time it takes to spray fields by up to 80%.
Precision agriculture refers to managing a farm’s inputs – such as seeds, fertilizer, and water-based on real-time information. Precision agriculture is used to maximize the efficiency of resources. Farmers use sensors to monitor soil, plant health, and weather patterns, which helps them decide when to plant seeds and use resources like water and fertilizer. Precision agriculture is increasingly being done using ICT. Farmers can use sensors to track soil health, plant growth, and even weather patterns to make more informed decisions about using inputs like seeds and water. Farmers can apply precision agriculture to any crop.
Automation in Farming
As farming has become more data-driven, farmers are looking for ways to automate their processes. Automation in farming refers to using robotics and computers to perform tasks usually done by humans. There are a variety of ways that automation is being used in agriculture. Some farms use robots to transplant and harvest plants, while others use autonomous vehicles to transport crops from the field to storage. Because automation requires a significant upfront investment, it’s not accessible to all farms.
ICT has transformed the agricultural sector and made it easier than ever before to grow food. Farmers can now track and monitor their crops and livestock remotely while applying nutrients and pesticides at the right time. KENAFF, the apex umbrella farmer organization in Kenya, believes that access to data innovations and different ICTs are of great value to farmers. KENAFF can better equip farmers than ever to make the most of their resources.
To this end, KENAFF is enriching her bouquet of ICT offerings to her members; by turning the KENAFF USSD Code into a revenue stream for KENAFF grassroots, county, and national levels, as well as developing other value-chain-specific ICT solutions.