By Edith Mutisya
Remarkable innovations in agriculture-allied industries such as ICT, chemicals, hydroponics and aquaculture have resulted in a slew of innovative, smart agriculture technologies that have helped enhance yield and widen market reach, according to a new study.
According to the study by Frost & Sullivan dubbed Future of Agriculture and Nutrition, smart agriculture is rapidly rising in the global agriculture industry as arable land continues to shrink at an alarming rate.
It shows that farmers in rural areas and commercial establishments in cities are turning to smart agriculture to maximise yield with minimal agricultural inputs.
Smart agriculture enhances product quality, reduces wastage and ensures overall higher profits for the farmer by integrating farming tools with numerous technologies that aid decision support, farm monitoring and crop management.
“Some of the high-potential technologies under development include farming apps that provide data for on-field activities, roof-top farming technology in land-scarce regions, and monitoring systems that record information,” says Frost & Sullivan Agriculture & Nutrition Global Director Christopher Shanahan.
Collaborations with technology companies have enriched smart agriculture solutions’ capabilities and resulted in path-breaking tools, like agriculture drones for efficient monitoring to reduce farmers’ dependence on manual labour.
This is in addition to sensor fusion to aid in identifying, understanding and utilising information that quantifies variations in soil and crop within agricultural fields, and autonomous farming solutions to turn large swathes of inaccessible land in poor economic areas to useful prospects for arable farming.
Shanahan says consumers are increasingly demanding nutritious, ethically produced food and beverages that are free from pollutants, allergens or over-utilisation of socially valuable natural resources.
“These value-added foods are currently offered only at a premium, but smart technology can make them available to all sections of consumers by ensuring sustainability as well as high and efficient yield/production,” he says.
Richard Weissenberg, Business Unit Leader of Chemicals, Materials & Food: Africa, Frost & Sullivan says Africa’s farmers are in challenging times.
” Just as the sustained drought is set to ease, fuel prices are forecast to rise by 50 percent. In common with farmers in the US and Asia, they need to feed rising populations with declining arable land areas,” he says.
He adds that economies across the continent are seeing rising per-capita GDP, meaning consumers are demanding more calories, and food production that is more environmentally friendly.
“Smart Agriculture uses digital technology to enable more precise use of inputs and irrigation. The result is more food, cheaper, with lower environmental impact and energy costs. It is an aspect of digital business that could have a rapid, positive effect on the vast majority of Africa’s people,” says Weissenberg.
The global smart agriculture technology market generated a revenue of $4.50 billion in 2015 and is forecast to hit $9.00 billion in 2020, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.8 percent.