Let us explore the smartphone as New Agricultural Tool
Inexpensive sensors equipped with hi-tech capabilities in our hands have revolutionized the way we live our lives. Everywhere we look, technology is omnipresent. It does not come as a surprise that the agricultural sector has joined the bandwagon of using smartphones as a way of digitizing the whole process and assisting in various farming activities.
Smartphones have been used for over a decade now in the agricultural sector for the dissemination of relevant information to farmers and agricultural producers, improving daily operations and supply chain access, and providing users information on competing market prices. These devices have made the lives of farmers easier in developed countries. But, it still poses a challenge in many developing countries across the globe today.
A study on Statista was conducted in England in farms in 2019. The study showed that farmers used their smartphones 75% of the time to keep up to date with news, environmental and farming issues and 20% for the operational management of the farm. This study also showed how smartphones have become an integral part of the farming sector today.
Developing countries such as Uganda are incorporating smartphones in rural extension services organizations to understand how effective and useful they are for the workers in their day-to-day operations. The study conducted showed that the workers used their smartphones for getting weather updates, checking date and time, and using the camera to show pictures of crops to the farmers. The study also concluded that consistent training needs to be given to the worker to keep them up to date with the latest trends and technologies. The United States, Canada and Europe have already exhibited growers using mobile as a remote to control watering, lowering and adapting the roofs of their vertical farm and perhaps monitoring the drones to spray inputs, seeding etc. It is the digital divide that exists between countries that needs to be reduced at a faster pace. The developing regions of SouthEast Asia, Northern Africa are struggling to convince the farmer to use mobile as a facilitator. Why? The growers prefer to use traditional methods, of calling the mandi’s or exchange to find out the prices, buy seeds and agri-inputs. Next, the farmers develop a close circle of advocates and co-farmers and agri-tech companies need to organise their group together to train, monitor and implement any smart farming technique.
The global tally of smartphone users goes as high as 375 Billion users with 6.7% YoY growth, in the year 2020. As digital connectivity improves in rural areas of the world, it is estimated that roughly 475 million farms around the world contribute to 12 percent of the total farmland with almost 94% of farmers using smartphones in especially developing countries. The introduction of smartphones to farmers and other major stakeholders in the agricultural sector has made it possible to bridge the gap between accessibility to information and extension service workers. Today, farmers have access to relevant information such as pest control, weather reports, schemes, and market prices to meet their everyday needs.
Some applications provide information on early warning about storms, best prices of seeds and fertilizers, and as well as interact with experts across the country. Global companies such as Bayer Crop Science have several programs that help farmers manage their daily businesses better. The AgriFin Mobile App is helping many farmers by offering expert advice on farming and finances, making their day to day operations smooth.
Farmers across the globe have very limited access to technology, let alone smartphones. This is true especially in developing countries such as Kenya where a large part of the country does not have access to smartphones. A study conducted by M-Farm, a marketing service, and price information firm showed that offering information on price and market linkages allowed farmers to plan their production processes better and provided them visibility. By providing them access to market price, price information, mobile phones were essential in bridging the gap between uncertainties and profits, thus proving that smartphones are becoming an essential tool in everyday farming practices.
Although mobiles continue to provide access to unlimited information to farmers, there are a few pertinent challenges in developing countries especially in the rural areas – the disparity in income levels which limit their purchasing power, intermittent electricity, lack of education and awareness, and several regional languages in a single province, lack of ownership of smartphones with storage space are barriers that need to be overcome in the community. Additionally, poor network and/or internet connectivity, unfamiliarity with the phone’s features, inaccessibility to recharge vouchers etc. also pose a problem to the farmers across these regions. Regular training of the farmers and extension workers is the only way to increase awareness and educate them on the uses of smartphones today. Meanwhile, large food companies like Walmart, Frito Lays, and more are adopting farms and then focusing on building the digital capacity of the rural smallholder farmers. Incentives, such as secure payment, proper seed to sale cycle monitoring and 24/7 expert advisory boost the morale of these farmers to use the mobile as a powerful tool to transform the methods he irrigates the land, prepares the soil and maintains the health of the crop until harvest.
Many global nations in the world are encouraging the use of smartphones as a way of solving day-to-day functions in the sector. The United States Department of Agriculture released a slew of mobile applications that allow a global network of farmers to connect and have access to information about maximizing the productivity of their land and saving their resources for the future.
As part of the five-year multi-organization project called ‘Land Potential Knowledge System, two applications were developed called LandInfo and LandCover. These apps use the latest technology in soil mapping and cloud technology. LandInfo enables its users to collect information about their soil and cover and also provides its user with data on global climate. It also gives its users information on growing season length, the average monthly temperature, and precipitation, providing users with important information on how to use their resources judiciously.
SourceTrace Datagreen platform is accessible to smallholder and large farmers, it is crop agnostic and most importantly works without internet. The mobile app auto-syncs with the server once the device is in coverage area and no -data is lost.
Around 24,000 cacao Farmers in Cameroon and Ghana have been equipped with smartphones, advisory and farm digitalisation. The startup has also deployed its digital solutions and full value chain traceability to horticulture farmers in Haryana, India, now the customer buying lemons from a supermarket can simply scan a QR code on the pre-packed bag of lemons and know which farmer grew the lemons, are they organic, which city does it come from and when was it harvested etc. SourceTrace has provided data collection services to the Bangladesh Livestock Research Foundation.
The farm management module allows businesses to maintain visibility and control over their daily farming activities. The advantage is the grower can easily learn how to access the mobile as the APP is not only intuitive but also available in over 18 local languages so the farmer can enter data, ask a query, send a picture and receive advisory all in a few clicks while he/she is at his/her field.
The myriad benefits of using the Datagreen platform include providing the best market prices to the farmers, upcoming weather conditions, providing information on plant health through their remote sensing NDVI and sending crop calendars, pest and disease control information. Connect with us today.
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