In an era of rapidly evolving technology, it remains critical for both governmental and non-governmental institutions to go hi-tech across all sectors, agriculture included. In the face of climate change, a phenomenon that has led to drastic weather patterns, the food security of billions of people is at risk, hence the need to shift to smart agriculture.
Climate smart agriculture, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, refers to an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate.
The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is expected to play a significant role in enhancing agricultural productivity in order to meet food demand.
According to a 2017 Huawei report, The Connected Farm: A Smart Agriculture Market Assessment, IoT can address agriculture-based challenges and increase the quality of production. In turn, this will make farms more connected and more intelligent with apps such as precision agriculture, smart irrigation and variable rate technology.
Farmers are now increasingly reliant on smartphones and other smart devices to keep up to date with the latest developments in the sector. They also use these devices to receive weather information, early warnings on extreme weather events, efficient production methods and even access to mobile loans.
Kenya’s rate of smartphones penetration surpassed 40 million mobile subscriptions in 2017 and stands at 41 million, according to data from the Communication Authority of Kenya. This presents a unique opportunity for companies in the telecommunication/technology industry. It is also a boon for firms involved in the manufacturing of devices, development of applications, network connectivity and the collection, management and dissemination of data. Telcos are indeed in a unique position to provide the scale, expertise and market clout needed for the successful application of IoT based solutions in agriculture.
According to research by Huawei X Labs, the total addressable market for smart agriculture is expected to grow from $13.7 billion in 2015 to $26.8 billion by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 per cent.
Kenya, a country whose agriculture sector relies heavily on rain, has had food production affected by changing weather patterns. Delayed rainfall, drought and floods have largely contributed to declining food security. Therefore, IoT products that can connect to remote weather stations would provide timely weather information to farmers, enabling them to adapt their crop production accordingly.
In Kenya, where 80 per cent of the country is arid or semi-arid land, livestock keeping, dairy and meat production are major socio-economic activities, supporting the livelihoods of more than 10 million people, according to data from the International Livestock Research Institute. Mobile phone technologies can be used to increase cattle productivity, improve their health, and reduce rustling.
Other technologies for analysing data can improve the operating efficiency of farm machinery and allow for both corrective and preventive maintenance thus reducing fault time and maintenance cost. This can be readily adopted in Kenya, as the government is keen on encouraging large scale commercial farming through technologies.
Adam Lane is Senior Director, Public Affairs, Southern Africa Huawei Technologies Kenya.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.