How digital solutions companies are contributing to Africa’s agricultural productivity

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Over the years, the ability and ability to use technology for production purposes has become central to the sustainability discourse. The Covid-19 pandemic has come with eye-opening experiences suggesting how businesses and the global economy will be shaped by digital ingenuity for many years to come. According to a McKinsey report, the application of data-driven artificial intelligence will generate US$13 trillion in new global economic activity by 2030, possibly shaping the next world order.

In the agriculture industry, there is already an awakening to new methods that farmers could use to grow crops, rare animals, and produce food year-round without relying entirely on their labor or natural forces. The expansion of digital data has introduced farming techniques such as precision farming and climate-smart agriculture.

Precision agriculture is the use of data and digital technologies to monitor and optimize the agricultural production process and increase farm management efficiency and agricultural sustainability. Climate-smart agriculture, on the other hand, aims to improve a sustainable food system by increasing productivity, resilience and adaptability to climate crises and reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

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Precision agriculture and climate-smart agriculture have both contributed to an increase in the amount of data generated by agriculture and the entire agricultural value chain, and they have also produced a repository of knowledge which covers various data points and insights that can help farmers make informed decisions. decisions and outwit nature. The application of data analytics in agriculture is expected to reach $1.5 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.2% by 2025. The global market for agtech startups jumped from $17.5 billion in 2019 to $40 billion. by 2027.

Agritech’s expansion into the startup ecosystem in Africa

In Africa many startups have developed to provide digital agricultural solutions to improve the continent’s agricultural yield and food security. Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria are the top contributing countries to digital agriculture in Africa. The three countries represent 60% of active agritech startups on the continent. These startups are solving food security issues in Africa by providing farmers with digital solutions that allow them to improve their yield and gain access to funds and the market.

Zenvus Technology

Zenvus is an Agritech company under Fasmicro limited that helps farmers optimize and transform their farms and improve their yields. Zenvus’ technology includes a computational algorithm and electronic sensors that allow farmers to collect data on soil fertility and vegetative health of crops to deliver precision agriculture at scale. It then uses the aggregated and anonymized data to provide financial services to farmers.

From farm management to pricing, financing and marketing to risk management, Zenvus provides data and insights that empower farmers to make informed decisions about what, how and when to farm. The technology incorporates GPS, a compass and an XL to map farm boundaries, which could be useful when applying for loans and insurance.

Hello tractor

Equipment leasing is a way for farmers to overcome the problem of lack of finance to acquire capital-intensive technology. Hello Tractor is the app Auma uses to improve agriculture in 13 countries, including Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. This innovation is often referred to as Uber for tractors. The app provides a digital platform for tractor owners to rent their machines to small farmers in their area and allow these farmers to band together to rent a vehicle at affordable rates. GPS devices are installed in these tractors that can allow owners to monitor their location and activity.

Jehiel Oliver, CEO of Hello Tractor noted; “Since its launch in 2014, the company has served approximately half a million farmers and 55% of app customers were first-time tractor users.” According to Oliver, mechanization is so important to being a productive farmer. But, smallholder farmers have labor and time constraints where they have a very short window to plant and if they do not plant on time they lose yield. “So this technology is a way to offer this expensive equipment to farmers,” he noted.

Challenges and way forward

The cultural mismatch is a major setback for the African agrotech ecosystem. Despite the growing pace of digital solutions on the continent, many farmers are still struggling to scale and could not benefit from significant improvements in their lives due to the lack of institutions, structures and cultural frameworks that can improve adaptation and localization of these solutions. Thus, most of these solutions still seem foreign to many farmers on the continent.

According to a study by the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), more than 33 million smallholder farmers in Africa have signed up for some digital services, but less than a third use them enough to feel the full benefits.

In addition, the lack of internet access and the inability of smallholder farmers to afford to buy or even rent digital technologies has been a major source of discouragement for them.

Major investments need to be made in building ICT infrastructure and improving digital literacy in rural areas. The government should consider providing better incentives and stronger support systems through tax breaks, grants, bonds, and grants to startups aiming to contribute to the nation’s food basket and wealth.

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