Agritechnology, Not Just Agriculture Holds The Key To Nigeria’s Economic Transformation
Technology has ushered unprecedented level of growth in every industry of the world, and although, some countries are more impacted than others, no country can afford to be spared in this wave.
We have had to question how we do the things we do, if there is a better way to do it, predict what results to expect, and improve on the results we get each and every time, but that is the predicament of technology; always seeking for a better, faster way to achieve the same results.
Although technology has impacted several industries around the world, we are yet to experience and pursue to its full effect, its impact on Nigerian agriculture.
The reason why agriculture and technology or agritechnology piques our interest is not far fetched. In 1999, agriculture contributed 41% to Nigeria’s GDP and 25.52% in 2018. This is a major decline from the 65.7% it contributed in 1957.
Agriculture also employs over 70% of the labour force in Nigeria.Our negligence and or slow adaptation to agritechnology may also be an indication of where our interests lie, an ignorance of the agriculture industry or our lack of faith in how agriculture can revamp our economy.
An average urban-dwelling Nigerian hasn’t been to an actual farm, is not aware of agriculture policies, and doesn’t have top-of-the-mind awareness when it comes to agriculture and agricultural practices.
This behemoth of an industry however is not one to ignore. If agriculture, withoutthe use of advanced technology contributed that much to Nigeria’s economy, then we can do even more with Agritechnology but we need to adapt fast.
We need to open our mind to new possibilities, embrace change and where necessary lead the change.The world is facing a global population expansion and our current methods can’t keep up. According to the United Nations, Nigeria’s population will grow to 398 million by year 2050.
That is about 2X it’s current population of approximately 200 million, that we are already struggling to feed.As we think of exploring agritechnology to solve hunger and food security, let’s not limit it to Nigeria or Africa.
Let’s aim to be a global player. As the words of thelegendary motivational speaker Les Brown, “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.”
The good news is agritechnology is making what we once thought was impossible possible. The possibilities arise as a result of the breakthroughs that have been made in Artificial Intelligence, Big data, 3D printing, soil research, cross breeding technology, plant genetics, and more.
With the power of the internet, millions of people can now be connected with a single device, we can spread information and even record actions.
Data: agritechnology is providing us with important data that will be useful across the agriculture value chain. In the past, it was difficult to calculate how much plants were grown, how much was lost to diseases and even study growth patterns.
Entire rows of plants are missed during fertilizers sprays, leading to the loss of these crops, and there was no way to measure just how much was lost to these inefficiencies. Without accurate data, it is impossible to make calculated improvements, just guesswork.
Several African startups are already generating data insights using machine learning, and sensors to capture soil and farm data.
Promoting new trends and occupations: as it stands, so many traditional industries are saturated especially, with the rise of automation, which is leading to so many jobs being threatened.
We can choose how to respond to this enormous change – either by being fearful and slow adopters of new technology or to embrace this change and start evolving.
A good place to start is from our primary and secondary schools. Promoting STEMeducation and applications in the Agriculture industry will go a long way in encouraging fresh interest and ideas from the younger generation.
Perhaps the underlying reason why an average secondary student will not want to study agriculture is the idea that agriculture or being a farmer is “not cool.” I don’t blame them though, the image of a farmer working in a farm under the scorchingsun also doesn’t register as cool in my mind.
Agritechnology has the potential to change the narrative, that agriculture is morethan just toiling on a farm, and that there is an entire agriculture value chain withmultiple points of entry and value creation. This will drastically reduce the number of students applying to study the more traditional courses, like Accounting for example, to the less popular, but nonetheless, important courses such as Rural development, Agric engineering, and Soil science.
As a society, we must think of agriculture as an integral part of a whole. We needto lead science projects that develop tools and systems for the purpose of agriculture. We need to expose students to the endless possibilities that exist in Agriculture.
Collaborative Economy: agritechnology will change not only how we grow food(products) but also how we facilitate the exchange and access to products and services.
We are in an era of information, speed, access and convenience. Consumers more than ever can research their options and make informed decisions. This hasled to a collaborative economy or what is otherwise known as a sharing economy.
For many, it will be impossible to afford a land at a location like Lekki, but by buying a flat in an estate, they can share the land, and estate facilities with others, offering them the life they want to live at more than half the cost. The same is applicable to farmers.
For many, it would be impossible to hire a tractor, but with a startup like HelloTractor, they can afford to hire a tractor as aGroup or Cooperative and save cost. Other Startups like SunCulture, sell drip irrigation kits that use solar energy to pump water from any source thereby making irrigation affordable and CowTribe, a startup from Ghana deploys mobile technologies that bring farming advice, weather forecasts and market information to farmers.
Another fantastic product of the Collaborative economy has led to the rise of Digital Agriculture: 10 years ago, this concept would have sounded foreign, some would have even thought it impossible but now, digital farming and digital farmers are making the headlines. This is perhaps the best gift that agritechnology has delivered to us.
Everyday Nigerians, moving from thinking about the agric space to actually making a difference in Nigeria’s agriculture industry. Digital agriculture is the use of new and advanced technologies integrated into one system, in order to enable farmers and major stakeholders within the agriculture value chain improve food production.
Agritechnology has led to the development of technology enabled platforms which supports both the supply and demand side and delivers seamless integration through mobile devices.
In addition, this platform lowers the barrier for normal everyday people to get involved in agriculture without the need for technical knowledge or physical presence. The process is usually transparent, structured and mutually beneficial.
The digital farmer can invest money via a secure platform into a farm cultivated by an on-site farmer. The funds are managed by the platform and go into educating the farmer, giving them improved seedlings, monitoring farm activitiesand maximizing farm yield.
This is a win-win situation since the digital farmer is able to make a return on their investment, while contributing to the achievement of global food securityThe on-site farmer, on the other hand, gets funded, increase their farm operationsand is able to increase their income at the end of a farm cycle.
The offtakers are supplied with the produce after harvest at a good rate, while the platform that facilitates this transaction also gets a percentage. Ultimately, there is a lot we can benefit from this new wave of agritechnology. There are several startups that have sprung up and are already offering agritech services in food safety, agri-investments, irrigation, and distribution, but agritechnology is far from saturated.
Those that will be successful must be willing to learn, test new terrains, be ready to partner, share knowledge and adapt to this fast changing world of tech. Now is the best time to jump on this train because we have a good chance in thisgeneration to achieve global food security.
Hannah Edia is a Content Developer and SEO Strategist at Farmcrowdy.
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