Agriculture Can Benefit From Digital Technology

Fresh thinking is essential to enhance agricultural production and food security for Africa’s growing population amid projections that urbanisation could rise from 10% in 1900 to 50% by 2030.

More than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. This problem is one that SAP Africa has committed substantial time to understanding, especially in the light of how data could be harnessed to optimise food production in urban areas.

“We need to find innovative ways to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Digitisation in the agriculture and food industry will change the way farmers operate, driving a proliferation of connected farmer networks and the use of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT),” Head of Innovation at SAP Africa, Dr Adriana Marais said.

She said growing plants in vertical stacks in an indoor environment, factors contributing to growth such as temperature, water and levels of carbon dioxide and nutrients can be monitored using sensors, and by analysing the data that is generated. In hot and dry regions, sunlight is sufficient light source while water usage can be reduced by as much as 95%.

Establishing smart farming greenhouses in city locations will significantly reduce the timeframe from seed to retail outlet.

Obvious candidates for production include highly perishable crops such as leafy greens, an unrivalled source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and indigenous medicinal plants.

“We’re strong believers in harnessing data to generate insights that improve peoples’ lives. Leveraging technology could help achieve food security and support agri-business by increasing farming efficiencies, creating transparent and sustainable food supply chains, and managing price volatility,” Marais said.

“Technology can enable agri-business to more productive, extract greater value from the supply chain and serve consumers better.”

IoT allows agri-business to use data-generating sensor-embedded devices that, when linked with a digital core, enable opportunities for analysis and realtime insights.

These insights can be used across the value chain to drive business decisions and create opportunities for new business models. Agri-business companies are finally understanding the full potential of the inter-connection between physical and digital assets and the Internet of Things.

“We are seeing increased interest in and uptake of new technologies such as digital sensors that measure humidity, temperature, soil and more,all the while generating huge amounts of data.

“Linking sensors to GPS-enabled devices could also provide agri-business with a realtime view of a farm, which they can leverage to improve operations quickly and efficiently,” Marais said.

SAP’s solution for digital farming helps farmers leverage services and individualised agricultural solutions provided by agri-business companies.

Theses companies can use algorhythms on field data shared by the farmers to calculate prescriptions that optimise efficiency for each individual farmer.