Precision Farming and the Internet of Things.

Last week I spoke about how YouFarm mitigates against some of the risks associated with farming. In Zimbabwe some of the risks include: side marketing by farmers, lack of insurance, market access and lack of access to technology. One of the YouFarm core goals and objectives is to create smarter farms and farmers by introducing technology to Zimbabwe’s commercial and small-scale rural farmers so that we can reduce costs and wastage while we increase yields. The day that a rural farmer in the middle of Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe has access to drone technology for farming is a day we look forward to with excitement.

Precision farming

Precision farming can be thought of as anything that makes farming more accurate and controlled. A key component of precision farming is the use of technology like drones and low earth orbit satellites. There are other things like soil moisture probes that can optimise water usage, control systems and autonomous vehicles.

drone3103-620x330

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the capability to transform the world we live in. I feel that IoT will have the greatest impact in agriculture. With the global population set to reach 9 billion in the near future, the agriculture industry needs to embrace IoT and technology to feed all those people. Not only are we faced with a rising population, but we are also fighting the effects of climate change and land degradation.

Smart farming based on IoT technologies will enable farmers to reduce the amount of inputs used and increase productivity. An example of how YouFarm can do this is by using the data we get from drones or satellites to determine which areas in the field need attention, whether that be more irrigation or less fertilizer. The satellites and drones use Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI) and Near Infrared sensors (NIR) to monitor crop for changes. This data is then used to improve crop production. This is precision farming.

Falling behind

The world is changing fast and so is agriculture as we know it. If Zimbabwean farmers do not start embracing technology we will become irrelevant. In Zimbabwe we tend to be slow at adopting technologies or reacting to trends. We are reactionary and we need to change that mentality. A good example of not adapting to changes or trends is the over reliance on tobacco farming yet the world is moving towards banning tobacco products. Any farmer with an eye on the future must start looking at alternative crops .

The drive towards creating farms that use less space, less water and chemicals has seen the advent of vertical farms. Simply put one day your vegetables will be grown in a factory or warehouse. We are still a long way from this becoming cost effective but before you know it supermarkets will be growing crops in their basement eliminating the need for fresh produce farmers and at the same time, reducing their carbon foot print as they will eliminate the need to import produce from countries like Zimbabwe. Vegetables grown in these vertical farms can take 16 days from seed to supermarket shelf. Makes you think. This is why YouFarm believes that we have to equip our farmers with technology so that we can produce better crops and remain relevant.

Below is an image of a vertical farm

vertical

Conclusion

IoT and precision farming make it possible to reduce waste, grow better crops and improve yields. There is no reason why rural subsistence farmers or commercial farmers in Zimbabwe should not have access to these technologies. The YouFarm Crowd Farming platform provides our farmers with access to financial and technological inclusion. We also provide a way for people who are investing in crops to remotely monitor their crops and literally watch their money grow. Next week we will look at how The YouFarm Crowd Farming Platform is turning agricultural financing for farmers on its head.

Follow us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/youfarmzw or on twitter @YouFarmZim. To register as a farmer or investor log onto the website http://www.youfarm.co.zw and fill out the registration forms.

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