4IR & Sustainability Feature: AgriTech

AgriTech (agricultural technology) uses technological innovation to reduce the cost of production, improve efficiency and increase yield and profitability in agriculture. Agritech uses 4IR technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, drones and advanced robotics.

For example, precision farming or precision agriculture uses sensors connected to the internet to collect and relay data for use in farm management, livestock management, etc., increasing efficiency and effectiveness thus making farming more controlled and precise. In irrigation management, it may use internet-connected sensors in the soil to measure moisture and pH levels, relaying that information to a smart irrigation system which will automatically release the right amount of water for irrigation thus reducing wastage. Another example is where internet-connected sensors are safely embedded in livestock to monitor and enable proactive management of their health.

Agritech can help solve some of the world’s problems and achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals as defined below:

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  • SDG 2Zero Hunger, targets to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. It aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • SDG 8Decent Work and Economic Growth, targets to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030. It aims to promote sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation through encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation.
  • SDG 12Responsible Consumption and Production, targets sustainable patterns of consumption and production. Efficient use of natural resources is encouraged as well as reducing food waste to achieve food security.

Example

Twiga Foods, a Kenyan company that uses a business-to-business (B2B) digital platform to bring together farmers and informal retailers and food manufacturers, was awarded as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in June 2020. The platform matches demand and supply through aggregating demand from over 35,000 informal retailers, and sourcing produce directly from over 4,000 farmers.

Silafrica, also a Kenyan company, recently introduced Smart Crate Technology for Twiga Foods. The smart crates are made from recycled plastic and use radio waves to make real-time data about the crates available e.g. location. It enables the tracking of the produce and enables transparency – the vendors can trace the source of the produce.

Liquid Telecom, recently partnered with Twiga Foods to deploy a precision agriculture IoT system to improve farm productivity at Twiga’s Takuwa farm. The system includes agricultural sensors for weather monitoring (humidity, rainfall, temperature and wind speed), borehole water meters and irrigation management (water acidity and salinity), all of which enable effective application of pesticides and fertilizer, efficient use of water, thus increasing yield and productivity.

Twiga Foods and its ecosystem are using relevant and disruptive 4IR technologies – platform economyIoT and implantable/embedded devices – to bring innovation in agriculture and in the process achieve the following sustainable development goals:

  • SDG 2 – by enhancing food security, promoting sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers and using technology to provide farmers with access to markets and informal retailers with access to traceable and affordable produce.
  • SDG 8 – by using technological innovation to increase productivity, encourage entrepreneurship and job creation, and increase economic growth as the retailers are able to get affordable and reliable produce, with the farmers benefitting from a ready market.
  • SDG 12 – by reducing food wastage as the farmers now have an almost secure market for their produce through the platform. The smart crate technology uses recycled plastic thus promoting the circular economy to reduce wastage and conserve natural resources.

The platform technologies, IoT, artificial intelligence, drones and advanced robotics are becoming increasingly relevant. If you are in the Agri sector, research on how to incorporate them into your business to build a profitable, sustainable and relevant agricultural business.

To build a sustainable business, focus on using 4IR technologies to solve at least one of the world’s problems as defined by the SDGs

Look out for the next feature; we’ll be discussing 4IR and SD3: Good Health & Wellbeing.

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