News and knowhow for farmers

Farmers bank on precision farming for increased food production

A recent study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) described precision farming as a sustainable way of agricultural production to enable farmers increase production and cut on production costs while taming environmental degradation.
The study indicated that farmers can reduce inputs by 30-45 per cent, increase productivity by 60 per cent and lower the risk of soil damage, high chemical fertilizer use and minimize on water use by a whopping 70 per cent and cut on time spent of farms considering that smallholder farmers spend an average of seven hour on farms.

The farming technique identifies, analyzes and manages variability within farms for optimum profitability, sustainability and protection of land resources. While acknowledging that precise farming requires high deep understanding of crop production involving complex information and technology tools, the study called upon agricultural stakeholders to sponsor trainings especially for smallholder farmers since they are responsible for at least 80 per cent of global food.

In an effort to help smallholder farmers to adopt this mode of farming, various agencies and innovators across the globe are developing agricultural evaluation and monitoring tools to inform farmers about soils, quantity and quality of inputs required in real time.

Late last year in Kenya for instance, tech data giants IBM developed EZ-Farm, an integrated data tool to help farmers keep in touch with happenings on their farms .The tool includes sensors that monitors water tank levels and amount of moisture in the soils. The tool also has cameras which monitors photosynthesis rate before steaming the data to the IBM Cloud which can be accessed by farmers via Smartphone application.

According to IBM, weather related crop damage can be reduced by 25 per cent using predictive weather modeling and precision agriculture techniques as almost 90 per cent of crop losses is due to bad weather condition. Ez-Farm has a deep thunder service which provides local weather forecast up to 36 hours in advance with 90 per cent accuracy hence allowing farmers to make informed choices on whether to irrigate plant or apply fertilizer.

The tool is appropriate for use by both urban and rural farmers in developing countries due to high mobile phone penetration. In Kenya for instance, an AGRA report chose mobile phones as the most suitable information tool for rural farmers considering an 80 per cent mobile phone penetration according to 2015 data by the Communication Authority of Kenya.
With such initiatives in place and more awareness on benefits of precision farming across the globe, farmers are likely to get value for their effort, minimize environmental damage and produce more food to rescue the 795m people facing starvation across the globe, according to the World Food Programme data.

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