Precision farming in Africa

Precision farming, also known as precision agriculture, is developing exponentially – revolutionizing the agrarian industry.  Modern farming practices focuses on optimal use of acreage, crop yields and machines, enhanced by specific data and technological inputs.  By combining available resources, such as integrated crop management systems, more profitable and sustainable farming operations can be established. Technological development, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT), is creating rapid disruptions to conventional farming methods, meaning infinite optimization opportunities exist in the precision agriculture sector.

What is precision agriculture?
This concept and method of work can be defined as “a site-specific information and technology-based management system,   using one or more of the following sources of data: soils, crops, nutrients, pests, moisture or yield, for optimum profitability, sustainability, and protection of the environment.”

The African Agricultural sector faces many challenges. Additionally, the worldwide phenomenon of global warming negatively impacts weather patterns leading to the depletion of soil nutrients and deterioration of usable land in many parts of the continent. Growth is further hampered due to slow technological migration, evidently resulting in farming productivity in the African region falling short of global standards.

In light of these concerns, sustainable farming practices are understandably gaining traction, demanding the use of digital technology to address productivity and yields. Modern commercial farmers prefer using high-tech functionality with data analytics to improve strategic and operational decisions, without negatively impacting environmental sustainability. Examples of technologies assisting in managing crops, water, fertilizer, soil and pesticides are:

  • satellite GPS –  providing farmers with highly specific farm maps  linking points of interest;
  • drones – capable of pinpointing unhealthy or stressed crops, caused by pests or diseases. The data allows farmers to focus on problematic areas in a proactive way.
  • variable rate technology – this combines a variable-rate (VR) control system with application equipment to apply inputs at a precise time and/or location to achieve tailor-made and site-specific application rates of inputs to soils and crops.

What are the Benefits of precision farming?
Natural variations occur across agricultural fields. Precision farming methods can detect and log variations. Farmers can use the data to match resource requirements for optimized application, ensuring the best soil and crop health.  Precision farming systems provide further capabilities in monitoring soil and crop conditions post application.  

Nearly 240 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or one person in every four, lack adequate food for a healthy and active life.  Africa’s growing and impoverished population requires smart and sustainable food security solutions.  Water, nutrients and other minerals need to be used judiciously, while combatting natural impacts such as pests and disease, to improve production and reduce costs.

Where to from here?
Precision agriculture is evolving from high tech general concepts to specialized and intelligent methods such as precision irrigation, precision land preparation and precision planting. These processes allow individual focus on plants or small dedicated areas within a field, while traditional practices centres on a ‘whole-field’ approach.

Rising production costs are impacting the agricultural industry, also affecting product costs and negatively impacting food security. Adding to this, modern value chains are faced with arduous customers always seeking better quality and healthier products. Consequently, traditional farming practices struggle to meet such demand.  Given this combination of factors, the adoption of digital tools empowers farmers to have a better understanding of variables, enabling them to make better sustainable decisions and have less reliance on fragmented data or manual inputs.

With stakeholders under significant pressure to accelerate productivity and quality to rising demand, Unitrans Africa is strategically positioned to offer commercial agricultural entities smart farming solutions built on years of knowledge and experience. Services include providing suitable mechanization solutions for key farming activities, as well as tailored solutions. Unitrans Africa is ready and equipped to provide your operation with a unique solution – ensuring maximum efficiency.

Find out more about Unitrans Africa by contacting them via email.