Farming Technology and Entrepreneurs in the African Diaspora
By Aquila Ledbetter
Farming Technology and Entrepreneurs in Africa November 19, 2020
Do you know that entrepreneurs in Africa have started using technology to create highly sustainable solutions to some of the biggest and pressing problems in the agricultural sector? Agriculture is inarguably one of Africa’s most vital – and largest – sectors. It is responsible for providing food for teeming populations and even others beyond the shores of the continent. It is also an economic lifeline to several African countries that are very rich in agricultural resources.
A report packaged by a not-for-profit organization and released in 2016 indicates that farming accounts for about 60 percent of all jobs on the African continent. The World Bank has even projected that agriculture, in general, and agribusiness, in particular, will grow in Africa to become a $1 trillion industry by 2030.
But despite the importance of agriculture in Africa, it is still not delivering up to its full potential. Approximately 160 million individuals in Africa go to bed hungry each day as a result of low food production. This is amid other factors like hot and dry conditions, hurricanes, floods, as well as the depressed economies, and explosive population.
Moreover, many young Africans are drifting away from rural areas to urban centers in search of ‘greener pastures.’
Nevertheless, there is no better time than now to become an agri-preneur or an entrepreneur in agriculture. This could be facilitated with the use of innovative farming technology which is designed to make the occupation easier and more sustainable in the long run.
Let’s take a look at some farming startups that use technology as a means to boost agriculture across Africa.
Founded by a African American named Aquila Ledbetter is a nonprofit that aims to raise funds to train and support farming technology in the African Diaspora. She is also a managing member of Afrisource Innovation Center in Namibia, Africa. The startup trains small holder farmers and entrepreneurs in rural regional towns of Namibia. Afrisource training and development module raises awareness and technical know how-to implement technology that promotes the use of Hydroponics and nonGMO seeds. The impact has increased the number of Agri-prenuers and job opportunities in the rural-urban towns. There is a growth in urban agriculture in the small towns today.
Founded by a Nigerian named Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Zenvus is a precision farming startup that uses patented electronic sensors to obtain soil data such as nutrients and moisture levels. Then the data will be sent to a cloud server for analysis. The startup then advises farmers on the type of fertilizer to use on a particular expanse of land or the best way to irrigate crops.
The system also makes use of specially-designed spectral cameras to build crop health indices in order to detect pests, drought stress, and diseases.
This startup, founded by Stefano Carcoforo in Kenya, manages the largest supply chain platform in the whole of Africa. It connects small-scale farmers to producers of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, animal feed, and even permitted plant-protection products for extensive use in organic farming.
Farmers purchase these supplies via mobile vouchers and can get discounts up to 20 percent for performing this action through iProcure.
The startup also provides data-driven stock management and business intelligence across supply chains. This enables farmers to analyze real-time critical sales data, their market share, growing sales as well as product performance.
This is a peer-to-peer service that allows farmers to share relevant information through text message without the need to access the internet or leave their farms. Farmers can ask questions and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers in other parts of the world in real-time.
This allows the farmers to tackle the harsh effects of climate change, increase yields, gain insights into pricing, and even source the best seeds. This service is available online, as well.
So far, up to 660,000 farmers in Uganda and Kenya use this service extensively. And plans are underway to extend to other African countries.
These are just a few examples of how farming technology could transform agriculture in Africa.
Africa may still be relatively behind the rest of the world when it comes to Agriculture. But the farmers and entrepreneurs have started embracing farming technology.
However, more needs to be done, especially when it comes to minimizing the wastage of food in areas with no electricity or extensive storage of food crops. Hopefully, more organizations will invest in Africa in order to develop other farming technologies that will address these and other areas of Agriculture as well.