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What does the next generation of digital farming look like?

23 April 2022

Mr. Sonko Ali a farmer showing AgriShare App

It is a science class and the random question is, what is the use of a phone? The most probable answers would be, calling, texting and probably kids would mention games. Social media too! Accurate!

It is fun chatting with family and bantering with friends, playing games, and probably ordering food online. Lately, there is more to that.

In 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first phone, he made history with a peremptory instruction to his assistant Thomas Watson. “Mr. Watson, come here—I want to see you”, were the first words ever over the phone.

Close to 150 years later, such words have evolved into just a click of a button. Something like, “Agrishare, I need a tractor!”

If there is anything young people are embracing most, it must be the digital space. The same account for 77% of the African population. As the old-timers rest their hoes, there surely should be bait for young people to pick them up.

If in the comfort of his air-conditioned office, a young professional in Kampala can order equipment, and laborers and seek advisory, then we are in business as a continent.

In Uganda for example, farming tractors are traditionally hard to secure, as they are traditionally found at local government offices. They were in the past only accessible by the ‘high class’ and ‘highly connected citizens’

Sonia Nakiyingi, Agrishare’s partnership officer says they hire out tractors for a range of UGX 120,000 (USD 34) to UGX 150,000(42 USD) for each acre of land. The local government authorities before such a digital intervention would hire it out for more than a tripled fee.

This is one of a bevy of services offered digitally off a string of factors of production on the Agricultural value chain.

The excitement further comes with the luxury to choose from different services which vary in price.  Take an example, several irrigation pumps are listed and you are not limited to a ‘supermarket price’. Sounds cool.

Mr. Moses irrigating his tomatoes during dry season using a irrigation system hired via AgriShare App

The future of Agriculture technology should be envisioned around less use of rudimentary tools like hoes and if anything, the phase-out of direct casual labor. Remotely doing agriculture may sound impossible, but surely. That should be the ultimate dream.

Smartphone penetration in Uganda and Africa has significantly improved. According to Between 2018 and 2021, people who own smartphones increased by more than 75%. More than 23% of the African population is also registered as internet users. With the impressive smartphone penetration, this figure can only shoot up. Any excuses? Surely yes, but less!

Agriculture could be in the morning of a digital transformation, but there is surely a lot to get excited about with the direction one of the oldest and key industries is taking. The youth who are running to cities can only be attracted back with smart farming.

What is Agriculture digitization?

The term “agricultural digitalization” refers to the process of integrating advanced digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence, big data, robotics, unmanned aviation systems, sensors, and communication networks, all connected through the Internet of Things into the farm production system.

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