As the world’s population rapidly grows, so is the demand for food. Yet food production has been complicated by climate change that is increasingly threatening agriculture. Dwindling yields, increased pests and diseases and unpredictable weather are some of the factors that are conspiring to make farming less rewarding and unattractive.
However, it is not all gloom and doom. Various innovations have shown that agricultural production can be multiplied manifold.
The challenge for farmers, entrepreneurs and innovators, government and other players is, therefore, to find new and relevant technologies to step up food production.
Fortunately, a numbers of innovations are currently being piloted or already available to tackle different challenges across the value chain. From access to financial credits, curbing pest and disease, proper record keeping, weather forecasting, soil fertility test and access to market, there are a variety of technologies every step of the way, that can solve some of the challenges agriculture confronts.
Some of the cutting-edge innovations currently being used by small-scale farmers in the country include;
This is an innovative mobile business account that allows farmers to save, borrow and buy farm in puts.
Gidraf Wachira, financial officer at Dodore- the innovators behind the technology- explains that the platform works with farmers who have been registered in a farmers’ co-operative society.
He explains that Dodore extends financial credits to member co-operatives saccos to enable them pay farmers on time.
“The co-operative society then pays their respective farmers through either banks or mobile money but 20 percent of the farmer’s income is sent to the farmer’s agri-wallet account,” he explains.
Once the money is sent to the agri-wallet, the farmers can only withdraw it at an agro-dealer.
“What is in the agri-wallet account can be used to purchase farm inputs from agro-dealers. The inputs could be seeds, fertilisers, animal feeds, or drugs," he says, adding that the technology helps farmers to save part of their earnings so that they are not stranded at the beginning of the new season.
Farmers can also be given small financial credits based on their savings to top up fund for buying farm inputs.
Mr Jackson Rotich who sells 40 litres of milk daily to his co-operative, says he has been using Agri-wallet platform for the last eight months.
“Previously, delayed payments for farmers was the order of the day forcing them to sell their milk to middlemen. But after the introduction of the technology, farmers are paid on the first week of every month,” he notes.
2. Ujuzi kilimo
This technology uses sensors to analyse soil and farm conditions to provide real-time, precise, actionable recommendations over mobile phones to rural farmers who lack access to extension services and information on weather and markets.
The device which was pioneered by Brian Bosire, a student from JKUAT, uses light, temperature and ion selective sensors to detect and measure soil macronutrients. Sensors produce electrical signals that are conditioned to show exact amount of specific ions and (or) nutrients present in the soil sample by measuring soil PH, salinity, Nitrogen, phosphorus, Potassium and moisture.
The innovation involves using sensors and aid analytics to provide precision farming technologies to small scale farmers.
This is simple record keeping app for dairy farmers. It was o pioneered by Penninah Wanja. Once a farmer has installed the app on their phones, they register and secure the information with a PIN. The farmer is also expected to key in data to capture cow details, milk production, health, breeding and feeding information. It also has details on milk sales.
The app is designed to use the data and feedback production, financial reports, breeding and health reports. The farmer has an option to access analysed financial statements and receive important alerts such as dropped milk production, when to observe for heat signs indicating a failed conception and when to expect the cow to calf, among other advisories.
This is a technology which embraces solar technology in farm irrigation. It combines cost-effective solar pumping technology, a drip irrigation system which makes it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. The pump allows farmers to pull water from a variety of water sources, using solar power. Water is then pumped into a raised storage tank then flows through the pipes via gravity.
SunCulture is a American company. Farmers using solar power at the farm no longer have to worry about electricity bill.
, while drip irrigation kits ensure water is taken to the plant therefore minimising wastage of water.