Smart Farming is the future of food.

The goal of Smart Farming is to make every aspect of farming more reliable, more predictable and more sustainable. Achieving this goal has long been the farmer’s dream. Thanks to a set of new technologies that have become widely available and increasingly affordable, that goal is within reach for millions.

Farmers around the world have long had to rely on incomplete, often inaccurate information to make crucial decisions about what to grow and how to grow it. The role of the new
 agri-technologies is to close this information gap by providing extremely precise measurements of the factors that determine farming outcomes — soil nutrients, soil moisture, the presence of weeds and insects, fertilizer blends, crop rotation and virtually every other aspect of agronomy.

The precision of these measurements reflects the capabilities of the equipment and software used to gather the necessary data. Some have been around for a while — like satellites that can map farmland with increasingly high resolution. Others are more recent — like digital sensors placed in the soil to capture data on available nutrients. Now measurements are taken routinely by both drones in the air and sensors mounted on motorized farm equipment like tractors.

As with so many other aspects of digital life, all this data has become truly useful information for farmers thanks to the application of advanced data analytics — aka Big Data. The ability to make predictions about weather, crop yields and other factors, drawing on many different sources, becomes the raw material for making recommendations to individual farmers on how to make their crops more plentiful and their operations more profitable.

That’s why this new approach is often referred to as

“smart farming”

For a number of years, agri-data equipment and services of this kind have been available to farmers in the Global North, especially the United States and certain European countries. In the Global South, however, precision agriculture has been something of a rarity. For farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, where food production is still the the most important industry, many barriers stood in the way of progress — including basic infrastructure needs like passable roads, available electric power and cheap mobile phones.

That’s all about to change, thanks to advances in technology and the efforts of many forward-thinking organizations in countries like Kenya and Ghana. This is a region where precision agriculture promises to bring tremendously important benefits. In the years to come, those benefits will accrue not just to millions of smallholder farmers. As population growth soars, along with the need for ever-increasing amounts of food, what makes life better for farmers will also help make life better for everyone else on the planet.

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