Smart farming: How IoT tracks the health of livestock and crops in real-time
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For centuries, farmers have run their farms on instinct — waking up before sunrise to check on their crops or herd of cattle to determine whether all was well on the farm.
Now, the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionising the agricultural sector.
Farmers tending to thousands of cattle are now able to insert sim cards into smart collars to track the movement of livestock to prevent theft but also measure their heart rates and the health of pregnant cattle in order to make informed decisions in real-time based on the data being sent to an app on their smartphones.
The sophistication has gone to the next level and telecommunications companies are at the forefront of that because of 5G, says Prasanna Nana, Head: Diversified Industrials, Telecommunications, Media and Technology at Absa Group.
Real-time data at your fingertips in real-time
What you’re doing now is, the farmer is lying in bed and doing the same sorts of checks but virtually and getting far more information than what the eyes can see. He is getting information... so he can start making decisions based on his knowledge and his experience about how to optimise his livestock and ultimately what he produces on the farm.Prasanna Nana, Head: Diversified Industrials, Telecommunications, Media and Technology – Absa Group
In a world where we have to worry about scarce resources, climate change, water shortages and a growing population, the development of smaller-scale farmers and financial inclusion makes this sector a great candidate for IoT to have a profound impact.
Aside from tracking livestock, connected devices have sensors that monitor irrigation levels, soil quality and water shortages so that farmers can start to marry that with weather forecasts, and start to get clever about making sure their farm is yielding the best crops, reducing post-harvest wastage and even ensuring that their produce is not sent to a market where there is oversupply, says Nana.
So, it really starts to connect not just your farm but your distribution as well.Prasanna Nana, Head: Diversified Industrials, Telecommunications, Media and Technology – Absa Group
"That gives you a great advantage as a farmer who has this technology in a world where most farmers won’t yet have this technology… but it requires an integrated network of people who have equitable access to the tech. How far are we from a world where that is true," asks The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield.
While Nana does not believe that it’s required to give an advantage, she says that it’s about efficiency and making sure that farmers are getting the best out of their farm — that there’s no wastage, that you’re not wasting water, that you’re not wasting your harvested product and ultimately see a better return.
How realistic is it to expect this tech to be adopted in rural areas?
COVID-19 has certainly accelerated that, and I think, it’s going to come quicker than we think.
"In the rural areas, it’s more about helping farmers get the best out of their farms and in a world where we have to worry about food security, water shortages and climate change — that I think, is the priority. First to get the best out of the farms in a sustainable way and then over time, it should expand to make it far more efficient and more connected."
"But yes, I think it will take a little bit longer to do that and cover that last part of the value chain," says Nana.
Does Africa need this sort of labour-saving progress on a continent where jobs are desperately needed?
You've got to consider how you redeploy labour… If you’re the guy that previously drove the tracker on the farm, now you’ve got to reskill yourself to work with these sensors and interpret the data. So, you still have a job on the farm, you’re just repurposing yourself to work with the way the world is shifting.Prasanna Nana, Head: Diversified Industrials, Telecommunications, Media and Technology – Absa Group
“If you’re making most industries less labour intensive, you’re going to have that challenge and I guess, it comes back to the point about how you create new jobs that weren’t there before — more jobs that are in the tech space and I think, that’s how you shift the labour market," concludes Nana.
For data-driven insights that match foresight with sustainable possibilities, re-visit our Absa Insights page regularly to listen to thought-provoking conversations with Absa Corporate and Investment Banking sector experts in the Absa Insights podcast series.
This article first appeared on 702 : Smart farming: How IoT tracks the health of livestock and crops in real-time
Source : https://cib.absa.africa/insights2021/