Thursday, October 18, 2012

Apps Revolutionizing Agricultural Worldwide


The 16th of October is World Food Day with the main objective being to increase public awareness of global food problems that countries are currently experiencing, as well as to strengthen unity amongst nations in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Smartphones and mobile apps play an important role in helping countries overcome some of these problems.

In fact, today with the advancements in technology, what we are witnessing is that these improvements are allowing a sector, like the farming community, the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and insight all through an application that can be downloaded on their smartphones.


This is proving very successful if you consider that many farmers are in areas that are often hindered by poor infrastructure and/or financial restrictions. Certainly, the appeal of these apps is not limited to merely developing countries – but has even helped to make the lives of first-world farmers a little easier.

So, what are the apps that have lead this change? and what are some of the ways that they have positively impacted the lives of farmers and assisted in supply and production?

Financial assistance
In America, there is a free mobile app that assists dairy farmers with monthly financial planning by tracking feed costs and income.

The DairyCents app helps farmers estimate income over feed cost per cow. This in turn provides an indication of exactly how much money is left to pay other expenses. The app also lets farmer to compare costs of feed. This leads to greater volumes of production and overall cost saving for the farmers.

Proving access to information
As many farmers don’t exactly have an ‘office space’ it is no surprise that apps have become attractive business tools for agriculture. They are being used track irrigation, monitor soil quality, record herd information and track weather conditions.

In San Joaquin Valley in California, an area that tends to face water shortages, a farmer who specialises in cotton, tomatoes, onions, pistachios and wine-grapes does so with the help of a mobile app that tracks his water usage to effectively manage irrigation. The app tells the amount of water going into a particular field and what the state of the soil is in the area. As the ground gets wet, the app provides the farmer with a graph that shows precise wetting patterns.

The case for app usage in Africa
Agricultural app development in Africa has formed out of necessity to help reduce starvation and poverty initiatives already underway and the high volume of mobile users in Africa makes the app space in the market perfect.

Making the impossible possible, farmers in Ghana can now use their mobile phones to send a text message to find out about crop prices in Accra which is over 400km away. Furthermore, a UK company has developed an app that helps farmers in Kenya monitor and protect their greenhouse crops from changing weather conditions, pests, and overheating.

The app allows farmers to remotely control and monitor plants in their greenhouses by maintaining consistent crop temperatures. Additional smart farm features are planned, including temperature and humidity sensors that can enhance the growth and health of crops while reducing the amount of water and energy required.

The future
The benefits and opportunities of mobile growth in agriculture will far outweigh any operational costs – and can provide a real solution for farmers – which in turn will in fact world food problems and possible help with shortage problems.

To this end, in January this year, SEACOM announced that it would be providing funding towards the development of a new Swahili and English language application for Tanzanian farmers that will collect market information on commodity prices across a number of major markets and help farmers  secure the best possible prices for their produce.

By continuing to improve the quality of life in some of the world’s poorest countries, investors and app developers can provide inexpensive access to mobile content that can offer innovative solutions that help solve local problems.

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