Digital innovation for African farmers

Digital innovation for African farmers

Today, technology provides us with the support to get things done faster and more efficiently.

One such industry that is embracing digital development is agriculture. There is a growing awareness that farmers are an integral part of rural societies and that more resources must be provided, for farmers to meet the rising demands of the industry and consumers.

“Agriculture is the most important sector of the African economy and will have to be its driving engine out of poverty. It accounts for 65% of the continent’s employment and 75% of its domestic trade,” the Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh K. Yumkella, said.

For agribusiness to thrive there must be more investment in transport infrastructure, access to energy and water, information and communication technologies and management efficiency.

According to reports, 500 million smallholder farmers are present in the world, and they produce up to 80% of the food consumed in Africa and Asia. Despite this, farmers have no say in policy reform related to their businesses. The many challenges they face prevent them from ongoing participation in markets. Factors that affect their progress include insecure rights to land and natural resources, lack of access to quality inputs and poor rural infrastructure.

However, some innovators are now directing their efforts towards farming communities in Africa.

Researchers from the Mazingira Centre at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya have developed a mobile phone app to help farmers calculate the live weight of their animals with more accuracy and efficiency.

The eWeigh livestock weighing system is used to efficiently estimate animal weight. The app is a Bluetooth enabled animal weighing device that works in partnership with the iLivestock mobile app. eWeigh, is a tool to boost management capabilities in farming, built around the use of a simple proxy measure – heart girth (HG) – to estimate live weight.

How does it work? The tool uses predictive algorithms to determine LW (live weight), that are context and region-specific, to increase the accuracy of LW estimations. All data recorded by farmers is stored on a cloud-based database which can be retrieved at any time. Tools of this kind can help facilitate efficient, real-time decision making in the animal production business.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Improving efficiency in business management of farming.
  • eWeigh and iLivestock app allow simple progression via software updates.
  • Flexibility: eWeigh works with a range of weigh bars from different manufacturers so no need to purchase new weigh bars.