The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is transforming industries and societies. It impacts every aspect of the economy, changing sectors and lives, and transforming the way business is done. And the result of this digital transformation is an abundance of data that can revolutionise the way businesses operate. The agricultural sector in South Africa can benefit significantly from adopting technology to streamline productivity and operations, and drive sustainability. This is the view of Estelle Lubbe, co-founder and CXO of The Awareness Company.
Speaking during the company’s recent Precision farming with data webinar, she highlighted the importance of having a technology strategy as part of the overall farming strategy right from the outset. “By deploying sensors and devices to harness data ranging from security breaches to environmental conditions, the movement of animals and more, farmers can streamline their operations significantly, which in turn help them be more sustainable,” she says. “When this data is then aggregated effectively it gives the agricultural business deep insights into where they can improve their operations resulting in better yields and overall performance.”
Access to markets and reliable access to markets at that, is one of the biggest challenges in agriculture, particularly among smaller and informal farms. “Buyers want consistency in supply and quality, which requires in-depth knowledge of the geographical area, moisture and nutrient levels, and environmental factors such as wind speeds and rainfall. By aggregating and analysing the data collected using sensors and devices in an easy-to-use central platform such as HYDRA, these farmers can determine how much water and nutrients they need to farm sustainably and produce quality output,” says Lubbe. “This is particularly invaluable in enabling them to take the next step in commercialising their operations.”
She adds that they have seen tried and tested applications of the sensors and devices that have demonstrated immediate benefits. “In one example we deployed a camera in someone’s house on a farm just to who them how it works and what its capabilities are. The very next day because of the early warning triggered by the camera, they were able to thwart an attempt at copper theft. Since then, the news has spread, and they have not had any further attempts.”
Technology can play a pivotal role in driving sustainable market access. “That is why we recommend that farms incorporate a technology strategy into their overall strategy right from the outset. You need technology to gain market access and reduce your risk,” says Lubbe.
She concludes by saying that while it might not necessarily level the playing field between small farmers and mega-farms, technology will have a huge impact on sustainability. “If you have access to technology, you’ll be able to reduce your risks and understand how to make a success of your business. This means that as a small farm, you can be just as successful as a mega farm in terms of improving your quality, predicting your risks, preparing for them, and driving growth for your operations.”
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