Agriculture Technology
Agriculture is a cornerstone of human development and one of the most easily accessible methods of generating food. However, agriculture is also one of the riskiest ways to feed a community due to the unpredictability of the weather and pests that could spontaneously destroy an entire year’s worth of crops. Many countries, like India, struggle to maintain farms due to a lack of water, infrastructure and storage facilities. It is no surprise, then, that experts across the world argue that advancements in agriculture technology could prove invaluable in the fight against poverty due to larger crop yields and more success during harvests. Although no one has found a definitive solution to effectively grow enough food to feed those in poverty, numerous organizations have developed potential solutions to the problems that plague agricultural communities.

5 World Leaders in Agriculture Technology

  1. Farmmi: One organization making efforts in agriculture technology is Farmmi, an agricultural product supplier responsible for most of China’s supply of Shiitake mushrooms and other fungi. Recently, Yefang Zhang, Farmmi’s CEO, announced a partnership with the China Democratic League on Poverty Alleviation Initiative. During this partnership, Farmmi plans to provide new job opportunities for those living in impoverished village communities, give agriculture technology advice to farmers free of charge and sell local agricultural products in Farmmi Stores. Representatives of Farmmi will also meet with the China Democratic League continuously to discuss optimal ways to help poor villages in China with their farming, and ways to implement new action plans for agriculture effectively.
  2. Yunshang Agricultural School: In the Gui’an area of Beijing, China, citizens have a large selection of programs in which they can improve both the dependability of their crops and the amount of food they produce during harvest. One example lies in the Yunshang Agricultural School, an institution to help educate the farmers of the area on scientific planting. In these classes, farmers learn the most optimal ways to grow their crops by planting seeds in different formations or at optimal times. Citizens of the Gui’an area have also been utilizing smartphone technology to monitor their agriculture, like installing cameras to check the growth of greenhouse crops instead of examining them one by one. This education on agriculture and utilization of technology in farming sparked the construction of the Gui’an Agricultural and Tourism Industry Demonstration Park in 2015. This park contains several greenhouses and many different agricultural activities for tourists, including tropical fruit picking halls and a demonstration on smart agriculture, but the biggest impact lies in the park’s efforts to fight poverty. Currently, the Gui’an park is collaborating with 11 villages in the area through the Big Data Agricultural Precision Poverty Alleviation Agreement. With this agreement, the Gui’an Park aims to help poor villages grow high-value crops through the teachings of the Yunshang Agricultural School. As long as the people of the Gui’an area continue to focus on agricultural technology and education, more and more farmers will have the resources necessary to feed the people in their communities.
  3. Internet of Things: As the agriculture technology market grows, so does general interest from corporations. One example is Internet of Things, a tech company that has developed sensors to monitor the soil moisture of crops. These monitors can connect to a smartphone or personal computer, allowing farmers to save time that they would usually spend testing the soil. Internet of Things also plans to provide irrigation sensors and actuators, which will maximize water efficiency with crops. This should ensure that crops never receive too much or too little water, and minimizes water waste. The International Business Machines Corporation predicts that these tools from Internet of Things will improve crop yield by 70 percent by 2050. With these innovations Internet of Things has made a massive advancement in agriculture technology and its application in impoverished areas could prove invaluable in the fight against world hunger.
  4. H2Grow: Established in 2017 as part of the World Food Programme, H2Grow is an agriculture technology organization dedicated to helping poor communities build their own hydroponic systems so that they can grow food in previously barren areas. In areas with little to no soil, like a desert, traditional farming is nearly impossible. Hydroponic farming, however, involves no soil because the farming occurs either entirely in water or with some soil substitute like moss or peat. The removal of soil in the farming process allows the plants to receive their nutrients directly from the water while they grow and generally results in larger, healthier plants. With this practice, H2Grow has helped many communities grow their own food since its inception, sourcing 714 applications for hydroponic farming systems in 2019. As H2Grow installs more and more hydroponic farming systems, the world may see a day when every country has the ability to grow its own food.
  5. GrainMate: Launched in December 2017 by Sesi Technologies, GrainMate is an electronic meter invented to help impoverished farmers and businesses test the moisture levels in their grains. Monitoring the moisture level of grains helps a farm prevent detrimental losses during storage. If a farmer uses GrainMate and finds that his wheat is drying out, he can take the necessary steps to restore the grains to a safe moisture level, preserving them for as long as possible and maximizing the effectiveness of his crop yield. Sesi Technologies has received many orders for GrainMate, like one from Vinmak Farms in Ghana, that stated that its device is a good quality product to use on farms. With GrainMate in its arsenal, the farms of Africa have an advantage in the unpredictable nature of agriculture.

The use of agriculture technology is the most effective way to minimize world hunger. Whether it is a device that monitors the moisture level of crops or an initiative to educate citizens on optimal farming techniques, programs and innovations like these will continue to grow and develop to provide the quickest, cheapest access to food for disadvantaged communities.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Internet of ThingsThe “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the interconnection of ordinary objects and devices through computing devices embedded within them, and it has already transformed the way food, water, energy and aid are distributed in developing countries. Gartner, Inc. estimates that 8.4 billion connected “things” will be in use by the end of 2017, and that number will rise to 20.4 billion by 2020.

In developing countries, IoT technologies have brought increased efficiency and effectiveness to existing processes. For instance, farmers are using remote sensors to monitor moisture levels and soil conditions in the fields to avoid crop failure. Similar sensors are providing remote control of micro-irrigation pumps in India and water pumps in Rwanda, improving the functionality and reducing repair intervals. And in Haiti, healthcare professionals are using “smart” thermometers to better track vaccine delivery and storage.

According to the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, Nexleaf Analytics in Haiti has developed a way to monitor the “cold chain” delivery of vaccines by tracking refrigerator temperatures. Their ColdTrace system sends SMS alert messages when temperatures rise above or fall below the narrow ranger of ideal storage conditions. The developing world alone uses over 200,000 vaccine refrigerators, and these real-time updates ensure their effectiveness. Governments can use data from the system to divert vaccine deliveries from broken refrigerators and address power supply issues with greater speed.

With more devices going online as a result of the IoT, security and privacy are becoming concerns among businesses and consumers alike. Once a device becomes “smart,” it is vulnerable to cyber attacks from hackers across the globe. Smart thermometers, water pumps and utility and transportation grids can be hijacked and shut down by outside parties, effectively crippling vital processes that have come to rely on virtual infrastructure. Icon Labs has pointed out that the mass-produced nature of IoT computers and sensors makes them an easy target for hackers—if they can break into one, they can replicate that attack across a host of devices.

Meanwhile, the cost of IoT technology remains a barrier to its widespread use, especially in developing nations. Embedding computers into everyday devices is still a fairly new concept, and innovation has yet to bring down the design and manufacturing expenses. Perhaps because of this, Business Insider predicts businesses will be the top adopters of IoT, followed by governments, with consumers bringing up the rear. But the Internet of Things has already transformed vital services and infrastructures in developing nations, and many of its luxuries available in advanced economies may eventually trickle down as innovation reduces costs.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr