App-based agriculture for a tech-savvy farmer

By Teddy Searight

Plant clinic Zambia tablet
The use of mobile technologies in African agriculture continues to grow. Photo: David Ng’ambi

Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing a digital revolution bought about through the advancement and increasing availability of mobile technologies. Improved affordability has placed mobile devices in the hands of more African’s than ever before, with 444 million subscribed users in 2017. Take Tanzania for example where the average cost of mobile phones has fallen by more than half in five years to just over $100 today.

Continue reading

‘Cracking the code’ of woody weed spread with machine-learnt algorithms

rotor-cipher-machine-1147801_1920
Machine learning algorithms have their origins in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 ciphering Enigma machine

A scientific tool which has its principles in early ‘computers’ such as the German WW2 Enigma machine – used to convey secret commercial, diplomatic and military communication – is helping to map the fractional cover of the woody weed Prosopis juliflora across the Afar Region of Ethiopia.

PhD Candidate Hailu Shiferaw from Addis Ababa University, who is being supervised by CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner, Professor Woldeamlak Bewket (AAU) and Dr Sandra Eckert (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern), has compared the performances of five Machine Learning Algorithms (MLAs) to test their ability at mapping the fractional cover/abundance and distribution of Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPS) – particularly Prosopis which has already devastated an area equivalent to half of neighbouring Djibouti.

Continue reading

Can a ‘diet’ of digital data really help feed the world?

data map

Last week (29 January 2019) CABI was awarded a $1.49 million grant from the Gates Foundation to work with them to help increase food security in India and Ethiopia through better access to data on soil health, agronomy and fertilizers.  In this blog Communications Manager Wayne Coles looks at whether or not the use of digital data in agriculture can have a real impact on our need to feed the world….

The facts are clear; if we’re to stand any chance of feeding a global population of around 9.1 billion by 2050 we must make better use of ‘digital data’ to unlock the potential of more than 570 million smallholder farmers around the world.

The complexity of Africa’s growing food problem, which is exacerbated by social and climatic factors, should not be underestimated. Its population, for example, will exceed 42 million a year over the next three decades while a rise in extreme weather events will wreak havoc on farming communities already grappling with threats to crop yields from a range of agricultural pests and diseases.

Continue reading

CABI and IFDC join forces to get soybean film out to farmers in Northern Ghana

soybean film

 

By Duncan Sones – from an article which originally appeared on the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) website

Farmers in Northern Ghana are reaping the benefit of village-based film screenings to inform them about agricultural practices. Film screenings are growing in popularity amongst farmers and extension projects, as the technique for sharing information. This is because they are a very inclusive way of sharing information.

In mid 2018, IFDC approached Countrywise Communications about working together in Northern Ghana. IFDC wanted to improve the harvest and post-harvest treatment of soybean. They proposed doing this through showing a film. Countrywise knew exactly where to find films that was ideal for this purpose.

Continue reading

Plant clinics, pests and pads of paper

By Teddy Searight

“We’ve arrived everyone. Off the bus”. Ten journalists, myself and five other CABI staff disembark eager to write our own stories on this, a landmark day, for one of CABI’s latest projects – the Pest Risk Information SErvice (PRISE).

PRISE, led by CABI and funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), uses state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa of pest outbreaks that could devastate their crops and livelihoods. 12 July 2018 marked the launch of the project in Kenya.

Continue reading

How technology can change the way farming is conducted

duncombe
Photo Courtesy of Richard Duncombe.

By Richard Duncombe

The population of the Global South is growing rapidly. As populations grow, so do requirements for food and nutrition. Improvements in agricultural productivity and sustainability are essential conditions for development to take place. Some regions of the Global South have seen greater success than others in terms of agricultural growth, with low agricultural productivity attributed to lack of knowledge of up-to-date technologies and practices, as well as issues such as climate change. In recent years, to face these challenges, there has been growing activity around use of digital technology for agricultural and rural development in the Global South, to address knowledge gaps, and to establish the building blocks for new rural services.

Continue reading

Unmanned aerial vehicles – Agriculture’s “game of drones”

Drone_field
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), more commonly referred to as drones, are not new technology.  They have been used commercially since the early 1980’s, but in recent year’s practical application of this technology has grown rapidly across a number of industries, with agriculture playing a key role in this expansion. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, it is anticipated that agricultural productivity will need to increase by approximately 70% over the same time period, in order to meet demand.  With this in mind, agricultural producers are looking at ways to produce food and increase productivity in a sustainable manner.  Drones are increasingly being considered part of the solution.  So how can UAV’s be beneficial for the agricultural industry and how do they differ from existing methods?

Continue reading