Family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector both in developing and developed countries. As advocated by this year’s International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), science and technology can also empower the most important actors in the food production chain in developing countries: farmers, fishermen and pastoralists. What’s been put forward so far?
The idea of SMART or precise agriculture has been around for twenty years. Farmers in more developed countries use technologies like Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) to map out yield, weed, salinity of the soil and ‘prescribe’ variable rates of fertiliser and spray. We hear repeatedly that scientists and researchers are facing an incredible challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. Well, geospatial professionals have brought to farmers’ fields the use of satellite and mobile data in support of food security.
G4AW is a programme by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, executed by the Netherlands Space Office, to support private investments with satellite-based information services and a platform for partnerships that improves the output of agriculture, livestock, and fishing in 26 emerging and developing countries. Information from satellites and other (geo) data can be translated into agricultural advisory work for farmers to make informed decisions on farm management activities such as fertiliser usage, seedling spacing, irrigation, soil amendments application and pest and disease treatment. Like farmers in developed countries, smallholder farmers are looking forward to new solutions to make the most of their use of farm inputs and labor. Geodata and analysis with farmers can answer a great deal of questions, such as ‘Does the farmer need to water more? Does the field require more or less fertiliser in certain areas? How are insects reacting to the pesticides the farmer applied on a specific field?’
Thanks to ICT, it’s not straight from the horse’s mouth that smallholders in Africa and India have improved their productivity by timely up-to-date market prices, micro-insurances or micro loans combined with information services. The G4AW is calling for proposals 2014-15 with available funding of 30,5 million EUR to support smallholder farmers across Africa, Asia and South America.
Other opportunities are coming up. SmartAgriFood & ICT-AGRI have launched a partnering service to provide technical and financial support to SMART Agriculture initiatives for SMEs and web entrepreneurs to test out their ICT tools in arable farming, horticulture and livestock farming or wilder agricultural use.