70% of Africans rely solely on agricultural income. But with a growing global population and mounting pressure to double outputs by the year 2050, farmers continue with the struggle of keeping up with the demand. Faced with challenges such as outdated methods and equipment, earth cracked dry from changes in climate and locked in an ongoing battle with destructive plagues, farmers are facing odds stacked against them.
But technology is ushering change. Powering a new era of farming, agritech solutions from all over the world are seeing unprecedented investment – with start-ups growing 110% in the past two years, and showing no sign of slowing down.
Microsoft has been partnering with public and private organisations to develop systems that support better policy making around agriculture. One example of this is the organisations work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives (MALFC) in Kenya to bring state of the art technology to their farming communities.
On an international scale, Microsoft’s Global Entrepreneurship Programme is supporting the most capable agritech start-ups from around the world. In helping small-scale farmers create economic identities for themselves, access profitable markets and limit damage to their crops, it is rallying together in an effort to get another step closer to fulfilling Africa’s agricultural promise.
Imagine creating the ideal growing conditions for your farmland, with no direct access to power. That’s the kind of positive impact agritech can bring to rural communities, thanks to the vision of start-ups like SunCulture. With them, Microsoft installed innovative irrigation systems powered by solar energy alone, to counteract erratic changes in rainfall brought on by climate change. Through intricate networks, sensors, cameras and drones are able to collect data from the land and generate personalised suggestions for farmers from machine learning and IoT to connected devices.
Technology like this has an already impressive track record – multiplying the income of smallholder farmers by ten times and increasing their crop yields by 300%.
Being committed to equipping all local farmers with the technology they need to prosper, means presenting each hardship with a solution; depending on geography and circumstance, the toughest challenges differ from farmer to farmer. Playing a key part in warding off Kenya’s destructive crop pests, Microsoft’s experts engineered a mobile platform giving farmers access to services and government advice, generating recommendations tailored to their needs, and protecting their livelihoods in the process.
“It’s one thing helping farmers on the ground. We’re also fueling inclusive economic growth by connecting farmers to transparent food supply platforms like Twiga Foods; opening up new markets and providing opportunities to scale that would otherwise be out of reach,” Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika.
“We’re putting financial independence and a sustainable future for farmers at the forefront of our technical solutions. Our collaboration with N-Frnds powers growth through digital distribution networks, and provides vital information on weather predictions, where to find seeds and at what price – so farmers can maximise their yields the easiest way possible, continues Abdella”
“Our projects are growing exponentially and helping to realise just how much can be achieved through digital transformation. We’ve pledged our technical and business support to the World Bank, with the shared ambition to bring one million farmers onto the digital platform within the next three years, and continue to work with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to bring food security to the countries that need it most,” concludes Abdella.