With Icow And M-Farm, Smartphones Reboot African Agriculture

With Icow And M-Farm, Smartphones Reboot African Agriculture

From Reuters via Daily Trust

Wider smartphone and Internet access has allowed technology firms to reach remote African farmers with apps providing veterinary diagnoses, crop planting guidance and virtual market places.

Human food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050 to meet rising demand and Africa is home to more than half of the world’s unused arable land, according to United Nations research.

Africa’s farms have failed to cash in because of a lack of access to infrastructure, training, capital and rapidly advancing technology. Areas being farmed by African smallholders are only producing around one metric tonne per hectare, compared with seven tonnes in developed markets.

The growth of Africa’s middle-class combined with a fall in the prices of technology has opened up opportunities for investment in farms on the world’s poorest continent.

“Africa is key to global food supply and we need to unlock its potential,” said Mark Davies, a dotcom veteran who runs Esoko, which provides advice to farmers and links them with traders in a virtual marketplace.

Esoko charges farmers $1 a month to use the service and businesses pay between $3,000 and $20,000 annually. Other apps recently launched include a Kenyan cattle-monitoring app called iCow and online marketplace M-Farm, which has partnered with Samsung.

By 2025, half of Africa’s 1 billion population will have Internet access and there will be 360 million smartphones on the continent, according to McKinsey consultants.

Internet technology could increase annual agricultural productivity in Africa by $3 billion-a-year, McKinsey says.

Mobile Access

“People who don’t have access to running water or electricity have access to a phone that is more powerful than computers we had a few years ago,” said Sami Ibrahim, lead developer at Glasgow-based technology start-up Cojengo.

“That creates a huge opportunity,” said Ibrahim, who along with his IT graduate colleagues developed Vet Africa, an app which provides veterinary advice.

Read more at Daily Trust