Is Nigeria ready for an agri-tech revolution? What are the struggles associated with it?
Agritech or Agricultural technology can be defined as the use of technology in horticulture (the art of cultivating gardens), aquaculture (cultivation of aquatic produce), ns agriculture (cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock). Agricultural Technology entails products or services which are derived from agriculture in a bid to improve the input and the output process. Historically, almost every agricultural advancement was a form of agricultural technology. We have come to associate the word technology with digital items or innovations; however, the word technology originally referred to innovations that made tasks or manual labour easier. Therefore, when farmers began using cow-drawn carriages to till the soil, it was a form of technology. In recent times, we have had more technological advancements in agriculture. Some of them are agricultural drones, biotech, soil moisture sensors, automated irrigation, weather forecasts, and hydroponics which is a form of soilless farming. Most of the agricultural technology being introduced today is centered around efficiency and sustainability. Hence the advent of hydroponics and automated irrigation. These two advancements were made to make farming easier and to make farming more sustainable. A lot of farmlands have been overharvested, which means they do not have as many nutrients as they should. Agricultural technology steps in with innovations to either solve this problem or provide alternatives till the soil recovers. In this article, we will be discussing the Agri-tech revolution, taking a look at some countries who have experienced it, analyse the benefits, and outline the struggles preventing Nigeria from experiencing an Agri-tech revolution.
There are a few issues that have spiked the need for an agricultural technology revolution around the world. Let’s take a look at four of them.
- Sustainability – Sustainability has been at the forefront of the world’s agenda for quite some time. This is because we have been given an ultimatum to reverse the damage to the ozone layer before 2050. To do this, everyone must work together. While this issue is mostly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there is also attention being placed on reducing methane emissions as well. Contrary to the name, greenhouse gas emissions are not released from greenhouses. They are emissions that are released when coal, oil, electricity are being refined. The combustion of fossil fuels causes Co2 to be released. They contribute 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, which is gotten from agriculture, contributes 16 percent. Methane is mostly gotten from livestock; however, it is also gotten from land use and the decay of organic products in landfills. In this article, we’ll be focusing on agriculture. Methane is extremely dangerous to the ozone layer; therefore, it is important that the amount of methane released is lowered significantly. Besides going vegan, the most effective way to reduce methane is to demonopolize livestock farming. Organic farmers, often smaller farmers, keep livestock for much longer, unlike factory farms. They also tend to use digesters which help cows digest foods better and release less methane when they fart.
- Land Availability – Land Availability is a huge factor pushing the Agri-tech movement. As more and more of the world becomes industrialised, we need places where people can live, which means there is not as much land available for farming as there once was. In developed countries and cities, there is even more land scarcity which has prompted farmers and scientists to look into hydroponics and vertical farming in order to tackle the issue of land availability.
- Managing Costs – Agri-tech is also interested in reducing the cost of production for agriculture. This is why there is research being done in automation and other procedures that make the agricultural processes much simpler.
- Water Shortages – Agriculture takes up a lot of water. The UN reported that 70% of the world’s water goes into agriculture. To prevent a water shortage due to the rapidly warming globe, it is important that we begin to envision how to grow crops with less water.
Countries that have experienced an agri-tech revolution.
There are agri-tech hotspots around the world. These are the countries pioneering the research in the agricultural technology revolution that is often cited as the fourth technological revolution.
- The United States of America
- United Kingdom
These are the top 5 countries pioneering the agri-tech revolution. African countries like Morocco and Ghana are also stepping up with innovative ideas. In 2019, around $63 million was invested in mostly Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria for more agricultural technology advancements. A Nigerian initiative called the Anchor Borrowers programme initiative assists agritech startups. AgroMall is one of the startups they have assisted. AgroMall optimizes agricultural output through the use of digital agricultural technology. These advances are noteworthy, and, indeed, Nigeria would greatly benefit from an agri-tech revolution. Unfortunately, there are some struggles associated with the movement.
- Electricity – Agri-tech revolutions need electricity because most of these advancements are digital in nature. In a country without a steady supply of electricity, a reliance on agri-tech innovations can prove disastrous for the average farmer. If there were steady electricity, an agri-tech revolution would work almost seamlessly. A solution would be to provide farmers with generators; however, the high cost of fuel price may be a source of frustration for small farmers.
- Funds – Without the help of foundations like SEI, most small farmers will not be able to afford these innovations. Most of these technological advancements cost quite a lot of money; therefore, it would be impractical for the average farmer to purchase them.
- Accessibility – Most of the small farmers who would benefit from these innovations are not even aware they exist. Before the agri-tech revolution can begin, it is important that the people who will benefit from the revolution are aware of it. This can be done through educational programmes. Most smaller farmers have farms located in distances often overlooked by the government.
- Lack of Infrastructure – Last but certainly not least, we have a lack of infrastructure. Agri-tech advancements as automated irrigation, vertical farming, or hydroponics are not available to the average Nigerian farmer. There is a lack of infrastructure that would provide the foundation for these advancements. For example, an automated irrigation system will only work if there is a pre-existing water providing system in place.
An agri-tech revolution would be of immense benefit to Nigeria and other African countries; however, with these struggles firmly in place, it will be nearly impossible to introduce these innovations. There are many benefits associated with an agri-tech revolution. It could provide more jobs, a more efficient form of farming, financial stability and liberation to small farmers, as well as countless other benefits. Before that can happen, we need to address the struggles listed above; however, there are still ways we can support small farmers. Initiatives like SEI directly support small farmers with products as well as education on how to optimise and make the best use of their farms.