Much was said already on the potential impact of the use of mobile devices on small farms (<2Ha) in developing countries mainly Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) and Asia, where small farms provide 80 percent of the food consumed in these regions. Mobile devices and internet already play a significant role in the agricultural development, yet there is still long way to go. Almost 94 percent of farmers in developing countries use mobile phones, where this is the only available widespread computing and communication technology.
In most developing countries, agriculture is the main source of the population’s income. Lack of access to relevant information leads to low yields, famers stress and low income. In SSA and Asia, the yield for rain fed crops like maize and wheat reaches only 10-40 percent of the yield potential (www.yield-gap.org). While total fertilizers consumption in 2016 in SSA accounted of nearly two percent of the global fertilizer consumption (3.7 MTon nutrients base), SSA’s cropland covers 18 percent of the global cropland (IFA). The potential growth for fertilizers is large; however, these regions suffer from several major challenges that can only partly be addressed by digital farming, in this case, mobile devices.
The main challenges related to crop yield are:
• Climate change and lack of weather predictability have a major impact on the yield gap. Digital agriculture supports the development and delivery of timely, targeted information services to farmers on crop planting date, variety sown and real-time weather data.
• Know-how - Smallholder farmers in developing countries do not have access to educational resources. Instead, they depend on word to mouth and trial and error to increase their farming knowledge. Mobile devices can provide a possible pathway to improve the access to agricultural information as a major impediment to increase agricultural productivity.
• In many developing countries, the poor supply-chain infrastructure limits the efficient use of fertilizers and other inputs. While all fertilizer types are affected, it has a bigger impact on the supply of more advanced fertilizers. Using digital technology can increase the transparency and help suppliers to better understand farmers’ needs and proactively provide solutions to small farms.
• Smartphones opens the way to communicate between farmers and villages and create user groups. These can work together, but also communicate with advisors and suppliers
One example of a promising mobile device tool addressing crop nutrition requirements was developed by Agriot, a start-up company in Israel. The unique technology is based on a mobile phone camera as the main data input, which feeds an Agronomic Decision Support System. The system monitors and analyzes the received crop photos to determine the amount of nitrogen uptake by the plant and calculate accordingly the required potash and phosphate. Harnessing the power of graphic recognition, based on thorough databases and AI, the yield gap is slowly closing, without substantial capital investment in Precision Ag infrastructure.
Practically, by using Agriot technology, each farmer converts his mobile device to a “sensor” which provides the monitoring of the crops’ nutrients levels and enables the farmer to better feed his crop, hence achieve higher yields and a better quality.
The Agriot tool reaches 85 percent to 95 percent accuracy. This level of accuracy is well accepted by farmers that have no other tools like soil testing and/or tissue analysis to drive their fertilization decisions. Agriot technology was tested and approved in six different crops: wheat, maize, pepper, tomato, carrot and lettuce. The company continues developing