Farmers have turned into techies. It was clear throughout the Plug and Play Day at the ICT4Ag Conference that the devices and softwares on display were created with the development of agriculture in mind. Therefore, the people most likely to benefit from these devices should be farmers.
Twenty Third Century Systems really hit the nail on the head when they named their program Smart Farmer Solutions. As the name suggests, this system is for the “Smart Farmer”, also known as Farmer techie who has access to technology and is interested in using it to improve productivity on his small holding.
Smart Farmer Solution offers farmers a program that will allow them quick and easy access to vital information via three different access points such as email, short message service (sms) and the website. The program focuses on five key areas that include agronomic requirements, market-related information, environmental information, legislation information requirement and communication and interaction activities. It is a farmer’s one stop shop for access to all information from a single platform.
To the techie farmer, this might sound like an ideal solution to their problem. However, what happens to the small-scale farmer who is not used to technology?
Small-scale farmers in Trinidad are dependent on subsidiaries from government to purchase material for production such as vehicles, seedlings, and any software that may be of assistance. While I have found that successful farmers are the ones who embrace technology but it is difficult to embrace something you cannot afford.
I have also noticed a pattern with the softwares presented by the different companies during the Plug and Play Day: They most seem to offer similar capabilities. To me, this just makes it more difficult for the farmer to decide on the best program or device to suit his needs. Therefore instead of offering solutions, technology can sometimes create more questions in terms of its practicality and accessibility.
Farming Instructor although offers extension services via an online mobile application that I must say is highly interactive. The application itself is not much different from what Smart Farming Solution has presented. The difference is that users can communicate with the program by text, animation, or speech. Users are given the option to select what language they want the program in but this can also be done in Smart Famer Solution.
The Farming Instructor application provides the farmer with information on sowing, harvesting, and pest control. You name it the application probably has it!
The major down side to the user is that it only works on android phones. When questioned by a participant on small scale farmers lack of access to android cell phones the presenter Ernest Mwalusanya said that the software mainly targets extension agents. From my experience in the agriculture sector, even extension officers may find it difficult to acquire the software unless funded by the government.
This brings me back to the farmer techie, whose access to this technology is not limited. In fact, the benefits he reaps from using these predictive and guidance softwares only increases in financial output.
It makes me wonder if technology for agriculture is really for the farmer or is it for this new age techie farmer who can easily afford such devices…
Blogpost by Enricka Julien, Social Reporter for the ICT4Ag Conference.