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October 16th, 2019

Precision farming techniques are being scaled down to be usable and affordable.

In Africa, a start-up scene is taking shape, capable of lifting millions out of poverty by transforming the continent’s largest industry: agriculture. The African continent contains more than a quarter of the world’s arable land, and farming contributes 15 per cent of its total gross domestic product, equivalent to $100bn a year, according to consultancy McKinsey. Yet a traditional, manual approach of smallholder farmers has kept yields below full capacity. Now technological innovation is starting to help boost production.

Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD), a Boston-based non-profit organisation, for example, uses text messaging to teach farmers in western Kenya how to use agricultural lime — which helps combat soil acidity — as well as how to fight the fall armyworm, a pest that tears through crops and destroys livelihoods. PAD, which works in several countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, is one of a growing number of non-profit organisations and companies disseminating technology tools to transform the growing practices of smallholders — farmers with small plots of land relying almost exclusively on family labour. Read more …