Agricultural innovation being driven by digital intelligence

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RHIZA Africa Satellite provides farmers with Agriculture related information

Currently the African continent’s use of traditional small-scale farming techniques returns the lowest yield per hectare globally, especially amongst the cereals and pulses that underpin the foundations of global food security.

While fertilizer, improved agricultural cultivation and livestock practices as well as better seed (biotech) can help improve yields, by far the biggest opportunity within the grasp of African agriculture lies in ‘agritech’, the intelligent use of data enabled by new digital technologies. In short, the excitement and the opportunity for African agriculture is in the data.

“Information is the key to realise Africa’s vast agricultural potential. Digital technologies are merely the tools that will deliver the information,” says Abrie Rautenbach, Head: Agribusiness, Business Banking for Africa Regions at Standard Bank.
Standard Bank’s satellite hosted-remote sensing innovation is delivered in partnership with service provider RHIZA Africa and backed by Origin Enterprises PLC and the European Space Agency.

“For the farmer and agronomist, Contour is an aggregated remote sensing information platform with a complete suite of farm monitoring tools for farmers, whereas GRID is a digital service for financial partners and farmers that helps them grow together,” says Danie Swart, General Manager for RHIZA Africa.

Using algorithms to analyse and interpret images, Contour and Grid share data on; local weather, soil moisture, field accessibility and leaf wetness, while also providing optical satellite monitoring of area planted, germination and growth progress. This enables growth stage assessments, yield prediction and ultimately yield-enhancement.
Available on mobile and desktop Contour is a digital platform and mobile app providing precision farming tools enabling; customer creation, field mapping, agronomic planning and recording, and crop and input allocation.

“Clients can use the information to understand the health of a crop; do fertilizer and spray planning; identify flooded areas; understand ground conditions – such as soil health and moisture levels – and monitor historical weather,” adds Mr Swart.

The data that Contour provides clients enables farmers to make better decisions while mitigating risks and improving yield through optimised operations. Through soil sampling farmers can also understand in-field conditions and apply inputs to accommodate the specific needs of the soil requirements using fertilizers and lime. This ‘agritech’ innovation allows farmers and Standard Bank to monitor crop performance on all sizes of farms and fields in all geographic regions.

Both Contour and Grid also provide monitoring on an aggregated basis across regions, enabling portfolio tracking on; total hectares under a specific crop and total tonnes of inputs used.
Contour and Grid provides affordable data, weekly, in real time, on crop performance. Able to collect data in all weather conditions, Origin Enterprises PLC is also developing an African crop growth index for maize, soya, wheat and other crops to provide greater performance predictability over time.

“It is important for Standard Bank to be able to assist farmers to improve yield through relevant information that can provide a view on plant health or development issues with a specific crop,” says Mr Rautenbach.

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