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Leveraging tech could boost agric efficiency

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By Usman Oladimeji

STI could accelerate the transformation of agrifood systems.

As countries across the globe move to attain zero hunger by 2030 by curbing the mounting and overlapping crises that have battered the global Agrifood system caused by climate change, economic slump and COVID-19 aftermaths, it is posited that adopting science, technology and innovation will expedite this move. For Nigeria particularly, to achieve the target may be challenging owing to two reasons; firstly the country presently lacks the ability to produce enough food to cater for its rapidly rising population; secondly, its ability to finance food imports to address its domestic food shortage is diminishing due to declining foreign reserves.

Regardless, this could still be achievable if the government is ready to adopt a favourable policy that encourages the use of science and technology to increase food production within the country and so transform the food sector. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), believes that as the world is on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, science, technology and innovation (STI) could accelerate the transformation of Agrifood systems. It has the potential to make them more effective, equitable, resilient, and sustainable so that everyone benefits from more productivity, enhanced nutrition, a more sustainable environment, and a higher quality of life.

Agri-tech has potential to decrease the amount of manual labour.

Conceptually similar to this is the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme that was initiated in 2018. It is an essential part of the bank’s Feed Africa Strategy 2016-2025, which aims to help Africa realize its vast agricultural potential through the use of high-impact technologies to increase output, capitalizing on Africa’s natural advantage of hosting more than 60 percent of the world’s arable land. Technology in agriculture has immense potential, especially for a country like Nigeria, which relies heavily on manual labour.

Industry experts have also stressed the importance of adopting Agri-tech because of its potential to decrease the amount of manual labour required, to lessen post-harvest losses, and, most critically, to boost farmers’ incomes by improving the value of their crops. Experts mentioned that farmland value and profit potential may increase dramatically if farmers and land investors adopted more cutting-edge agricultural technologies. Adopting Agri-tech has several underlying benefits, including higher crop yields, fewer damage to natural ecosystems, less chemical runoff into water sources, and lower food prices.

Emerging agripreneurs have developed innovative farming solutions.

In addition, the quality of natural resources like air and water may be more reliably managed through robotic technologies. More efficient and secure plant and animal cultivation is feasible as a result of producers having more say over these factors. For Nigeria to close its food supply deficit, it appears that now is the perfect moment to make substantial investments in Agri-tech. Spending half of what is currently being spent on food imports on smart Agri-tech agricultural solutions will put the country in a prime position to achieve food security as soon as possible.

Moreover, today’s emerging agripreneurs have developed viable innovative farming solutions that could increase food production in the country but lack the capital to put them into action. Therefore, the federal government needs to put more effort into making it easier for these agriculturist startups to succeed by enabling them access to necessary resources like operating capital and equipment to bring about a revolution in agriculture. As well, the country is home to several dormant agricultural research institutions that, with the right influx of capital, can be revamped and make significant contributions to the field.

FIIRO has diverse locally manufactured farm machinery.

These agricultural research institutions could even benefit from forming international partnerships that provide access to cutting-edge farm inputs. For example, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) has a diverse range of locally manufactured farm machinery and equipment but lacks the financial resources to mass-produce them in order to reach more than one-half of the country’s farmers. Such machinery can be brought to market with the help of several international agricultural organizations seeking foreign cooperation to accomplish the zero hunger target by 2030.

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