Agriculture is evolving fast from the archaic path we have come to know to a more relatable path, at least for most millennials. The digital agricultural revolution is taking over as the newest shift which could help ensure agriculture meets the needs of the global population into the future.
Digital farming, which is also known as “smart farming” or “e-agriculture” refers to the tools that digitally collect, store, analyze, and share electronic data/information along the agricultural value chain.
Digital agriculture, whether we believe it or not is the “next big thing” after crude oil in Nigeria.
The digital platforms currently mainstreamed into the Nigerian agricultural sector mainly utilize mobile applications, web applications, and Short Messaging Service (SMS). These platforms are used to provide a range of transactional and information services which can be grouped into four main business models :
- Online Farm Management Information System: this offers a platform for farm owners to provide data about their farms and receive location-specific recommendations.
- Agricultural Advisory Service: this model uses mobile apps, SMS, and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to provide tailored information to farmers in all stages of the value chain.
- Crowd Farming: a venture capital model that sources investment capital to fund several farm enterprises.
- Online Agro-trading: these platforms serve as avenues for farmers and other value chain actors to advertise their agricultural products to buyers.
Possible outcomes of Digital Agriculture
Digital technology changes economic activity by lowering the costs of replicating, transporting, tracking, verifying, and searching for data. Due to these falling costs, digital technology will improve efficiency throughout the agricultural value chain.
Besides streamlining farm production, digital agriculture technologies can make agricultural markets more efficient. Mobile phones, online ICTs, e-commerce platforms, digital payment systems, and other digital agriculture technologies can mitigate market failures and reduce transaction costs throughout the value chain.
Matching buyers and sellers
E-commerce lowers the search costs of matching buyers and sellers, potentially shortening the value chain. Rather than go through dozens of intermediaries, farmers can sell directly to consumers. Market access services can also solve the matching problem without necessarily hosting online transactions. For example, Suntwist sends market information (prices for specific commodities, market locations, etc.) to agents and farmers, connecting them to commodity buyers. All of these matching platforms help smallholders coordinate with buyers and enter both regional and global value chains.
Finally, it’s important to note that digital technologies can also facilitate matching in financial and input markets, not just producer-to-consumer output sales.
Lowering transaction costs in commercial markets
Digital payments whether integrated into e-commerce platforms or in mobile money accounts, e-wallets, etc. — reduce transaction costs within agricultural markets. The need for safe, rapid monetary transactions is particularly apparent in rural areas. Plus, digital payments can provide a gateway to bank accounts, insurance, and credit. Using distributed ledger technologies or smart contracts is another way to reduce trust-related transaction costs in commercial markets.
Digital agriculture technologies can expand farmers’ access to credit, insurance, and bank accounts for a number of reasons. First, digital technology helps alleviate the information asymmetry that exists between farmers and financial institutions.
Second, digital technology facilitates trust between farmers and financial institutions. A range of tools creates trust, including real-time digital communication platforms and blockchain/distributed ledger technology/smart contracts.
In conclusion, millennial farmers need not worry as technology has got them covered, on the farm and off the farm. Digital agriculture ideally leads to economic growth by allowing farmers to get the most production out of their land. The loss of agricultural jobs can be offset by new job opportunities in manufacturing and maintaining the necessary technology for the work. Digital agriculture also enables individual farmers to work in concert, collecting and sharing data using technology. And the hope is that young people want to become digital farmers.