Technology: the new engine for agriculture and combating hunger

The use of digital technologies in agriculture has already become a reality in different parts of the world. It is possible to mention some applications making it possible for agriculturists to monitor pests, hydroponic techniques for growing foods in arid regions, and drones for evaluating the impact from natural disasters on crops as some of these innovations.

Maria Helena Semedo (Photo: FAO)

“Agricultural innovation is a key element that can radically transform food-supply systems, provide business opportunities in agriculture, employment to youth, and rural women, and impel domestic economic growth,” said Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of FAO for Climate and Natural Resources

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defends innovation as a driving force to free the world from hunger and undernourishment. The organization understands innovation as not only the utilization of new technologies; it necessary to also utilize products, processes, or other methods from a new or existing organization. The result increases efficiency, competitiveness, and resilience of food systems.   

Also read: Agrishow 2019 expects to exceed R$ 2.9 billion in business deals

Combating hunger

María Helena Semedo defended the use of technology as a driving force for eradicating hunger while she was participating at the World Summit Innovation meeting on Foods Seeds and Chips that took place in Milan.

On the occasion, the United Nations agency introduced projects studying the feasibility of new crop and production techniques to improve the life of agriculturists and food supply. There were 350 representatives from the private food sector and organizations participating in the event.

The director-general emphasized the importance of considering, creating, and promoting more sustainable agricultural systems. According to her, it is necessary to “change the way we grow, share, prepare, and consume our foods.”

“The world needs to make a global pact against obesity, taking into account traditional and local foods. The adoption of global standards on healthy diets will also reduce the proliferation of nutritionally-deficient diets permeating our styles of modern life,” said the specialist.

Semedo even stressed the involvement of small family farmers, who according to her, produce over 80% of the foods consumed in the world and administrate three-fourths of the natural resources on the planet. At the end of May, FAO will launch the United Nations Decade of Family Farming project.

African solutions

FAO has already provided support for initiatives precisely seeking solutions to eradicate hunger. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, FAWEWS, a mobile app, is helping farmers to identify, monitor, and administrate the African armyworm, a plague feeding on harvests. The app is also operating in parts of the Asian continent and runs offline.

Blockchain technology is also helping small Ethiopian coffee growers. They are participating in the FairChain program and, by applying that technology, they retain around 45% of the value from each cup of coffee in their own country, an amount four times greater than multinational companies.

Also read: Rwanda and Ghana use drones to deliver medicines to remote areas

And in Kenya, algae and fish skins have been used in manufacturing clothing and accessories.  That practice has generated employment and income for those living in communities surrounding the country, such as in Turkana County, according to FAO. 

Technology showcase in Brazil

The use of new technologies in agriculture was highlighted on at Agrishow 2019, a tradeshow that took place from April 29th to May 3rd in Ribeirão Preto, state of São Paulo. The agricultural innovations corresponded to the majority of business deals, R$ 2.9 billion, transacted at the event. There were 159 thousand people who visited the event. “This year, the focus was on connectivity and technology aligned to fostering productivity and efficiency in the field and the incorporation of important segments in the productive chain, such as in the segment of inputs and supplies,” celebrates Francisco Matturro, president of Agrishow.

Agrishow brought together numerous companies that presented their products to the public at large (Photo: Agrishow)

Companies from the most varied sectors introduced technical solutions to improve productivity in the field. A great number of solutions were focused on small producers and growers. “Agriculture 4.0 has made a complete revolution in this profession, through robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things that are deployed in agricultural machinery and implements. They are significantly changing the everyday life of agribusiness and productivity in the field”, says João Carlos Marchesan, president of the Brazilian Association of Machines and Equipment Board of Directors (ABIMAQ).

The usage of some digital agricultural tools can, in some cases, reduce by up to 25% fuel consumption in farm operated machines. “Nowadays, the Brazilian producer has more technology than any other place in the world and is capable of managing that. An example of that is when we entered the United States, and we offered our products comparable to those we already had implemented in 2007”, evaluates Emerson Crepaldi, the international business director of Solinftec.

Nowadays, the Brazilian producer has more technology than any other place in the world and is capable of managing that

“Currently, rural producers are connected to the web and Internet of Things (IoT), helping them to increase field productivity, consequently in decision-making and enabling online access to data and also sending it from the farm to the headquarters, remotely”, explains Eduardo Takeshi, the Oi business manager of information security and information technology. Connectivity even makes it possible to provide more agility and proactivity regarding failure prevention, avoid resource wastes, as well as controlling pests, adjusting soil acidity, and machinery and equipment maintenance, says Takeshi.

According to Mauro Brino Garcia, an engineer at Verion, nowadays, the investment of the producer is recovered in just one year. “Employing technology improves quality by spreading fertilizers more effectively and thereby brings about 10% savings in input expenses. That represents around a 30% reduction in costs for the producer.

“We still see a great deal of fragmentation in the application of technologies in agricultural fields, negatively reflecting on agricultural, industrial performance,” explains Bernardo de Castro, president of the Agricultural division of Hexagon. The company presented the HxGN AgrOn at Agrishow, a platform integrating all already existing systems.

“Using technology is the cutting-edge difference, and it is attainable to everyone. There are options for diverse publics, whether they are small, medium, or large-scale producers. The investment is worthwhile as it is cost effective, because of providing more quality and control in products and they will be disease and pest free. The crop will grow and develop better. The producer absorbs the financial contribution from the cycle” concludes José Antônio Picó, fresh produce manager at Coopercitrus.  The cooperative organized space for introducing innovative solutions for greenhouses, irrigation, inputs, machinery, products, services, as well as specialized technical guidance to the sector.

Using technology is the cutting-edge difference, and it is attainable to everyone. There are options for diverse publics, whether they are small, medium, or large-scale producers

“The United States, France, and Australia already have implemented innovative, collaborative models like that. AgroAPI Embrapa is the most concrete opportunity for impelling digital agriculture in the Country, providing added value to Brazilian agriculture and cattle raising production”, tells Silvia Massruhá, general director of Embrapa Informática Agropecuária.

It is possible to access the platform, for a trial version, or paid according to the API required volume.

The pathway towards economic development

The theme “Food Security: the pathway to economic development” will be discussed at the 7th Brazil Africa Forum, taking place from November 12th to 13th in São Paulo, and organized by the Brazil Africa Institute. The Forum was officially launched on May 7th, at the Strathmore University Business School, in Nairóbi, in Kenya. For further information visit the website: