Technology has become a vital part of agriculture, playing an important role in economic development and food security in Nigeria. However, in Africa, agricultural investment and agribusiness is high risk business due to factors such as irregular rainfall, degraded soils, pests, and so on. Although farmers use their instincts and wealth of experience to predict the best times to engage, there are external and uncontrollable factors that can impact productivity and profitability of the farms. As a result of such risk, viability of farms, access to funding and investment are affected. There has been a call for the private sector to invest in agribusiness, however, the risks involved and the lack of a sort of soft landing has continued to make private sector investment somewhat difficult.
To eliminate these risks, reduce the effects on productivity and profitability, the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Plc has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft to collaborate in the development of the Microsoft Azure FarmBeats platform. This technology will help Nigerian farmers become more productive, reduce costs, practice sustainable agriculture and achieve better agriculture outcomes.
Microsoft’s Azure FarmBeats, a cloud platform, which enables the aggregation of data, generation of actionable insights into farm health and conditions, soil moisture, crop layout and farm population, among others is purpose built for agriculture. This platform harnesses the power of technology such as satellite imaging, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and drone technology. Some of the companies that partner with Microsoft to make this possible include EarthSense, DTn, SlantRange, and senseFly. In the simplest terms, Azure FarmBeats will help farmers analyse conditions in real-time, leading to better-informed decision-making to optimize output. A ripple effect of this is that it lessens risk to investors, thereby helping in attracting more funding.
The pricing of the product will depend on the number of features each farmer needs. NIRSAL and Microsoft have pledged to support farmers with the right information and education about the product for best outcomes.