Agriculture is the basis of human existence. Therefore, meeting basic food needs assumes the highest priority mainly as the population grows. Over time, we have seen how human ingenuity through science and technology have come to the rescue to improve agricultural productivity. As man continues to push the boundaries of science, he inexorably becomes a boon to agriculture in an attempt to solve multiple food challenges.
Agriculture has undergone an interesting metamorphosis that is, at best, a revolution in improving its productivity. From the Neolithic era, called the first agricultural revolution, man basically went from being a gatherer and hunter to a farmer. The second revolution marked the introduction of agricultural machinery, new cultivation systems/techniques and animal selection and the third was the green revolution, which was an interesting time. It changed the face of agriculture.
It was a period of high-yielding cereal varieties accompanied by the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and extensive irrigation activities. The intensification of agriculture sought the generous application of many of the inputs to reap the benefits of the new varieties.
However, the direction of the green revolution has been widely pointed to as a factor contributing to changes in the seasonality of the global carbon cycle. It became demonstrable that as the use of fertilizers proliferated, they became contaminants of soil and water sources as they were removed from farms; Resistant strains of pests also grew even larger, leading to the use of more pesticides, which apparently contributed to more chemicals being deposited in the environment. The use of groundwater for irrigation further lowered the water table and the soil also became salinized.
The legacy is apparently the serious compromise of soil health, water holding capacity and the environment in general. However, experts believed that the period was a springboard for the economic miracle, the significant reduction in poverty and the lowest food prices recorded in Asia and Latin America.
There is a growing sensitivity towards the environment and the need to protect it from the impact of the tyranny of human action. Essentially, the world is going through torrid times driven by climate change and other environmental issues. The green revolution cannot survive under the prevailing environmental challenges of extreme temperatures and irregular rainfall patterns. And, of course, it’s a race against time. Agriculture remains a convenient culprit for the problem. He said it generates 19-29% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
By 2050, it is projected that by 2050 the world population will reach 9.6 billion. As a result, food production will have to grow at about the same time to meet the demand of the mass of people. It is already estimated that it will have to increase by 70% to keep up with demand. In addition, the global demand for water will be reduced by 40% by 2030. This means that the traditional system of practicing agriculture will have to give way to a more productive and sustainable pattern.
Interestingly, agriculture is undergoing a fourth revolution sparked by a panoply of disruptive digital technologies that have far-reaching impact. It is effectively the dawn of digital agriculture! It is something like a ‘countermeasure’ against the result of the green revolution that was the product of efficient machinery, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and high-yield seeds.
The Internet of Things (IoT) along with other powerful technologies are behind the transition of agriculture to a digital plane. IoT-powered sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already providing the force behind precision or smart agriculture, a new green approach to farm management that ensures inputs are used in just the right amount to increase yields. and productivity. It is simply the collection of data from sensors and other devices to improve decision making.
The approach helps to virtually eliminate the wasteful use of fertilizers, pesticides and water, thereby reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. In addition, it facilitates close monitoring of crop yields, soil moisture and general soil well-being, identifying insect pests; in addition to monitoring humidity, temperature and ideal harvest time.
Revolutionary technology is applied to greenhouses, allowing it to intelligently adapt to weather conditions, completely avoiding human intervention, and livestock GPS tools to collect data on animal welfare and whereabouts (cattle tracking and geo-fences). Basically, the entire value chain in agriculture is not untouched by technology.
Technology is providing answers to the many questions about the future of agriculture in relation to the declining agricultural population, the impact of climate change and feeding the exponentially growing population and the means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) of the UN of a ‘world with zero hunger’ by 2030.
Nigeria needs to close steps with the rest of the world. The country is expected to add around 263 humans by 2030 to the global population, making it imperative that the country be at the forefront of leveraging digital agriculture for food security. However, a huge investment is needed in the necessary infrastructure, education and skills. The next generation of farmers will need to be armed with enough skills to face the new reality.
So far, there is a glimmer of hope in digitizing agriculture in Nigeria through the Nigerian Digital Agriculture Strategy (NDAS), which is armed with a vision of making Nigeria one of the three most food secure countries in Africa and one of the 20 largest exporters of standard agricultural products. produce by 2030 through the use and application of digital technologies and innovations. The multiplier effect is in the massive jobs that will be created and the huge available farmland that will be put into cultivation.
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