Farming by Phone — The Story of Technology and Farming in sub-Saharan Africa

The data shows that Africans are rapidly getting more access to cell phones.

Key Technologies:

  • Variable Rate Technology, or VRT, is the application of seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides at varying rates throughout the field, instead of a uniform application.
  • Remote Sensing is defined as gathering information about an object without directly touching it. In precision agriculture, this can be seen in the use of drones or satellites to use the visual or near-infrared spectrum to look at crops.
  • IOT, or Internet of Things, is a term for physical devices that are connected to the internet, also known as smart devices. In precision agriculture, commonly takes the form of weather, temperature, or water sensors that gives the farmer information about the field.
  • Mobile Banking
  • Informational/Market Applications

Variable Rate Technology

  • Hello Tractor in Kenya/Nigeria
  • TroTro Tractor in Ghana

Remote Sensing

  • More decisions systems, rather than raw data
  • Better user-interfaces
  • Many of the good systems: Don’t exist on mobile and are behind huge paywalls


Mobile Banking


Areas for Future Product Development

  • Mobile crop scouts with satellite imagery
  • Better decision support systems
  • Cell phone NDVI/IR Cameras
  • Improved mobile guides for farming in SSA
  • Cheaper soil and water temperature sensors
  • Text to speech software in local languages

Sources/Further Reading

An African woman using a cell phone. From Wikimedia Commons.




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Kate Kuehl

Kate Kuehl

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