Technology: Lack of access holding farmers back

Ekurhuleni farming bids: Parcels of land in Erkhuleni is open to those who wish to conduct agricultural activities. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Parcels of council-owned land in Ekurhuleni is open for long-term leasing to farmers or prospective farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Smallholder farmers need access to technology and mechanisation to boost their farming potential. Francois le Grange, FarmSol agri-specialist in KZN, says a variety of factors are standing in their way.

Smallholder farmers need to embrace the latest mechanisation technology to leap from subsistence and small-scale farming into commercial farming. The latest, biggest mechanisation is not an ultimate requirement or a prerequisite for success, but what is required is appropriate mechanisation that gives smallholders the opportunity to be more precise, efficient and safe. Having technology that pushes these factors will result in higher profitability for that farmer.

The right technology also allows the smallholder to meet the rising demands for food production by efficiently producing as much food as possible in a short space of time. With climate change reducing the farmer’s opportunities to plan, the latest crop monitoring technology becomes vital to avoid huge damage that the farmer could have otherwise prevented early on.

Lack of technological access and skills

The reality is that most smallholder farmers are inhibited from accessing modern technology by both internal and external factors, yet it is these farmers who need access to technological solutions the most. With weather becoming more and more challenging, cost of production going up and farmer profit margins increasingly narrowing, farmers need all the necessary data available to achieve maximum profitability. There are already a number of agronomical platforms in the market which provides insights that allow farmers to improve and maximise their output per hectare.

For new farmers especially, lack of awareness, training and experience play a huge role in the take-on of new technological solutions, and generally how successful their ventures are. More common though, is that the latest technology costs much more than your average smallholder can afford. These high costs, coupled with the low or slow return on their investment, stops the average farmer from quickly adopting technology.

It is important to remember that many smallholder farmers already live from hand to mouth. Their ability to reinvest in their business is severely hampered by their need to survive.

To phrase it differently: Due to a variety of challenges, they simply do not to have enough money left over to put back into their business.

Notwithstanding these challenges, many smallholder farmers also likely lack the relevant skills to manage the latest technologies. Upskilling these farmers should be a major focus in the industry, as very often solutions to their difficulties are relatively easy to provide. Whether they can maximise these solutions, becomes a question of skill. Very often, they do not have the skill.

At FarmSol, we utilise the Climate FieldView platform to support our FarmSol farmers, and as such make FieldView available as a tool to the participating farmers in the programme. Through this platform, the agri-specialists and the farmers work together, sharing critical information needed for clear communication and great field insights to optimise inputs for better crop performance and management. What makes the platform unique, is that not only does it provide useful agronomic insight but it also provides a good user experience.

Ultimately, it is smarter for farmers to include the acquisition of technology into their planning for the future. To grow their businesses into commercial ventures, accessing new technology is crucial.

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