Digital farms: Tech companies meet veg growers
Importers increasingly want to trace their food suppliers back to individual farms. That’s a tall order for Ghana’s small farmers, but meeting with local tech companies opened the door to possible solutions.
From labourers working under the scorching sun to the personnel at agro-processing and manufacturing companies, most farmwork in Ghana remains manual.
Increasingly, farmers need technology to meet the demands of importers. To bridge that gap, 13 Ghanaian tech companies spent three days visiting farming communities and factories in the southern region of Ashanti.
Attracting youth to agriculture
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy, but young people are less interested in taking up farming.
Complementing agricultural skills with IT training might attract more young people, said Ishak Shaibu, vice principal of Kwadaso Agric College in the southern region of Ashanti.
‘A lot of the youth are interested in technology,’ he said. During the visit, the college began disucssions with the start-ups about placing students into internships, he added.
‘It would present an opportunity for them to gain hands-on skills in the field and also bring about creativity,’ he said.
The tour was organized by the Netherlands Trust Fund V project at the International Trade Centre.
The tour was in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy, tropical seed supplier East-West Seeds, and sustainable farm services company Holland Greentech.
The participating companies were WamiAgro, Sustainable Energies Technologies, AkoFresh, GrowForMe, SabonSake, Esoko, AgroInnova, and Farmerline.
Others include Think!Data Services, Motito, Talentbox, RavenIT, and BigData.
Food safety coupled with growing demand for healthy and quality products has necessitated the traceability of food products on the global front.
But the policy is not synonymous with Ghana’s agricultural value chain, especially farm growers.
In the Ashanti town of Boamang, pineapple farmers lack logistics to link up with technological platforms.
‘Acquisition of land and financial assistance are our problems,’ said Hanson Amofa, who owns a 2.5-acre pineapple plantation. ‘We have no technology to help with what we do here.’
Tracing pineapples from farms through processing would help attract investors and make exports easier, said Henry Baffoe of agritech company Big Data Ghana Limited.
‘They have to map the farms and put on a data platform where any of these stakeholders and investors can go to the platform to know the location, average size of these farms, and yield estimations,’ he said. ‘We are interested in building a data platform with details of these to prepare the farmers for exporting their produce.’
Land security and post-harvest losses
Droughts induced by the changing climate have forced ginger farmers in Nkawie district to leave their land to cultivate new areas.
‘Most of us are traveling farther to adjoining communities to access new lands for ginger planting,’ one farmer said.
Adopting regenerative farming techniques would help keep existing farms viable, said Audrey S-Darko, chief executive officer of Sabon Sake.
‘Farmers must refrain from harsh chemical inputs for higher yields,’ she said. ‘Farm waste they find lying around could go back into the soil as carbon.’
The team also visited the Akomadan Greenhouse Village where the lack of cold storage left vegetables to rot before reaching market.
‘Farm produce are not transported on time to various market centres due to poor road network,” said Mathias Yabe, chief executive of AkoFresh. He’s proposing a refrigeration system that works with renewable energy. ‘With this cold storage facility, it can help preserve products like tomatoes and others for a period of 21 days. It increases the shelf life of the produce.’
Milou van Bruggen, Associate Programme Officer for Tech Development at ITC, said the visit is a stepping stone to digitalize agriculture.
‘The tech companies could propose ways to integrate their solutions and adapt their existing services with knowledge from the trip,’ she said.
About the project
The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF) (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre. The programme supports MSMEs in the digital technologies and agribusiness sectors. Its ambition is two-fold: to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of food systems, partially through digital solutions, and drive the internationalization of tech start-ups and export of IT&BPO companies in selected Sub-Saharan African countries.