In his recent speech, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), highlighted how new technologies such as drones, artificial intelligence and blockchain could help improve agriculture in Afrika. Adesina was speaking at the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Meeting held in Washington, D.C.

He also cited Nigeria as an example that technology plus strong government backing can yield positive results. The example he noted was where policy in Nigeria during his tenure as the country’s Minister of Agriculture, resulted in a rice production revolution in 3 years.

”Technologies to achieve Afrika’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” said Adesina.

Drones and artificial intelligence in agriculture

In recent times, Adesina's words are being proven correct. Just recently, South African startup, Aerobotics, successfully concluded a Series A funding round of approximately $2 million as validation of their precision farming model that uses drones and artificial intelligence. Aerobotics uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to process satellite and drone imagery and deliver insights to farmers across Afrika.

“With the rapid pace of growth of the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and block chains, agriculture as we know it today will change. It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drone to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest.” said Adesina.

Earlier in 2018 AfDB published a report titled "Drones on the horizon: Transforming Africa's agriculture", which provided a contextualized review of drones as a vital precision agriculture-enabling technology and its range of relevant uses for providing detailed and on-demand data in order to enhance decision-making by farmers and hence facilitate much needed support.

Adesina also used his speech to advocate for Afrikan universities to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farmers and to focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people, emphasizing the need to rise beyond theories to application.

“There is no reason why Afrika should be spending $35 billion a year importing food. All it needs to do is to harness the available technologies with the right policies and rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers,” said Adesina.

To help Afrika transform its agriculture, AfDB is investing $24 billion over the next ten years to implement its Feed Africa Strategy.

Cover image credit: Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

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