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How farmers can embrace technology in Agriculture or get displaced

Technology is fast displacing employees and even business owners across different sectors, and agriculture is not immune with the growing technology in agriculture. As a farmer in this 4th Industrial Revolution period (4IR), this is one thing you cannot afford to compromise on, especially given the current Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 eras. With technology, many banks especially here in Nigeria and Africa will begin to downsize their workforce by more than 70%. Same will soon happen to schools, businesses, and unfortunately, farms.

How does this technology disruption happen?

Let’s dive in. Back when I started out with fisheries, one thing that helped my business early was an understanding of the principle of Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) and Biomass! Many are oblivious to the knowledge that the growth and weight of any livestock or animal depend on the FCR of the feed given. For instance, broilers, on the average, will convert 2kg of feed fed to 1kg of meat. Cattle will convert 5kg of grass eaten to 1kg of flesh. Fish may convert 1.5kg of feed to 1kg of flesh.

Now, where the brilliance comes to play in all this is in knowing the right FCR of specific feed. What quantity to feed your animals as well as the timing are key . For instance, a good fish feed may have an FCR of 1:1. This means that you only need to give 1kg of the feed to your fish for them to convert it to 1kg of flesh. However, the age, water quality, and weight of the fish are factors to be considered.

Fishes, especially Catfish that has the capacity to breathe oxygen from water surface can only grow optimally with dissolved oxygen. This means that if there is little or no oxygen in your water and you keep giving your fish a good feed with FCR of 1:1, they will not convert the feed well, even if they eat it. Oxygen must be present and dissolved in their water for them to eat and convert well.

Also, fishes that are below 100gm need to be fed with feed worth about 5% of their body weight, and just 2% of body weight as feed when they are 1kg in order to grow optimally. It means that if you give a 1kg fish 5% body weight in feed, the fish will not convert the feed better than the one that you gave 2% of its body weight! So, why waste 3% feed? How do you determine the body weight? Simple. Just randomly weigh 5% of your animals (in this case,fish) every week. You can imagine how cumbersome that can be, but therein lies the secret to the success.

Internet of Things (IoT) Technology to the rescue.

Cage culture farming
Cage culture farming in Lake Victoria

Recently, I discovered that fishermen using the cage culture farming in Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world, just deployed the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. With this technology, the fishermen are able to determine when to feed their fish and how much to give per time without getting into the water to pull the cages out weekly for the biomass! This singular technology deployment changed the fisheries game for the entire region. You can let your imagination tell you what big difference this will make compared to the results of their counterparts who are not applying the IoT.

The Irrigation Challenge

Let’s take a look at Horticulture. The same is true. A good and master grower or agronomist must be able to tell how much water and nutrients the plants need per time and at what frequency. To answer this, big companies and farms are adopting different technologies in agriculture especially soil/substrates based sensors to help determine the moisture level so as to know when to give more water and nutrients. This has been the reason for all the expensive fertigation machines and systems of irrigation or fertigation all over the world!

Getting it right gives a minimum of 50% difference in the result a good grower cum Agronomist gets in comparison to a counterpart that doesn’t have access to the technology. With sprinkler, pivot and some other irrigation systems of their kind, the water must first soak the top soil, before getting to the Rhizosphere(root zone). So, most times, 60% of the irrigation water is not required. With conventional drip irrigation, the root zone area is targeted, though from the top, but a single spot is irrigated and the water now gets to the root zone faster and this helps to save about 60 to 70% water.

In either of the two scenarios above, the soil or substrates is the target. It works like this, when you hydrate the substrate around the root, the water gets stored in the soil or substrate for some time, so that when the plant needs it, it just goes for it. The only issue is that the point at which the plant will require water cannot be determined. We can only hope that the substrate will still be holding the water to the right quantity that the plant needs when it requests for it. This is the major reason why a good soil must have about 30% clay, while a good substrate must have a high WHC (Water Holding Capacity).

The Technology of Responsive Drip Irrigation to the rescue

Here comes GrowStreams, a.k.a Responsive Drip Irrigation. With Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI), plants don’t need all that I initially explained above. This is because, naturally, all plant roots emit a chemical substance called Exudates. However, one of the most important functions of root exudates is their role in water and nutrients uptake. As soil becomes wet, soil and water molecules bond. Gravity, heat/evaporation, and root exudates break this bond and this allows the root to uptake water and nutrients. Numerous factors like temperature, humidity, sunlight, disease, insects, as well as the plant’s growth stage and development are responsible for dictating this process.

RDI technology
Responsive Drip Irrigation Technology deployed

Plants are not simply passive recipients, but are actively seeking to grow, mature, and thrive. GrowStream™ is the world’s first plant-responsive irrigation system.
Once installed near the root zone, the GrowStream™ plant-responsive tubing interacts with the plants’ root exudates. Subsequently, GrowStream™ mimics wet soil, holding water and fertilizer until root exudates are present. This results in exudates “breaking” the bond, thereby causing a release of water and fertilizer through the tube’s micro-porous surface. This production of exudates stop when the plant is satiated . GrowStream™ delivers exactly what each plant needs, when they need it. This greatly reduces plant stress, significantly increasing plant-performance, yield, and dramatically reducing both water and fertilizer use.

Responsive Drip Irrigation is nature’s PURE IoT or Artificial Intelligence (AI)!

Responsive Drip Irrigation guarantees:
▪️Better irrigation naturally
▪Reduction in plant stress
▪Decreased risk of diseases
▪Plants thriving with less fertilizer

With RDI, poor growers are becoming master growers. Check out how some do it with the RDT System.
Smart farmers are embracing this technology in agriculture and making more money while doing less work because:

✅It is completely nature powered, with no valves, wires(electronics),timers or controllers.
✅Both design and installation are simple.
✅It offers no root intrusion.
✅Reduces outdoor water use in landscapes and eliminates run-off to create more sustainable cities and restore the environment.

Just like the fishermen at Lake Victoria are using IoT, every crop farmer, who wants to stay relevant and not be displaced in this technology paced era, must embrace RDI, which is the IoT equivalence for plants.

✅It has millions of micro-pores, with smart micro-pores releasing water once triggered by roots.
✅It reduces energy use by up to 70% due to ultra-low pressure requirements.
✅It radically decreases costs and carbon footprint . ✅It has no emitters that would clog.

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