ICT in agriculture

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The application of information and communications technology (ICT) in agriculture is increasingly important.

E-Agriculture is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, e-Agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (IT) in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture. E-Agriculture is a relatively new term and we fully expect its scope to change and evolve as our understanding of the area grows.

E-Agriculture is one of the action lines identified in the declaration and plan of action of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The "Tunis Agenda for the Information Society," published on 18 November 2005 and emphasizes the leading facilitating roles that UN agencies need to play in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been assigned the responsibility of organizing activities related to the action line under C.7 ICT Applications on E-Agriculture.

The main phases of the agriculture industry include crop cultivation, water management, fertilizer application, fertigation, pest management, harvesting, post-harvest handling, transport of food products, packaging, food preservation, food processing/value addition, quality management, food safety, food storage, and food marketing.

All stakeholders of agriculture industry need information and knowledge about these phases to manage them efficiently. Any system applied for getting information and knowledge for making decisions in any industry should deliver accurate, complete, concise information in time or on time. The information provided by the system must be in user-friendly form, easy to access, cost-effective and well protected from unauthorized accesses.

  • Record text, drawings, photographs, audio, video, process descriptions, and other information in digital formats,
  • Produce exact duplicates of such information at significantly lower cost,
  • Transfer information and knowledge rapidly over large distances through communications networks.
  • Develop standardized algorithms to large quantities of information relatively rapidly.
  • Achieve greater interactivity in communicating, evaluating, producing and sharing useful information and knowledge.

The main focus of this article is to elaborate how the achievements of IT can be applied in Agriculture sector and its development. The main applications of ICT in Agriculture sector are listed below.

Office automation[edit]

The office automation is application of computers, computer networks, telephone networks, and other office automation tool such as photocopy machines, scanners, printers, cleaning equipment, and electronic security systems to increase the productivity of organizations.

There are many government, private and non-government organizations involved in agriculture sector and rural development. They all have to work together to give better service to farming community. Therefore, application of office automation is one of the solutions to enhance the efficiency and inter-connectivity of the employees work in all above mentioned organizations.

Many computer applications such as MS Office, Internet Explorer, OpenOffice.org and other tailor-made office automation software packages are providing unlimited potential to organizations and individuals to fulfill their day to day data processing requirements to give an efficient service to their customers.

Wireless technologies[edit]

Wireless technologies have numerous applications in agriculture. One major usage is the simplification of closed-circuit television camera systems; the use of wireless communications eliminates the need for the installation of coaxial cables.[1]

Global Positioning System[edit]

GPS Receivers

In agriculture, the use of the Global Positioning System provides benefits in geo-fencing, map-making and surveying. GPS receivers dropped in price over the years, making it more popular for civilian use. With the use of GPS, civilians can produce simple yet highly accurate digitized map without the help of a professional cartographer.

In Kenya, for example, the solution to prevent an elephant bull from wandering into farms and destroying precious crops was to tag the elephant with a device that sends a text message when it crosses a geo-fence. Using the technology of SMS and GPS, the elephant can roam freely and the authorities are alerted whenever it is near the farm.[2]

Geographic information systems[edit]

Geographic information system s, or GIS, are extensively used in agriculture, especially in precision farming. Land is mapped digitally, and pertinent geodetic data such as topography and contours are combined with other statistical data for easier analysis of the soil. GIS is used in decision making such as what to plant and where to plant using historical data and sampling.

Computer-controlled devices (automated systems)[edit]

DeLaval milking station

Automatic milking systems are computer controlled stand alone systems that milk the dairy cattle without human labor. The complete automation of the milking process is controlled by an agricultural robot, a complex herd management software, and specialized computers. Automatic milking eliminates the farmer from the actual milking process, allowing for more time for supervision of the farm and the herd. Farmers can also improve herd management by using the data gathered by the computer. By analyzing the effect of various animal feeds on milk yield, farmers may adjust accordingly to obtain optimal milk yields. Since the data is available down to individual level, each cow may be tracked and examined, and the farmer may be alerted when there are unusual changes that could mean sickness or injuries.[3]

RFID[edit]

Swiss cow ear with eartag and RFID

The Veterinary Department of Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture introduced a livestock-tracking program in 2009 to track the estimated 80,000 cattle all across the country. Each cattle is tagged with the use of RFID technology for easier identification, providing access to relevant data such as: bearer's location, name of breeder, origin of livestock, sex, and dates of movement. This program is the first of its kind in Asia, and is expected to increase the competitiveness of Malaysian livestock industry in international markets by satisfying the regulatory requirements of importing countries like United States, Europe and Middle East. Tracking by RFID will also help producers meet the dietary standards by the halal market. The program will also provide improvements in controlling disease outbreaks in livestock.[4][5]

Knowledge management systems[edit]

Knowledge management systems

E-learning[edit]

E-learning

E-commerce[edit]

Online purchasing order of agri-inputs and agri-equipments. E-commerce

Agricultural resources and services management[edit]

Agricultural resources and services management

Computer-aided manufacturing[edit]

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM)

Computer-aided design[edit]

Computer-aided design (CAD)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wireless Camera Systems". AgriCamera. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kenya Uses Text Messages To Track Elephant". CBS News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "EU-Project Automatic milking". Wageningen UR. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Malaysia begins RFID-enabled livestock tracking program". RFIDNews. 6 April 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Sebastian, Richard (7 June 2010). "RFID in Malaysia – Tracing the ROI". Frost & Sullivan. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • www.e-agriculture.org - A Community of Practice was set up in 2007 to discuss and share lessons learned regarding the use of ICT to enhance sustainable agricultural development and food security, with over 6,000 members as of 2012, with membership coming from over 150 countries. Members include practitioners, policymakers, representatives of farmer organizations, researchers, and information and communication specialists involved in agriculture and rural development.
  • www.ictforag.org - A USAID portal focused on the use of ICT to enhance agricultural development outcomes, which includes toolkits, papers, resources, and webinar recordings on a wide range of topics related to ICT and agriculture.
  • ictupdate.cta.int - A bimonthly magazine site and portal focused on the use of ICT in Agriculture in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific region with 100s of articles.