A global technological revolution in farming led by advances in robotics and sensing technologies looks set to disrupt modern practice.
In Botswana, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) – a state owned agriculture produce purchasing agency has also given green light to the new developments.
BAMB CEO – Leonard Morakaladi says the Agriculture sector’s future in Botswana will have no option but to rely on leveraging on the new technology.
Morakaladi says there is need for Botswana to be part of the fourth industrial farming also known as precision farming.
According to Morakaladi, to lead by example, BAMB has since procured a drone for disease control and is being used at the Pandamatenga farms.
“We also provide soil testing for our farmers and are in discussion on what they want to produce for us. Our input could be on the guiding plan to our farmers. We want 30mt sorghum, 10mt of maize and we are yet to visit other clusters. We want the private sector to come on board”, said Morakaladi.
Various efforts such as the one by BAMB to jerk up the agriculture sector in Botswana comes at a time when the sector has been identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 20–40 percent of global crop yields are lost each year to pests and diseases, despite the application of around two-million tons of pesticide.
As a result, elsewhere in the world, farmers have since adopted more technology in their pursuit of greater yields.
Global research shows that intelligent devices, such as robots and drones, could allow farmers to slash agrichemical use by spotting crop enemies earlier to allow precise chemical application or pest removal, for example.
Still in the global space, it is emerging that advances in robotics and sensing technologies are at the same time threatening to disrupt today’s agribusiness model.
“There is the potential for intelligent robots to change the economic model of farming so that it becomes feasible to be a small producer again,” says robotics engineer George Kantor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In Botswana, agencies such as BAMB have also been forced to benchmark in the use of technology in one of the most advanced economies in Agriculture such as Brazil.
It has since come clear to BAMB that modern technology that can autonomously eliminate pests and target agrichemicals better will reduce collateral damage to wildlife, lower resistance and cut costs.
BAMB is currently exporting some of Botswana’s agricultural produce to China, India and the Emirates amongst other markets.
On the other hand, Trading Economics statistics show that, Gross Domestic Product from agriculture in Botswana decreased to P378.20million in the first quarter of 2019 from P385.50million in the fourth quarter of 2018. It averaged P345.02million from 2003 until 2019, reaching an all time high of P432.80million in the second quarter of 2010 and a record low of P182.80million in the fourth quarter of 2005.