Agricultural technology (AgriTech in short) is the use of technology in the agricultural and food (AgriFood) sectors to increase yield, the efficiency of resource use, and profitability. These technologies can either be products ( agricultural drones, satellite photography, and sensors, automated irrigation, light and heat sensors), services ( weather forecasts, Internet-of-Things based sensor networks, intelligent software analysis for pest and disease predictions), or they can be approaches (hydroponics, aquaponics, biotechnology) that can be applied in the agricultural and food industry to provide solutions to various AgriFood problems.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2018) of the United Nations, the agricultural and food sectors have been facing several challenges concerning population growth, limited agricultural land, environmental degradation, scarcity of natural resources, and climatic changes over the last decades. These resources (land and soils, forests, energy, food, and water) are constantly becoming scarce (FAO, 2018), which, therefore, necessitates their preservation and efficient use to meet the demand on them by an ever-fast-growing population, in the future. FAO (2018) predicts the world population to be around 9 billion people by 2050.
About 8.9% of the world’s population ( that’s about 690 million people) go to bed on an empty stomach, 22% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population are undernourished, 57% of Sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia populations are unable to afford a healthy diet due to extreme poverty (FAO, 2020), a number the World Bank estimates to be increased to 150 million people in 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 on livelihoods. These worrying facts and unfortunate realities call for urgent actions in the agricultural and food industries.
Agriculture plays a major role in countries’ economies. It employs about 27% of the world’s population and in 2018, accounted for 4% of the world’s gross domestic product (World Bank, 2019). Agriculture is crucial in the fight against food insecurity, poverty reduction, and economic growths. In Nigeria, agriculture employs about 35% of over 200 million Nigerians (World Bank, 2019), and in 2020, contributed about 24% of the nation’s total gross domestic product of about 152 trillion naira; even in the face of global pandemic (Nigeria Bureau of Statistics).
Agricultural technologies (drone, biotechnology, hydroponics, automated irrigation, weather forecasts, pests and disease predictions, GPS, and satellite photography, etc) if effectively applied in the production, processing, distribution, packaging, handling, and marketing of food in Nigeria, would go a long way in impacting in the nation’s AgriFood sector. It would increase food production and reduce food loss and waste thereby contributing to the nation’s fight against food insecurity. It would also improve the resource use efficiency of our natural resources which are constantly becoming scarce and would lead to an increase in farmers’ income thereby reducing poverty (as a good percentage of the population are engaged in agriculture). Finally, it will help in the United Nations’ achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals ( 1,2,8,10,13).