Fixed telecommunications operator TelOne’s introduction of the remote crop monitoring solution is expected to transform the country’s agriculture sector, improve productivity and drive progress towards smart agriculture.
Smart agriculture refers to the use of technologies like the Internet of Things, location systems, monitoring and artificial intelligence in crop assessment and monitoring farm operations.
Codenamed “TelOne Crop Monitoring”, the solution’s objective is to enhance crop quality and quantity while optimising human labour.
The solution helps farmers to remotely manage their farms through the internet on their electronic gadgets like mobile phones and laptops.
This dovetails with the Government’s drive to lead the smart agriculture project under the Smart Africa Alliance and Zimbabwe Climate Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP), being implemented with assistance from the World Bank.
In partnership with Earth Observing Systems (EOS Data Analytics) and Cloud Services International (CSI), TelOne will distribute the satellite remote sensing-based platform that will enable players in agriculture to have visibility of field developments remotely on mobile devices.
The product is subscriber-based and the crop monitoring solution standard package will be US$2 per hectare per year.
She said the move to diversify into offering a data gathering software solution ensures that players in the agriculture value chain make critical decisions based on high quality earth observation data.
Speaking during the product’s launch at the just-ended Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, TelOne managing director Chipo Mtasa said farmers struggled with shuttling between the farm and towns for other commitments, hence the innovation.
“Through TelOne Crop Monitoring, mobile farming will be made easy. Our company has revolutionised farming by bringing the farm to your palm,” said Mrs Mutasa.
“With TelOne Crop Monitoring, one simply needs to map in their field through inputting coordinates onto the platform. Thereafter, the platform will start analysing the farm’s conditions, producing data on variables like field monitoring, weather data, crop classification and yield prediction to be used in decision making.”
TelOne Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Nkala said the solution could be used not only by farmers, but also by the Government, banks, insurance companies, agribusiness entities and farming cooperatives.
He said this was a scientific method to ascertain crop requirements and weather patterns.
“Banks and insurance companies normally do not have a monitoring mechanism, hence the introduction of this will help them do crop assessment virtually from the comfort of their offices.
“This is to make sure that banks and insurance companies do not rely on third parties, but have virtual access to farmers’ performance,” said Mr Nkala.
Alfred Nhambirwa, product manager, technology, at Telone, said: “One can virtually determine the soil moisture levels, the health of the crop or pests attack.
“This will determine if you need to irrigate the crops, spray chemicals or apply fertiliser.”
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos is on record saying young people should step up and drive the change that is needed in agriculture, science and innovation to attain food and nutrition security at household and national levels.
This is a top priority for the Government of Zimbabwe as outlined in the Food and Nutrition Security cluster under the National Development Strategy 1.
Over the past two years, TelOne has successfully diversified from its main line of business — which is voice and broadband — to offering value added services like its vehicle fleet tracking solution, TelTrack; and insurance, Telematics Insurance.
TelOne said all these efforts are leading to the launch of the Smart Agriculture blueprint in November.