Many technologies have emerged in agriculture over the years. Digital tools have made a significant impact on the way the sector does business and will continue to be an integral part of it. Precision farming methods, for example, combined with larger and more efficient planting and harvesting equipment, have made it possible to cultivate land far more efficiently than before.

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However, the average-sized grain operation often cannot afford the huge investment in this sophisticated equipment. Affordable digital technologies are available and can be applied in areas such as yield estimation, growth monitoring, soil fertility, crop stress and disease detection as well as weather forecasting without the need for expensive equipment. As this digital trend continues, farmers are forced to adapt to new practices and strategic thinking in order to be successful.

Make the unpredictable more manageable

Agricultural productivity is inherently unpredictable and can change within a short time due to unfavourable growing conditions caused by weather patterns or by the complexity of the biological processes. Furthermore, producing crops of the right quantity and quality is essential for sustaining a healthy farm business.

Crops are living organisms, and like any other living organism they require water and nutrients in order to grow. Having the right systems and infrastructure in place is essential for farmers to better manage the requirements of the crops. Technological systems such as Remote Sensing have made a significant impact on farm business in this regard.

With Remote Sensing, farmers can gather data that can help them monitor and identify crop problems early. The data obtained can be systematised and used as a vital tool to help farmers make informed decisions about their crops and to guide their agricultural business strategies. This kind of information not only helps the farmer to make the right business decisions, but it can also be used to justify financial support from the financial institutions. The information provides an independent view of the business that lenders and insurers can reference when they consider financing the farmer.

An investment in innovation

Considering the above, and in the light of Standard Bank’s commitment to preparing all our farming clients for a digital future, we are investing in innovation to deliver new data by utilising remote sensing technology and digital agronomy, which allows farmers and their agronomists to make better decisions in every area every day.

Standard Bank’s satellite-based remote sensing innovation is delivered in partnership with RHIZA and backed by Origin Enterprises PLC and the European Space Agency. Our partnership with RHIZA is intended to take advantage of their many years of research and development and agricultural satellite imaging and analysis and the fact that they provide the only radar-derived crop growth models and the best and highest-resolution image frequency available.

Aggregated remote sensing

For our part we offer Contour, which is an aggregated remote sensing information platform with a complete suite of field monitoring tools for farmers. Contour enables farmers to make better decisions while mitigating risks and improving yield through optimised operations. Furthermore, soil sampling enables farmers to understand in-field conditions and apply inputs to accommodate the specific needs of the soil requirements using fertilisers and lime.

Using algorithms to analyse and interpret images,Contour shares data on local weather, field accessibility and leaf wetness, while also providing optical satellite monitoring of area planted, emergence and the growth progress. This enables growth stage assessments, yield prediction and ultimately crop enhancement over time. The normalised-difference vegetation index (NDVI) can be easily assessed with an easy-to-use traffic light system that shows red to green for no-biomass to high-biomass readings.

The weather module, which includes a nine-day weather forecast, is invaluable for making crop-enhancing decisions regarding planting and spraying times.

Precision farming at your fingertips

Available on mobile and desktop, Contour is a digital platform and mobile app providing precision farming tools for field mapping and identification, agronomic planning and recording, as well as crop and input allocation.

Clients can use the information to understand the health of a crop, do fertiliser and spray planning, identify low-productivity areas, understand ground conditions such as soil fertility and moisture levels and monitor growth conditions against historical weather.

Growing with GRID

Standard Bank also offers GRID, which is a digital service for business development support providers and the farmers they work with that helps them grow together. It provides monitoring capability on an aggregated basis across regions. This makes it possible to track a portfolio in terms of inputs used, total hectares under a specific crop and total tonnes expected, information that is useful for buyer groups and aggregators alike.

GRID provides the bank and its clients with affordable data for monitoring crop performance in real time on all sizes of farms and fields in all geographic regions. Comparisons of budgeted and actual yield predictions assist with the identification of underperforming fields so that agronomists can pinpoint potential problem areas to investigate. These comparisons even quantify the extent of the problem or the potential yield loss if the problem is not addressed appropriately.

The technology builds trust and transparency between the bank and its clients, enabling the bank to correctly assess risk and accurately allocate capital and cover. It also enables Standard Bank to manage the financial risks associated with delivering crop finance in markets that we traditionally did not have a risk appetite for.

Affordable risk management

While this information is of great value in driving the efficiency and productivity of individual farmers, Contour and GRID put digital tools in the hands of our customers to manage risk in their businesses at an affordable starting price of $2,50 per hectare per year. – Standard Bank

If you are interested in signing up or want to know more, please visit https://rhizaafrica.com/sign-up or ask your relationship manager at Standard Bank to put you in touch with us.