How can ICT be used in agriculture?
In Mauritius, we are already using ICT in agriculture at a certain extent, but still we can exploit it further.
In Mauritius the telecommunication sector is growing very rapidly, and today, for a population of 1.2 million, there are 1.06 million mobile phones that have been sold and according to the Mauritius Telecom, more than 60% of the population will have a mobile phone in 2016. Furthermore, we have mobile network coverage all over the island for the 3 main mobile operators, namely Orange, Emtel and MTML.
The greatest advantage of proposing farmers to use mobile phone is that it is affordable (and also less expensive than a computer) and is easy to use. The only service that makes use of mobile phone in the Mauritian agriculture is the “SMS Disease Alert” by the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit (AREU). This service is about sending SMS to registered planters when there is a disease outbreak on a particular crop. The service is beneficial to the planters as they can take precautions to prevent the disease to affect their crops. However, mobile phones can have many more applications in the agricultural sector other than disease alert only. Mobile phones may be useful in marketing agricultural product, getting information on price of inputs, weather updates, good agricultural practices, animal health/husbandry etc.
A computer is an essential ICT tool for farmers who are engaged in crop or livestock production as it enables them to have a proper record system (e.g on Ms Excel) and using the record, they will be able to make proper decision. Furthermore, we can also install farming software on it to record, retrieve and save farm records on the office computer. The importance of having a farm record is that we can use the data for management, forecasting and marketing, which can help these producers in keeping their cost of production low and practice sustainable agriculture. For example, with proper record, we can know when to apply a particular fungicide and the rate to be applied.
This technology has already been adopted by two sugar estates in Mauritius. This type of farming is called precision farming. It involves full mechanization of all agricultural activities using tractors equipped with GPS. Since labor is expensive and difficult to find, the use of precision agriculture is the solution to this problem. While the tractor is furrowing with the use of GPS guidance, data is recorded and used for other operations. This gives the machine the ability to operate on auto-pilot mode (i.e driver is not required to control the tractor) and the tractor will always move through the wheel tracks, without damaging the crops.
The internet may be used for agricultural purposes in many ways. First of all, it can be used to have information on farming, check market prices, weather report and news, download forms and guides etc. Moreover, by using the internet, we can create a website where different kind of information can be shared.