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Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector

Hyea Won Lee's picture
Nguyen Van Khuyen (right) and To Hoai Thuong (left). Photo: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

Nuestro sistema agroalimentario necesita información adecuada – ¿Cómo asegurar que eso suceda?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: English | Portuguese, International
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
Para la mayoría de la gente, ver el pronóstico del tiempo en la televisión es una actividad común, ocasionalmente divertida y sin riesgos.  ¡El meteorólogo hasta puede hacernos reír! Pero cuando el ingreso de una familia depende de la lluvia o la temperatura, el pronóstico es más que un programa informativo o entretenido.  La información puede ser la clave del éxito o del fracaso de un agricultor.  Los agricultores conocen los riesgos a enfrentar en el camino y entonces usan el pronóstico del tiempo y otros datos de precios, plagas y enfermedades, cambios en condiciones de crédito y regulaciones para planificar las fechas de cultivo, cosecha, venta, y el uso de insumos como fertilizantes y herbicidas para plantas, y vacunas y alimento para animales.

La disponibilidad y la calidad de dicha información de riesgos agrícolas son altamente importantes para los agricultores y el posible impacto de información puede resultar muy costosa, lo que resulta en decisiones erróneas y pérdidas de ingresos por parte del agricultor.  Los sistemas de información que no tienen fuentes confiables y/o tienen malos protocolos de procesamiento de datos, producen resultados en los cuales no se puede confiar.  En otras palabras, “basura que entra, basura que sale”.  La información es una parte integral de la gestión de riesgos agropecuarios, no solamente en el corto plazo para cubrirse contra eventos adversos, sino también en el mediano y largo plazo para adaptarse al cambio climático y poder adoptar prácticas resilientes.  Los programas de gestión de riesgos agropecuarios y de agricultura climáticamente inteligente (Climate Smart Agriculture en inglés) no tendrán mucho impacto a no ser que los agricultores puedan tener acceso a información confiable para la implementación de los cambios necesarios en el campo.

Invertir en sistemas de información de riesgos agropecuarios es una forma costo-efectiva de asegurarse que los agricultores – y otros actores de la cadena agroalimentaria – tomen las decisiones correctas.  Pero en una gran parte de los países, los sistemas de información de riesgos agropecuarios evidencian una gran falta de capacidad y escasez de financiamiento.  Por ejemplo, México, un país con un sector agropecuario importante, no tiene información de precios del mercado local de productos agrícolas como el maíz, y es por esto que un nuevo proyecto financiado por el Banco Mundial tiene como objetivo ayudar a resolver este problema.  Pero México no es el único.  Argentina acaba de resolver este problema, también con apoyo del Banco Mundial, con la creación de un Sistema de Información de Precios de Mercado para los 7 granos básicos.

Our food system depends on the right information—how can we deliver?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: Español | Portuguese, International
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.

The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.

Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.

Nosso sistema alimentar precisa de informações corretas - como garantimos isso?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: English | Español
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
Para a maioria das pessoas, assistir à previsão do tempo na TV é uma atividade corriqueira, sem riscos e, às vezes, divertida. O apresentador até faz piadas! Porém, quando a sua renda depende da chuva ou da temperatura, a previsão passa a ser mais do que uma atividade meramente lúdica. Muitas vezes, essas informações são decisivas para o trabalho dos agricultores. Eles se inteiram sobre os riscos que enfrentarão mais à frente e, assim, podem planejar o plantio, a colheita, o uso de insumos (como fertilizantes e pesticidas), atividades agropecuárias e vendas no mercado com base em boletins meteorológicos e dados sobre preços, pragas e doenças locais, mudanças nos regulamentos e na disponibilidade e condições de crédito, entre outros.

A disponibilidade e a qualidade das informações sobre riscos agropecuários são de enorme importância para os agricultores; se estiverem erradas, isso custará caro para eles, que podem acabar tomando más decisões e perdendo dinheiro. Sistemas com fontes não confiáveis ​​e / ou protocolos deficientes de processamento de dados produzem resultados não confiáveis, independentemente da complexidade do modelo de processamento. Em outras palavras, seria uma situação garbage in, garbage out - "entra lixo, sai lixo. ” A informação é uma parte integrante da gestão do risco agrícola, não só em curto prazo - na proteção contra eventos adversos de grande porte - mas também em médio e longo prazo, na adaptação às mudanças climáticas e adoção de práticas agrícolas que protegem o clima. Programas agrícolas inteligentes e políticas de gestão de riscos agropecuários não adiantarão nada se os agricultores não tiverem os conhecimentos para subsidiar as mudanças necessárias.

O investimento em sistemas de informação de riscos agropecuários é uma maneira econômica de garantir que os agricultores - e outros atores da cadeia de fornecimento de alimentos - tomem as decisões certas. No entanto, na maioria dos países, os sistemas de informação de riscos agrícolas sofrem de falta de capacidade e financiamento. O México, um país com um setor agrícola importante, não tem informações sobre os preços de mercado de produtos agrícolas, como o milho. O Banco, por isso, lançou um projeto que visa fortalecer a capacidade do país nesse setor. O México não está sozinho. A Argentina resolveu esse mesmo problema recentemente, com o apoio do Banco Mundial, ao criar um sistema de informação com os preços de mercado de grãos básicos.

Watching Tanzania leapfrog the digital divide

Boutheina Guermazi's picture
Digital opportunities are the fuel of the new economy. They have significant impact on both the economy and society. They contribute to growth, create jobs, are a key enabler of increased productivity, and have significant impact on inclusion and poverty reduction. They also provide the ability to leapfrog and accelerate development in key sectors like health and education.
Why is this important?  It is important because “going digital” is not a temporary phenomenon. It is a revolution—what the World Economic Forum calls “the 4th industrial revolution”. It is happening before our eyes at a dizzying pace, disrupting every aspect of business, government and individuals’ lives. And it is happening in Tanzania.

Sustainable Development Goals and Open Data

Joel Gurin's picture
Sustainable Development Goals. Source:

The United Nations (UN) has developed a set of action-oriented goals to achieve global sustainable development by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by an Open Working Group of 30 member states over a two-year process. They are designed to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

To help meet the goals, UN member states can draw on Open Data from governments that is, data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose. This kind of data is essential both to help achieve the SDGs and to measure progress in meeting them.
Achieving the SDGs
Open Data can help achieve the SDGs by providing critical information on natural resources, government operations, public services, and population demographics. These insights can inform national priorities and help determine the most effective paths for action on national issues. Open Data is a key resource for:
  • Fostering economic growth and job creation. Open Data can help launch new businesses, optimizing existing companies’ operations, and improve the climate for foreign investment. It can also make the job market more efficient and serve as a resource in training for critical technological job skills.

Can we shift waste to value through 3D printing in Tanzania?

Cecilia Paradi-Guilford's picture
A waste collection site in Dar es Salaam, 
Tanzania. Photo: Cecilia Paradi-Guilford
Plastic waste, in particular PET, which is typically found in soda bottles, is becoming abundant in African cities. In Dar es Salaam, one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa, BORDA found that about 400 tons of plastic waste per day remains uncollected or unrecycled.  Although about 98 percent of the solid waste generated per day can be recycled or composted, 90 percent is disposed in dumpsites.
At the same time, the recycling industry has started to grow because of new initiatives, community organizations and private companies. There are a few organizations that repurpose waste into arts and crafts, tools or apply it as a source of energy – such as WasteDar. However, the majority collect or purchase plastic waste from collectors, primarily with a view to export, rather than recycle or reuse locally.
Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanized world. Waste pickers can earn as little as US$1-2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement. They make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in deep poverty.

Through a new market for sorted waste materials, these communities may access higher income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner. This presents an opportunity to explore turning this waste into value more close to home.

Collective Intelligence and Poverty

Randeep Sudan's picture

The World Bank’s mission is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results. Over the coming years the locus of poverty will increasingly shift to urban areas. Two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2025, and a third of these residents are likely to be poor. By 2030, the urban population in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – the world’s poorest regions – is expected to double. The Bank in keeping with its inspiring mission will necessarily have to focus more energy and resources in tackling the problems of urban poverty.