Agriculture Business Development Food Science and Technology

Dutch university to monitor expansion of agricultural digital tools worldwide

Use of digital tools in agriculture

The uptake of digital agricultural tools and services around the world will be tracked by researchers in the Netherlands to help guide investment and boost food production.

Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands will continue the work of the EU-funded institution, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which is winding down its activities this year.

Wageningen University and Research works on digital technologies and fostering digitalisation in agriculture and food through research and policy support including data science, modelling, data driven monitoring and evaluation, and ground activities to pilot innovations.

Ahead of its closure, CTA will hand over part of its work on “Digital Agriculture”, including the foundation laid through its 2019 flagship report on digitalisation in African agriculture. The report identified nearly 400 different digital agriculture solutions with 33 million registered farmers across the continent but found that the annual turnover represented just a fraction of a potential €2.3 billion market.

A year later, a study was conducted to assess how the report had been used, and the extent to which the recommendations of the report have been implemented. The outcome study found that relevant organisations and sector players wanted to see new reports in the future, with an overwhelming number willing to contribute to such reports in the future.

“Digitalisation in agriculture offers enormous, untapped potential for smarter food systems, using resources more efficiently to help meet demand while minimising environmental impact,” said Dr. Sander Janssen, team leader for Earth Informatics at Wageningen Research.

“CTA’s digitalisation report is a vital resource that provides a baseline for the state of digitalisation in African agriculture. We are delighted to receive this report and all the associated intellectual assets to enable us to measure future growth of digital tools and services across the continent and beyond.”

Wageningen University and Research is expected to scale up the monitoring of digital tools, such as platforms for advisory services, market linkage and supply chain management, and emerging technologies like drones and robots, to other low- and middle-income countries worldwide.

Gathering regular data, trends, and insights on digitalisation would help policymakers, companies, NGOs and donors working within the food system to support the transition to sustainable agriculture.

“Wageningen University and Research deems it fit to leverage CTA’s legacy to continue the foundation it has laid over the past decades especially in the area of digital agriculture” said Professor Louise O. Fresco, President, Wageningen University and Research.

“I hope we at Wageningen University and Research can act as a catalyst to coordinate investment into the digital agricultural ecosystem beyond CTA’s remit of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, to help unlock the benefits of digital innovation to smallholder farmers throughout the global south.”

Dr. Ibrahim Khadar, Director of CTA, added: “It is exciting and enormously satisfying to see a flagship CTA initiative continue in the capable hands of Wageningen University.

“I am proud that CTA drove the agenda for digitalisation in agriculture, which can be a game-changer for sustainably improving productivity and livelihoods, and levelling the playing field for rural families.”

CTA’s Digital Agriculture Initiative will be officially handed over to Wageningen University and Research during a virtual event on Tuesday, December 15. The event is open to the public and registration is open online.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende