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Solving Food Security Issues Using Technology. An Interview with CIOs

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  1. What do you see as the main problems facing the agricultural system in your country in particular and Africa in general today?

 Low investment by Government in Agriculture

Agriculture is the backbone of most African Countries including Ghana and yet there is little to know investment into Agriculture by most African Governments. By far, Africa is bless with huge acres of arable land and we have to watch multinationals from other continents travel all the way to our lands to do production while the indigenes are acting like spectators. In Ghana, the Government pumps just about 10% of the National Budget into agriculture and this is pathetic. Why invest into services whiles you can invest into production and increase revenue for the country through net export.=

Low Investments by Financial Institutions

Over the years, financial institutions deem agriculture as a risk intensive venture and yet everyone eats the food and industrialize the raw materials from Agriculture. There are little to no credit scoring system to better analyze the areas, companies and individuals to support with the needed funded to increase production. Agriculture on its own can ensure over 100% unprecedented.

Low technology adoption

The rate of technology adoption is low in the agriculture sector. The advent of IOTs, drone technologies, mechanization, and other positive technologies seem to be a ferry-tale when echoed. In my own experience, a Professor in Ghana I encountered with never believed that drone spraying is a better and effective spraying method than the traditional knapsack application method. If a Professor would have this believe, what about the smallholder farmer in the rural area with no or little access to a mobile phone.

Unsustainable Government Policies

Our inability to sustain certain policies affect the agriculture sector in the long run. The implementation of policies are inconsiderate of the plight of the majority smallholder farmers when in the long run, measures are not made to ensure sustainability. Sustainability by my definition is selling a movement to the masses, rally them behind the movement, change the decisions and activities they are used to follow the movement, and abandoning the movement without consultation.

High illiteracy rate

Due to the high illiteracy rate of majority of the smallholder farmers, it is challenging to change their mentalities to adopting effective and efficient production methods. Working with smallholder farmers first-hand exposes to the basic reality that, the smallholder farmer though is ready to adopt but the level of adoption and understanding is relatively low.


  1. To what extent do you think technology can overcome these problems?


The application of technology is vast in the Agricultural industry. From drone technologies, to precision agriculture, to IOTS are just a few technologies. In all sectors, technology has proven to be the game changer and that is no different for agriculture sector.


Low investment by Government in Agriculture

I keep asking myself why there is little or no investment by the government in agriculture whiles there are various technological adoption that can be implemented to improve regulatory compliance and monitoring to ensure there is rapid development. Tracking of fertilizers subsidized by the government, providing mechanization and logistical arrangements are ways to ensure value for money by the government. Agricultural sector contribution to GDP in Ghana is 19.7% as at 2021, and as much 60% in other African Countries. With the right investment in technology to support farmers and other players in the Agricultural industry, the evolution and development of agriculture will improve massively.


Low Investments by Financial Institutions

What better way is to use technology such as a data gathering software to build a tentative credit scoring for farmers and other players and identify areas to push investments. I believe these financial institutions are aware and yet majority are still indecisive.


Low technology adoption

Though there are little technology acknowledgement and adoption, the rate of application is relatively low. Technology on its own can be a beautiful wonder to witness and I believe we need to take it to the grassroots and demonstrate. We can use technology to market technology in Agriculture. Social media, Radio and TV, SMS, live demonstrations etc., are all various ways to increase adoption.


  1. What are the advances in AgriTech that you have observed? What technologies are being implemented (and how) to mitigate pressure, risk, food security and waste?


We are not new to the popular data by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that says that; World population is expected to grow by over a third, or 2.3 billion people, between 2009 and 2050 and there is the need to produce 70 percent more food while at the same time combating poverty and hunger, using scarce natural resources more efficiently and adapting to climate change. Personally, I believe the there is hope and more can be done scanning through the AgriTech space in Ghana and Africa.


The Rise of AgriTech Start-ups

The innovations of the youth in Ghana and Africa continues to exceed expectations. Gone were the days when agriculture wasn’t ‘sexy’ in the eyes of majority of the youth up until technology revolutionise  the sector. With the keen interest in development of Agriculture through technology, major Hubs (such as Kosmos Innovation Center) has initiated and championed the grooming of young Entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo and develop innovative technological solutions to solve major challenging problems in the agricultural sector with some solutions to be elaborated on below.

Artificial Intelligent in Agriculture

Most technological solutions are driven by AI. AI systems are helping to improve the overall harvest quality and accuracy which is also known as precision agriculture and can be seen in several applications ranging from drones, robotics hydroponic farming etc. AI technology helps in detecting disease, pests and poor nutrition in plants of farms. AI sensors can detect and target weeds and poor nutrition areas and then decide which herbicide or fertilizer to apply within the region.

Drone Technology

Drone Technology is one technology I personally have an interest in due to the vast applications in the Agricultural industry. Improving on precision agriculture, drone technology has proven to provide an effective and efficient way of improving farming. Currently in Ghana and Africa, drones are used for mapping, spraying of pesticides, soil and data analysis, and monitoring of farms to improve productivity whiles maximizing the use of labour and inputs.

Irrigation Technology

The anticipation of impacts of climate change stresses on the need for irrigation technologies to ensure all year production. Over 50 percent of farmers rely heavily on seasonal rainfall which continues to change drastically. In my view, though the cost of implementing a sustainable irrigation system is insanely expensive, it is worthwhile in the long run. There are technological irrigation concepts and MVPs (Minimum Viable Product) that are geared towards reducing the cost of implementation which indicates the role Irrigation plays as a technological solution to some challenges in the agricultural sector.

Internet of Things – IoTs

The last but not the least I would like to touch on is the Internet of Things. Out of curiosity, Internet of Things, refers to the collective network of connected devices and the technology that facilitates communication between devices and the cloud, as well as between the devices themselves. The application in the agricultural sector is wide. Such applications include weather sensors to help predict rainfall and droughts, soil sensors to determine areas for fertilizer applications, storage sensors to ensure storage of produce at favourable temperatures, tracking of inputs and logistics to reduced post-harvest losses. The ability to analyze data (both historical and Present) in an effective way to inform a well thought through activities will ensure productivity.


  1. What do you think are the limitations of AgriTech today and how can they be overcome?


As expressed above on the major challenges in the broader Agriculture sector which drains down to affect the subset of the AgriTech space, I believe the limitations are somewhat similar;

  • Low Government and Private sector investment
  • Unfavourable Policies that does not ensure an enabling environment
  • High Illiteracy rate of our smallholder farmers in the adoption of technology to solve their pressing needs.

I strongly believe that, moderate measures are being implemented but a lot more is needed. A lot more is needed such training and capacity building, changing our Educational Curriculum to focus on production instead of services, Strategic investment from Financial Institutions, and increase in Government investment.

  1. How CIOs are integral to finding solutions, and what tech is implemented (and how) to alleviate pressure, risk, food security and waste.

CIOs (Chief Information Officers) play critical roles in the development and implementation of AgriTech solutions. The role of the CIO in AgriTech is to transcend the key problems in the agriculture space and digitally develop objective solutions to these problems taking into consideration the various users and application of the technological solution. They basically serve as the live engine behind the implementation of these solutions. A Chief Operations Officer can identify the problem but it will take the CIO to listen, design and develop the best-fit technology solution.

  1. BIO: Your Bio and why did you choose AgriTech?

Kenneth Abdulai Nelson is a Serial AgriTech Entrepreneur who has spearheaded the implementation of complex AgriTech solutions in the Agriculture sector in Ghana and Africa. With an undergraduate background in Agribusiness Management, his passion for AgriTech and Agriculture started as a hobby from an early age of 10 years, when he would turn his dad’s backyard space into an ecosystem of different varieties of crops.

He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Farm 360 Global and QualiTrace Limited, all AgriTech Start-ups.

7- Do you have any additional contextual comments?

 There is a saying in a Ghanaian dialect which translate ‘that you will never make losses when it comes to food’. In a broader scope, the Agriculture industry with the right technological inclusion is key to boosting Food Security, Mitigate risk factors and waste.

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