Microsoft, AGRA Collaborate on Agriculture

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Bennett Oghifo

Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative, has announced a new collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to co-create technology solutions in agriculture.

 The collaboration, announced at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Ghana, will support AGRA’s digital transformation as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries, including Nigeria, by 2021, according to a statement by officials.

The statement said through the partnership, Microsoft and AGRA would explore uses of big data and artificial intelligence in enabling data-driven, precision farming that increases farm productivity and profitability.

The partnership will also: support farmers in adopting new technologies through digital training content; develop digital skills in agriculture through an internship programme; and support policy advocacy and government engagement around the design of national agriculture digitisation strategies.

According to the statement, this partnership forms part of Microsoft’s ongoing investment in agritech across the continent. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that its Africa Development Centre would help to advance AI innovation in agriculture, including the expansion of FarmBeats. In addition, Microsoft has supported a number of African agritech start-ups and companies, including SunCulture, Virtual City, N-Frnds and Twiga Foods.

“Agriculture is a priority sector of investment for us, not only because it sustains some 70 per cent of livelihoods, but because we believe technology can significantly contribute to the transformation of the sector,” says Amrote Abdella, Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika.

“Africa has a large number of farmers with varying farming practices. We believe technology can augment this knowledge to improve crop yields. Using Microsoft-enabled IoT technology, organisations like SunCulture have helped farmers increase crop yields by 300 percent, and increase income for farmers.”

According to AGRA, the biggest hurdle to increasing farmer productivity in Africa today is the continued use of outdated production technologies and practices. Farmers are only likely to adopt new technologies when they are useful, affordable and available locally. As a result, the Digitilisation of African Agriculture Report found that 90 percent of the market for digital services that support African smallholders remains untapped, and could be worth more than US$2.26 billion.

Abdella said, “We’re excited to work with AGRA in building locally-relevant technology solutions that are mindful of challenges local farmers face, offering solutions to farmers and policy makers alike to deliver meaningful impact.”

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

The 4Afrika Initiative is Microsoft’s business and market development engine in Africa. Launched in 2013, it aims to unlock and accelerate Africa’s potential to create technology not only for the continent, but for the world.