Pantami: Digitising Agriculture Will Create Business Opportunities

Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami has stressed the need for Nigeria to digitalise its agricultural sector in order to foster innovation and create new business opportunities.

Pantami who made the call at a recent webinar on smart agriculture, organised by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), said some countries like USA, Netherlands, Germany, Israel and Brazil, were already feeding the world because they have digitalised their agricultural sector.

Citing Netherlands, which has a land area of 41,865 square kilometers and rated as the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural produce, Pantami who was represented at the virtual conference by his Special Assistant, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, said seven states in Nigeria, like Niger, Borno, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Yobe and Zamfara, have land masses either greater than or comparable to that of the Netherlands.

He added that if Nigeria should embrace smart agriculture and digitalise her agricultural sector, the country could become exporter of agricultural products, outside of oil.

According to Pantami, “To adequately utilise digital technology as a platform for stimulating growth in all sectors of the economy through the development of a digital economy for the country, the Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, developed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) anchored on eight pillars.”

He said the target was to adopt farmers in all 36 States and 774 LGAs in the country, support and equip them with skills and resources that will make Nigeria one of the leading nations in food sufficiency, security and exportation.

He, however, said it was important for the private sector, academia, development partners and state governments to partner with federal government in the areas of capacity building, smart solutions and services, research and development, finance, among others, in order to develop smart agriculture.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Alhaji Sabo Nanono, who was the special guest, but represented by Mr. Bejide Stephen, from the Federal Minster of Agriculture, said smart agriculture would require heavy initial investments, recurring maintenance cost, strong internet connectivity, as well as high cost of technology devices such as precision sensors, drones, gateways, bots, among others.

President of NCS, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, called on the federal government to provide necessary supports to small and medium scale farmers for efficient transformation to smart farming in Nigeria.

“Smart agriculture has been considered as an innovative technological-based solution for promoting large scale and economical agricultural production.

“It adopts precision agriculture techniques and technologies that aim at improving the efficiency of agriculture to maximise food production, minimise environmental impact and reduce cost,” Sodiya said.
The Director- General, Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Dr. Abimbola Alale, assured Nigerians, that with the satellite, all the smart agriculture technologies could be implemented even in the rural areas. “NIGCOMSAT and its channel partners can provide broadband connectivity through VSATs and TV White Spaces (TVWS) for individual farmers or farmers cooperatives in rural areas,” Alale said.

Participants at the conference, recommended that relevant stakeholders within the smart agriculture industry should adopt IoT based technologies like Sigfox, Agrikoin, among others and collaborate with the indigenous Nigerian Companies championing them. They further called on organisations like Microsoft and others with products in the IoT, Smart Agriculture and Data Analytics domain, for flexible price regime that are region specific to support countries like Nigeria with several smaller holder farmers.

They advised government to set up a model smart farms in all the six geopolitical regions of the country, and called on the National

Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to consider it as part of its innovation programme for this year and work with universities and agricultural research institutes to achieve it.