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Six innovations revolutionising farming

1. Fertiliser deep placement

 FDP is used by farmers throughout Niger, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. Photograph: Image Broker/REX

Historically, farmers in rural areas have applied fertilizer to their crops by hand. A new method of distributing fertilizer, Fertilizer Deep Placement (FDP), reduces the use of fertilizer by one-third and results in an average increase of 18% in smallholder yields. FDP uses a specialized fertilizer (known as a “briquette”) that gradually releases nitrogen into the soil. The briquette is placed 7-10 centimeters deep into the soil, which helps prevent nitrogen loss through runoff. Farmers in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria use FDP.

2. Dairy hubs

Dairy processors can be linked to smallholder farmers through dairy hubs, which helps cut costs and keep money within local communities. As farmers use dairy hubs, they see an increase in their income and education as well as having healthier animals; there is a similar increase in the availability of affordable and safe milk in developing countries. Such dairy hubs have seen great success in Pakistan and Bangladesh already and are being tried in eastern Africa and India.

3. Mobile apps

A farming instructor application provides agricultural education to farming communities in rural areas. Photograph: Alamy

The software company Cojengo has developed a mobile app, VetAfrica, that is helping farmers and animal health workers to better diagnose illnesses in livestock as well as find the best medicines to treat the diseases they discover. Because there are more than 100 million farmers in east Africa, Cojengo is expecting major expansion in the market for cloud and mobile technology solutions in Africa.

Another useful app highlighted by our community is Farming Instructor, which gives rural farmers the ability to access agricultural information offline and online.

4. High-roofed greenhouses

Production is increased by using greenhouses. Photograph: Dan Kitwood

Governmental restrictions in Turkmenistan often prevent farmers from having large amounts of land. While greenhouses are typically a successful way to produce more, a typical greenhouse can only grow short cucumber and tomato plants. Because of this, USAid experts created high-roofed greenhouses (12 feet and higher), which has been demonstrated to double the yield of the plants grown.

5. Farm management software and training

 Farm management is simplified with the use of software. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

One of the largest improvements for farmers in rural areas has come from receiving sufficient training with respect to pest management, animal care, and crop development. Through new products in the farm management software market, farmers can calculate amounts for milking systems and food rations, making management of their farms much more simple.

Although this technology is still not widely available for a majority of farmers in rural areas, training in farm management has been shown to have a large impact on farming output. For instance, cows that have been given housing with appropriate food troughs and bedding have greatly increased milk yields, which dramatically improves the sustainability of farms.

6. New feeding systems

 Animal health increases and labor costs decrease through use of a ‘total mixed ration’. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

All animals’ nutritional requirements can be better met through measuring and mixing all foodstuff into a complete ration. The use of this “total mixed ration” reduces the costs of labor, gives greater flexibility to farmers with respect to feed ingredients, and increases livestock health. This results in improved farm profitability as feed costs – which typically comprise 60-70% of the total costs on a farm – decrease and milk production is maximized.

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