Friday, April 19, 2024
AGRICULTURE

Integrating Artificial Intelligence with IoT, a worthy transformation for Rwanda’s Agricultural Revolution

Agriculture remains Rwanda’s major economic activity today. Despite remarkable improvements over recent years, the agricultural sector in Rwanda still faces many challenges. As Rwanda strives to embrace advanced technologies as solutions to pertinent issues, the transformation from internet of things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) is paramount.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the sector accounts for 33 percent of the national GDP with 70 percent of the population are engaged in the sector while nearly 72 percent of the working population is employed in agriculture.

To leverage AI to power economic growth, improve quality of life and position Rwanda as a global innovator for responsible and inclusive AI, the Rwandan national AI policy was adopted last year, focusing on six main fields of the country’s life including agriculture among others.

Dr. Samuel Rene Adolphe Sebakara, is an industry research expert with a focus on emerging technologies; when it comes to Rwandan agricultural sector, he becomes more interested.

“Knowing how far the Emerging technology can take us in any sector, and considering the main challenges our people are facing on food security and economic stagnation in agriculture sector, I strongly advocate for the adoption of AI in Rwanda’s agricultural sector as a transformative solution to address the pressing challenges of malnutrition, famine, and poverty,” he said.

By harnessing the power of precision agriculture and predictive analytics, Rwanda can optimize resource use and increase crop yields, ensuring food security and resilience against unpredictable weather patterns.

AI equipped IoT in agriculture

According to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), AI-equipped IoT in agriculture refers to the integration of AI technologies with IoT devices in the agricultural sector. This combination allows for the collection, analysis, and utilization of real-time data to optimize farming practices, improve crop yields, and enhance overall agricultural productivity.

AI-equipped IoT in agriculture involves the use of sensors, actuators, and other IoT devices to collect data from various sources such as soil, weather, crop health, and machinery. AI algorithms are then applied to analyze this data and provide actionable insights for farmers and agricultural stakeholders.

Whereas IoT has been used in Rwanda for quite a while, the integration of AI technology will mark a vital turn around; the goal is to enable precision agriculture, where farmers can make data-driven decisions to optimize resource allocation, reduce costs, and increase productivity.

Experts asserts that a combination of AI and IoT in Agriculture brings a range of benefits including improved crop management, efficient resource utilization and more reliable predictive analytics, among others.

AI algorithms can analyze data from IoT devices to provide real-time information about soil moisture, nutrient levels, and pest infestations. This helps farmers optimize irrigation, fertilization, and pest control, leading to healthier crops and higher yields.

By monitoring environmental conditions and crop health, AI-equipped IoT systems can optimize the use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, reducing waste and environmental impact.

AI algorithms can analyze historical and real-time data to predict crop diseases, weather patterns, and market trends. This enables farmers to take proactive measures to protect their crops and make informed decisions about planting, harvesting, and marketing.

IoT devices can also be integrated with AI algorithms to automate tasks such as irrigation, monitoring livestock, and controlling machinery. Farmers can remotely monitor and manage their operations, saving time and effort.

Without AI, IoT would have limited value. AI can multiply the value of IoT; conversely, IoT can promote the learning and intelligence of AI.

A Look into Rwanda’s context

Earlier research by the World Bank, published by cgspace.cgiar.org on climate-smart agriculture (CSA), country profile of Rwanda in January 2016, suggests that the CSA reflects an ambition to improve integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness.

The end goal is to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

According to Dr. Sebakara, the implementation of AI-driven supply chain optimization and market access tools will not only reduce post-harvest losses but also maximize farmers’ profits by providing real-time data on market demands.

Furthermore, by making data-driven decisions, Rwandan farmers can enhance agricultural productivity and efficiency, paving the way for a sustainable agricultural economy that is both profitable and capable of addressing the nutritional needs of its population. The adoption of AI in agriculture represents a critical step towards creating a self-sufficient, sustainable, and economically vibrant Rwanda, free from the constraints of malnutrition, famine, and poverty.

However, Rwanda’s agriculture faces a number of limitations as it moves to leverage the power of advanced technologies. The limitations include data privacy and security, connectivity and infrastructure, cost and accessibility, among others.

With the increasing use of IoT devices and AI algorithms, ensuring the privacy and security of agricultural data becomes crucial. Measures should be taken to protect sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access.

Reliable internet connectivity and infrastructure also essential for the successful implementation of AI-equipped IoT in agriculture. In remote or rural areas, where connectivity may be limited, alternative solutions should be explored.

About cost and accessibility, the initial investment in IoT devices and AI technologies can be a barrier for small-scale farmers. Efforts should be made to make these technologies more affordable and accessible to all farmers.

Dieudonné Niyodushima, a professional farmer and owner of Exodus farm embrace the initiative;  According to him, this technology will enable farmers to graduate from survival agriculture to consequential agriculture that will change lives.

“Knowing the moisture of and corresponding seeds will bring much impact in agriculture. In current practice, we grow some crops and happen to fail because we don’t know required data for a given piece of land,” he said.

“With this technology, we shall be very sure about the input. In the end, this will improve agriculture economics because investors will bet their money in farming with minimum fears of risks.” he added.

Smartening agriculture with international AI standards

While using AI tools, some standards are to be met. Odyssée Ndayisaba, the national Chair of the Technical Committee on IT and Multimedia at Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), and a contributor to AI standards technical committee at the ISO (International Standards Organization) cites some standards.

“I believe international standards compliance, including AI standards, will be strategic references that inform all players that are public policy makers, regulators and developers for the benefit of Rwandan society and the world,” Ndayisaba said.

He added that Rwanda is adopting international standards such ISO/IEC 42001, AI Management system and ISO/IEC 5339, guidance for AI applications, to contribute toward Rwanda’s AI vision for AI which is to become a global center for AI research and innovation.

 

 

 

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