WUR monitors expansion of digital tools in agriculture worldwide

December 16, 2020

The uptake of digital agricultural tools and services around the world will be tracked by researchers from Wageningen University & Research. WUR will continue the work of the EU-funded institution, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which is winding down its activities this year.

Wageningen University and Research works on digital technologies and fostering digitalisation in agriculture and food through research and policy support including data science, modelling, data driven monitoring and evaluation, and ground activities to pilot innovations.

“Digitalisation in agriculture offers enormous, untapped potential for smarter food systems, using resources more efficiently to help meet demand while minimising environmental impact,” said Sander Janssen, team leader for Earth Informatics at Wageningen Research.

Building on existing knowledge

Ahead of its closure, CTA will hand over part of its work on “Digital Agriculture”. WUR will built on existing knowledge, including the foundation laid through its 2019 flagship report on digitalisation in African agriculture. The report identified nearly 400 different digital agriculture solutions with 33 million registered farmers across the continent but found that the annual turnover represented just a fraction of a potential €2.3 billion market.

A year later, a study was conducted to assess how the report had been used, and the extent to which the recommendations of the report have been implemented. The outcome study found that relevant organisations and sector players wanted to see new reports in the future, with an overwhelming number willing to contribute to such reports in the future.

“CTA’s digitalisation report is a vital resource that provides a baseline for the state of digitalisation in African agriculture,” says Janssen. “We are delighted to receive this report and all the associated intellectual assets to enable us measure future growth of digital tools and services across the continent and beyond.”

Expanding to low- and middle-income countries

Wageningen University and Research is expected to scale up the monitoring of digital tools, such as platforms for advisory services, market linkage and supply chain management, and emerging technologies like drones and robots, to other low- and middle-income countries worldwide. Gathering regular data, trends, and insights on digitalisation would help policymakers, companies, NGOs and donors working within the food system to support the transition to sustainable agriculture.

“WUR is proud to continue the work of 40 years CTA in the field of digital agriculture,” said Professor Louise O. Fresco, President of WUR. "We are motivated to continue the monitoring of digital innovations and to build an ecosystem of digital agriculture. Extending the monitoring beyond the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, to support the growth of the sector and ultimately improve the livelihoods of smallholder producers across the globe.”

Ibrahim Khadar, Director of CTA , added: “It is exciting and enormously satisfying to see a flagship CTA initiative continue in the capable hands of Wageningen University. "I am proud that CTA drove the agenda for digitalisation in agriculture, which can be a game-changer for sustainably improving productivity and livelihoods, and levelling the playing field for rural families."

CTA’s Digital Agriculture Initiative was officially handed over to Wageningen University and Research during a virtual event on Tuesday, December 15.