Ploughing Through the Digital Age: How Technology has Redefined Agriculture

Digitalisation is the defining technological development of the contemporary era touching each and every aspect of our modern-day life. It is broadly defined as the transition to technologies that are based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cyber-physical systems (CPS), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), as well as some mobile technologies, devices, and applications which can be used together.

Digitalisation has significantly impacted agriculture, bringing about transformative changes across various aspects of the supply chain. Traditional farming practices are being revolutionized as farmers embrace the power of digital tools, data analytics, and connectivity to optimize their operations and improve productivity. This digital revolution in farming is enabling sustainable practices, precise resource management, and enhanced decision-making leading to improved efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in farming practices, more importantly, the democratization of information and knowledge.

Digital farming technology and its role

With proliferation of digital mobile applications and IoT devices in agriculture, such as sensors and wearables, farmers now have access to more information and insights that will significantly enhance their decision-making process.

Collection & documentation of information efficiently

Digital technologies facilitate better documentation of farming practices, from tracking crop growth to recording resource usage. This ensures accuracy, transparency, and in certain cases, compliance with regulatory requirements. Through utilization of IoT devices and sensors, farmers can also access and monitor real-time data on field conditions such as weather, temperature, soil conditions (soil moisture, soil acidity etc) and crop health.  Similarly, using drones, farmers can map and monitor their fields on crop growth, identify nutrient deficiencies and detect any potential issues such as diseases outbreaks or pest infestations.

The adoption of digital agriculture also extends to livestock farming, where wearable sensors and remote monitoring systems enable farmers to track animal health, behavior, and productivity efficiently.

Analysing information for informed decision making

Harnessing the power of data analytics, farmers can now analyse vast amounts of data collected from various sources, including off-field data from satellite imagery as well as on-field sensors to better understand the intricacies between crop quality and environment. For example, farmers can determine the optimal time for planting to maximize seed germination and resource efficiency, predict optimal harvesting times for maximum yield, foresee issues before they happen, enabling them to take proactive measures to address issues promptly. Farmers are able leverage on insights from the analysis in a timely manner, guiding them in key farm management decisions such as optimizing resource allocation, resulting in higher crop yields and reduced losses.

Automation to enhance productivity

Digitisation is also enabling the automation of various agricultural activities such as seeding, irrigation, fertilisation and even harvesting, optimising allocation of resources, enabling farmers to adopt precision agricultural practices. With advancement in digital farming technology, farmers are also now able to use drones to conduct seed planting activities and spray applications. This help farmers navigate challenging terrains and target specific locations resulting in more targeted application of fertilizers or pesticides and brings about greater consistency, reducing waste and increasing productivity.

Besides enabling farmers to adopt precision agricultural practices, digital farming technology also addresses the perennial issue on the shortage of labour. As the agriculture sector grapples with a decline in labour supply coupled with the increase in wages in the agricultural sector, farmers are turning to drones as alternatives to conduct these intensive farming activities.

Adoption and the digital divide

Digital technologies enable the collection and analysis of data which is essential as data empowers farmers with actionable insights. One of the main challenges that remain amidst the digital revolution is the digital divide. Despite the benefits of digital technology, the digital adoption curve has been vastly different between farmers in the developed world compared to farmers in the developing world which are predominantly smallholder farmers as these technological advances have not been democratized to same level.

Smallholder farmers play a foundational role in global food supply chains, serving as cornerstones for rural communities and contributing significantly to the economies of developing nations. 84% of the world’s farms are smallholdings producing about one-third of the world’s food. However, smallholder farmers face immense challenges in accessing and using technology.  

Smallholder farmers encounter various obstacles when it comes to accessing and utilizing digital technology. Factors such as limited financial resources, inadequate infrastructure, low digital literacy, and geographical isolation pose significant challenges. These farmers often lack the necessary resources and support to adopt digital solutions effectively, hindering their ability to enhance productivity, access markets, and improve overall agricultural practices.

Some of the barriers that contribute to the slow adoption of digital technology among smallholder farmers include:

  1. Limited infrastructure: Smallholder farmers in remote or underdeveloped regions often face inadequate infrastructure such as poor internet connectivity and electricity supply, limiting their access to digital tools and information.
  2. Lack of technical knowledge: The complexity of digital technologies requires a certain level of technical expertise that many smallholders lack. Without proper training and education on how to use these tools effectively, adoption rates remain low. In addition, farmers are not aware of how technology can assist in their farming activities. Farmers therefore are not able to grasp the significance of digitizing farming methods. This is evident in cases where farmers utilize platforms like YouTube and Google for entertainment rather than educational purposes.
  3. High cost of technology: According to World Bank, most smallholder farmers live below the poverty line therefore, the affordability of digital solutions is a significant barrier for smallholder farmers with limited financial means. The initial investment required for purchasing technology devices and software can be prohibitive, making it challenging for smallholders to integrate these tools into their farming practices. One example is the ownership and use of mobile devices. It is not uncommon for families to share a single mobile phone within the family – between the farmer and his kids for example.
What the future holds

While challenges persist, the evolving landscape of Agritech offers hope for smallholder farmers. By tailoring solutions to address the unique barriers smallholders face, new innovations can bridge this digital divide.  Jiva, one of Nupo Ventures’ portfolio company, is an example of a company that is trying to bridge this digital divide and is on a mission to change the plight of smallholder farmers in India and Indonesia through digital microfinance, AI-powered advisory services, and direct market access.

Jiva is building a suite of applications, products, and services to digitize the rural supply chain and bring rural farming into the future. Jiva partners with both farmers and supply chain stakeholders from the planning stage to post-harvest, offering four key services:

  1. Microfinance: Jiva extends low-cost, digital credit via their farmer application, with no obligation to repay until after harvest
  2. E-commerce: Farmers use their credit to purchase high-quality farm supplies from Jiva’s in-app store; Jiva delivers to the farmer’s doorstep at no extra charge
  3. Advisory: Jiva’s personalized, AI-powered advisory platform delivers feasible, engaging, and impactful agronomic advice; the “Ask Jiva” feature allows farmers to speak with live experts whenever they need assistance
  4. Harvest purchase: Once the farmer schedules their desired pickup date via the app, Jiva provides honest scales, moisture meters, and transparent prices, so farmers always know they are getting paid fairly for their crops

Together these services address critical farmer needs, introduce technological solutions where none existed before and create efficiencies in the rural supply chain, unlocking substantial value for farmers, their families, and their communities.


As these developments continue, the vision of a more inclusive and technologically empowered agricultural sector, where the benefits of digitalization reach every farmer, appears within grasp. Overall, digital innovations in agriculture are driving the agricultural revolution of the 21st century by optimizing food production, enhancing sustainability, and reshaping the future of farming practices.

It is important that we do not forget about these smallholder farmers as we come up with newer innovations in the Agritech space. Addressing the challenges of democratizing technology to smallholder farmers is imperative for achieving inclusive and sustainable agricultural development. Governments, NGOs, and private sector stakeholders must collaborate to invest in rural infrastructure, provide affordable and accessible digital tools, tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers and offer comprehensive training programs to enhance digital literacy among smallholders.

In recent years, advancements in artificial intelligence have also opened new possibilities. Large language models (LLM) such as ChatGPT have emerged as one unexpected ally to transform the age-old practices of agriculture. Its integration with various technologies promises to assist farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, with tasks and potential to bridge the knowledge gap. In our next blog post, we will discuss more about how AI has the potential to solve the next level of farming challenges - across business models and sustainability impact.