Top 5 Tech Innovations in Agriculture

Advances in technology are key to the future of agriculture as farmers strive to feed the world with limited natural resources

There are an estimated 570 million farms in the world and, in a neat twist of number synergy, according to Valoral Advisors, funding rounds in technological innovations in agriculture and along the food value chain also raised around $570 million in 2014.

While much of this investment is directed at ag-tech startups and disruptive market newcomers, in many ways priorities remain the same as ever – innovation in resource use, especially in terms of land and water (also energy), to boost efficiency and yields. Here are five of the darm tech solutions helping to support global growth of sustainable agriculture and food production.

1. Data preserved in soil

For traditional farming models, perhaps the primary determinant of supply capacity is simply the availability and suitability of land. However, any idea of future potential must be built on current data, with what data there is then mapped to tell the story of a region. This story is effectively written in the dirt, the soil.

The Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) is developing continent-wide digital soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa using new analysis, statistics, field trials and crowdsourcing. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ISRIC World Soil Information AfSIS project has forged key partnerships with governments, plus a range of stakeholders and academic institutions, including the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Innovative farming ideas, such as digital soil mapping, especially in data-sparse regions such as Africa, are key to planning sustainable agricultural intensification and natural resources management. With open access, these interactive maps are publicly available to be explored on Google Earth.

2. Innovative agriculture moving underground

Singapore relies heavily on imports for more than 90 per cent of its fruit and vegetables. It might, therefore, surprise diners to find out that their rocket, radish and baby spinach has actually been cultivated locally. Not only that, but it has been grown in Singapore’s first licensed indoor vegetable farm, by an electronics giant better known for TVs: Panasonic.

Annual soil-based production capacity at the initial Panasonic facility launched last year was 3.6 tonnes, but the company is by no means the only high-tech brand developing farm tech solutions to showcase technology rather than make profit.

Sharp is growing strawberries in Dubai, while Sony, Toshiba and Fujitsu are all utilising former clean-room facilities at semiconductor plants across Japan for lettuce. These no-wash, no-soil greens are cultivated by means of hydroponics and grown at more than twice the speed of normal field production, thanks to specialised LED lighting to optimise photosynthesis.

3. Greens fed on rainbow waste

One popular innovation in agriculture is embracing a virtuous circle of reciprocity. Hydroponics, as the name suggests, is a growing method which uses mineral-enriched water. Aquaponics takes matters a step further, bringing together fish and plant farming in one recirculating system.

At Bioaqua Farm at Blackford in Somerset – the largest integrated aquaponic farm in Europe – vegetables are grown and Rainbow Trout reared together in organic symbiosis, without chemicals or pesticides, but with the help of bees and worms.

The fish provide most of the plant nutrition, by way of aquaculture effluent. In turn, fish waste metabolites are removed by nitrification and direct uptake by plants, with the suitably treated water then flowing back to the fish. In all, it is claimed this innovative farming idea requires up to 95 per cent less water than traditional horticulture farming.

4. Using the sun to generate freshwater

Another of the major modern trends in agriculture is increasing water efficiency in farming and food production. Whether for traditional rural irrigation, arid regions or urban farms, this represents a key metric in the face of global population growth and climate change.

Considered together, scarcity of freshwater resources and the fact that 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is nevertheless covered in water, therefore make a compelling argument for desalination. The stumbling block, historically, has been its energy-hungry nature and prohibitively high running costs relative to agricultural profit margins.

One innovation in agriculture, offered by Sundrop Farms, draws on one of the few renewable resources in even more abundant supply than seawater – sunlight. Sundrop Farms harvests solar power to generate energy for desalination to supply hydroponic greenhouses.

Requiring no freshwater, farmland or fossil fuels, this potential game-changer for sustainable farming is creating 300 jobs in Port Augusta, South Australia, with a ten-year contract won to grow tomatoes for Coles supermarkets.

5.  Agriculture by aircraft

In the media, drones have mostly been associated with the military and spying, plus the odd pizza-delivery publicity stunt, but it could become one of the most useful innovations in agriculture, if used wisely.

An annual competition in the United Arab Emirates, UAE Drones for Good Award, acknowledges both drones’ dark reputation and the fact that things are changing. Competition finalists this year pitched benefits for unmanned aerial vehicles from conservation support to medical deliveries, as well as farming help.

The Munich-based Quantum-Systems entry was a transition aircraft combining capabilities of a multicopter and fixed-wing model – vertical take-off, plus fast forward flight like a normal plane. Quantum VRT design allows farmers to adopt precise fertilisation strategies via accurate flight-planning software with evaluation of crop conditions, so reducing reliance on fertilisers and boosting yields.

Dubai plans to scale up agriculture drone technology usage in a bid to become self-sufficient in food security by 2030. With 98 per cent imports, the emirate currently outstrips Singapore.


A number of countries are growing ginger (Zingiber officinale ) including china, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand and Uganda. Ginger is exported to Japan, Hong Kong, Britain Northern Ireland, Sudan and Congo. In Uganda (Kampala) ginger is brought in Owino, Nakasero and Bwaise markets. The major ginger growing districts in Uganda are: Gomba, Mpigi,  Wakiso, Mukono , Masaka  Kibogo, Mubende etc. In Kagadi and kibaale districts ginger is not commonly grown but a few farmers in Kagadi, Rutete and a few other sub counties have embraced it on a commercial scale.

Nutritional contents of ginger

Ginger contains carbohydrates, protein, fiber, ash, calcium,   potassium, iron thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin C

Uses of ginger

  • It is consumed fresh, dry, powdered or as ginger tea.
  • it adds flavor to food 
  • it is an ingredient in the manufacture of soft drinks (stony soda)
  • it is used as a preservative for food
  • Treats cough, flue, asthma, arthritis, Covid 19, etc.
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces fat deposits in arteries
  • It generates income; ginger sells at 8,000/= -10,000/= per kg in central parts of Uganda. A kilo goes for 4000= in Kagadi.

Ginger varieties

  1. Local land race (enyoro/enganda)
  2. Hybrid type

The hybrid type matures about 1 month earlier and gives more yield per acre than the local land race.

Propagation of ginger

Ginger is vegetatively propagated by use of ginger rhizomes.

Preparation of planting materials:

  • Select good rhizomes that are plump, free of wrinkles and with visible eyes.
  • The rhizomes should be pre-germinated as follows:
  • Cut rhizomes into pieces with one or more eyes.
  • Dry cut pieces 4-5 days
  • Cover the pieces in a shallow pit with little water added.
  • Only the sprouted rhizomes should be removed to be planted.

Site selection.

Ginger grows well in tropical climate with both hot land wet seasons; it requires high quality well-draining soil with high organic matter. It prefers mildly acidic soils 5.0-6.5 PH and temperature of 22-25oC; the land should be at altitude of 1,500m above sea level; sheltered from wind; moist but not swampy.

  Planting methods

Ginger can be planted by one of the following methods

  1. Seed bed. The land should be deeply ploughed and soil loosened to a fine filth. Spacing of 1 ft x 2ft or 1ft by 1ft is used
  2. Ginger pit. The pit many be at any size  depending on quantity of seed however most farmers use10x15x6ft

The depth may be between 4-6ft and not more than 10ft.

Here ginger is spaced at 1ft by 1ft. The ginger pit is first filled with maize cobs up to 5ft leaving only about 1ft that is filled with soil.   The seed is planted in the soil. The cob should be placed at 4-6weeks before planting.


In seed bed or ginger pit, plant sprouted rhizomes about 3 – 5cm bellow loose soil.  Select rhizomes with 3-4 sprouted eyes. The eyes should be placed pointing upwards.  The spacing is 1x1ft and 1x2ft in pit and seed bed respectively. 1 Acre requires about 4 bags. Mulching may be done with coffee husks or any other suitable materials. In case there are no rains watering may be done to provide water to the crop.  Fertilize the garden with NPK (50kg/ acre) or you may use organic manure.

Caring for the planted crop

Water the crop regularly in case   the rain is not sufficient to keep the soil dump.

Monitor for germination and gap fill where germination did not occur. Weed regularly to keep the field weed free.

Pest management and Disease management

  1. Pests; ginger is not attacked by most pest but the following are common pests in ginger; Earth worms, aphids, scale, root nearly bugs.

Pest Control; spray with pesticides to kill pests. Common pesticides used include Striker, cyper methrin, Imidacloprid, Imax, lava, rocket, etc. The integrated pest (IPM) management methods may also be applied.

  1. Disease management

They include; leaf spot, rhizome rot, bacterial wilt.

Management of ginger diseases; field sanitation, fertilizer application and other IPM methods, you may spray with Mancozeb cupper or metalaxyl fungicides to control fungal infections.


Harvest when ginger rhizomes turn yellow and wither (dries); 8-10 months; Harvest mostly for the market and not for storage

Dig out rhizomes car fully with forked hoe, shake soil off and trim off roots. 1 Bag of ginger planted may produce 7-10 bags of harvest. Ginger for planting, unlike that for food should not be cleaned to minimize on injury.

Pest harvest handling of ginger for food

  • The ginger rhizomes should be cleaned (washed, trimmed and disinfected with sodium hypochlorite.
  • Air dry the ginger rhizomes
  • Grade ginger according to size weight, appearance.


Store in a warm dry location; may cover with thick layers of mulch in pits for 1 year.  Keep only old rhizomes. You may leave it soil until next season


Ginger may be processed into ginger powder, an ingredient in ginger tea, and a plethora of other products. The fresh ginger rhizomes may be squeezed to get out the juice which is an ingredient in manufacture of alcohol, soft drinks, perfumes and herbal medicine.


Ginger may be preserved or sold fresh. It is sold in Kilograms or sacks.

1kg goes for 8,000 to 10,000= in Kampala but in Kagadi district it is 3,500 to 4,000=

Tumuhe Charles Lwanga is the Agricultural Officer for Kyenzige Sub County, Kagadi District LG. He holds a Bachelor of Agriculture and a Master of Science in Environment and Natural resources. Email:

Towards ending hunger in Uganda amidst changing climate: re-imaging tasks ahead using the post 2015 global development agenda perspective.

Required policies and interventions

Climate change is heavily impacting on farm yields thus threatening food and nutritional security affecting potentially 70% of the households in Uganda (Bagamba et al., 2014). Majority (95%) of the farming units are rain-fed with only 3% irrigated (Sridharan et al., 2019). There is need for policies and interventions to promote climate smart agricultural practices like crop and livestock diversification, better food storage and processing facilities, agroforestry and re-afforestation, restoration of degraded lands, weather fore casting and early warning systems. Insurance policies for enabling farmers recover from climate change shocks are long overdue. The National Climate Change Bill, 2020 (The National Climate Change Bill, 2020) inaction process should be fast tracked to support enforcement of such interventions. Climate smart agricultural policies will help small holder farmers produce amidst the changing climate. The policies should support interventions that for example increase production and productivity, climate change adaptation and mitigation. Such interventions are developed from research and e.g. drought tolerant crop varieties and animal breeds, affordable irrigation facilities, etc. The government should establish research grants for both public and private research institutions.  

The government of Uganda allocated a meager 3.7% of the national cake to the agriculture sector against the 10% as agreed in Malabo declaration of 2014 (ESAFF – Uganda, 2021). It is continually mentioned that agriculture is the backbone of Uganda, employing more than 70% of the citizens. There is need to increase budgetary allocation for agricultural sector to more than 10% to cater for research and innovations and skills development for the small holders and their extension advisors. The budget allocations to agricultural handouts e.g. giving free planting materials to farmers under operation wealth creation and NAADS programs should stop, for it is not sustainable. This money may be taken to financial institutions. The financial institutions should provide low interest loan facilities to farmers or amend the current policies regarding loan repayment schedule and interest rates. Farmers need their own agricultural bank to access low cost finances to look after their current crops and animals but also to expand.

The SDG on zero hunger should not be tackled in isolation. The SDG affects and is affected by several other SDGs. For example eliminating hunger is closely linked to no poverty (Goal 1), good health and well-being (Goal 3), etc. The hungry cannot meaningfully contribute to economic development and the poor also do not access nutritious and adequate food all the time. The quality of food influences health and wellbeing. A sustainable livelihoods approach should be adopted while designing poverty alleviation interventions in Uganda. There is thus need for holistic planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The state need to integrate SDG2 targets in all development plans for MDAs, CSO and private sector. This should be coupled with establishing stronger stakeholder linkages; coordination bodies (e.g. committees or country working groups) for SDG 2. Uganda needs to provide more space for SDG2 in all its strategic plans, annual work plans and budgets, develop better M&E tools with locally developed indicators for monitoring the goal and strengthening institutional, legal and policy frameworks for attaining SDG 2.

There should be better policies to support farmers to produce nutritious food while conserving and protecting the environment. For example, there must efforts to increase agricultural productivity outside fragile ecosystems like swamps through the use of modern practices e.g. irrigation, high yielding varieties, use of environmentally friendly soil enhancers etc. The PPP model should be evoked to promote sustainable agriculture interventions e.g. projects supporting integrated crop pest and disease management and soil conservation and regeneration practices. Cost-effective regenerative agricultural practices ought to be prioritized in all farming systems. Regenerative agriculture endeavors to generate agricultural products, sequesters carbon, and enhances biodiversity at farm scale. Regenerative agricultural practices to be adopted in Uganda include; rebuilding tilled soils and fostering biodiversity of fauna and flora. The agricultural advisors should be re-oriented and retrained on the principles of sustainable agriculture and regenerative agriculture.

Establish channels for more equitable food distribution from points of plenty to points of scarcity. This can be achieved through effective and fair food markets e.g. online food markets and distribution systems. Agro-dealers should also ensure online stocking and transfer of agricultural technologies and knowledge to farmers who can access them. Traders can ensure home to home delivery of food items to remote communities. The food traders should be supported with facilities (e.g. internet and transport) to distribute the food to the people who are far from production areas. There is need to revamp farmer cooperatives for consumers to always know and keep connected to these cooperatives as potential food suppliers for easy exchange of food items. There should be efforts to enhance urban-rural linkages to enable supply of adequate and nutritious food to an increasing urban population. Consumers need to have food markets in their communities or reliable public transport to access the food markets. There can be pre- or post-payment facilities available to food consumers and traders to minimize disruptions in food access and marketing. It may also be helpful to encourage farmers to stock long-shelf life foods such as cereals and pulses to be able to cope with situations of food scarcity.

This is a time to explore wild varieties of plants or the abandoned indigenous foods and seeds. Farmers should be supported to adopt indigenous knowledge and cultural methods of food production, processing and marketing. There is still a wide variety of beneficial indigenous and traditional foods e.g. wild climbing yams (Dioscorea bulbifera) and goose berries (Physalis peruviana) in Uganda (Tumuhe et al., 2020). It may be helpful to establish a complete traditional food data bank for all local food items for the benefit of the current and future generations.

Government should improve the distribution of facilities e.g. electricity to farmers to support all farm activities from production to processing. It is wise to expand facilities for food handling e.g. storage and processing since the food supply is sometimes overwhelmed by pandemics like COVID-19. Post-harvest handling techniques e.g. drying food can be prioritized in order to extend its shelf life in case there is no adequate market. To address problems of pandemics and fluctuations in food supply, governments and the international community should store more food as a buffer against crises. Food storage is expensive but has often times shown to play an important role in protecting poor consumers in times of food crisis. There is need to develop good diplomatic relationships with other countries. This will attract charitable organizations and foreign government to deliver food and other items to people under in crises e.g. war, disease pandemics and natural disasters.

There a need for farmers to shift from industrial agriculture to diversified sustainable agro-ecological systems. Agro-ecology builds resilience by combining different plants and animals, and uses natural synergies – not synthetic chemicals – to regenerate soils, fertilize crops, and fight pests. It is thus less dependent on imported inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, thereby reducing vulnerability to trade disruptions and price shocks. Rather than clearing landscapes for uniform farming systems, agro-ecology is based on ‘land sharing’. The territorial approach that is advocated by many agro-ecologists provides the opportunity for food producers and conservationists to come together to find solutions that allow the production of healthy food while protecting important wildlife habitats to ensure food security for the growing human population.

In reference to the previously eased COVID-19 lock down and the many challenges farmers face, there is need to develop a one stop smart application. There are already existing applications for agricultural stakeholders e.g. Famunera (for agricultural inputs), we farm and Jumia (for agricultural inputs and household items), teleagria, agrishare, plant-wise factsheet library (for plant pest and disease diagnosis) etc. but these only tackle one issue. The one stop application may have both online and offline functions to help agricultural advisors and farmers access information regarding markets, weather, and pests and disease management in one place.

I would recommend policies that support the removal of all barriers in the agricultural food chain. This would sustainably increase productivity among smallholder farmers, and integrate them into value chains. The current barriers include; low education, missing infrastructure, lack of credit and insurance markets, and insecure property rights. A study conducted in western Uganda indicated that banana farmers are mainly constrained by several barriers that make their farming unsustainable. The farmers are constrained by lack of access and control of land by women (40%), increasing pressure on land, limited farm labor, poor soils and lack of extension services (Desai, 2010). Removal of these barriers would significantly contribute to achieving food security in Uganda and sustainably attain SDG2 targets; 2.1 and 2.2. Regarding land, government needs to formulate a policy on land access and control for girls and women since these are the predominant actors in the agricultural value chain. Agricultural extension workers need to be retooled on land use planning, utilization and management for all agrarian communities to effectively and efficiency utilize the dwindling land resource.


There have been many interventions in Uganda to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. A number of gains have been realized regarding this goal but many have gone unnoticed due to weak monitoring and evaluation strategy for SDG 2. It is possible to achieve goal 2 if all policies, planned interventions developed and some that I have suggested here are implemented by well-coordinated institutions.