IBM has operated in Africa for almost 100 years. Today, its operations span 24 countries, including South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Kenya and Tanzania. Nairobi is also home to IBM Research – Africa: IBM’s 12th global research lab and the first industrial research facility on the continent of Africa. With facilities in Kenya and South Africa, IBM Research – Africa is driving innovation by developing commercially-viable solutions to transform lives and spark new business opportunities in key areas such as water, agriculture, transportation, healthcare, financial inclusion, education, energy, security and e-government.
Kenya Research Lab changing te way we farm
Arable farming is big business in Kenya, but most farms are relatively small, lacking the size to take advantage of economies of scale. With unpredictable rainfall and variable water supplies, it is difficult for farmers to ensure crops are not under- or over-watered. However, with increasing levels of internet access via smartphones across Africa and the affordability of modern sensors, tech-savvy farmers can change the way they run their businesses.
Dr. Kala Fleming, Water, Agriculture and Health Manager, with IBM Research—Africa, says: “In Kenya alone, there are 15 million small-scale farmers. Most rely on aggregators to help get crops to market. We set out to empower farmers and investors with technology to help create a more sustainable farming industry.
Creating the solution
IBM Research created EZ-Farm, an Internet of Things (IoT) remote monitoring solution that helps small-scale farmers to better manage water resources, and agricultural aggregators to identify the best prospects for investment. Dr. Fleming explains: “We place sensors at farms to capture data on water tank levels, soil moisture and rates of photosynthesis and securely stream it to the IoT Foundation. There, an analytics engine within IBM Bluemix measures how the plants are doing and identifies patterns of water usage, then insights are provided back to the farmers via an app on a tablet or smart phone. We are building up a database of information that shows the best farm for management of resources and growing conditions, used to provide value-added services to aggregators that help them select investment opportunities.”
Building and developing insights for farming in Africa
By offering ongoing insights into crop health and risk factors, EZ-Farm is expected to transform small-scale farming in Kenya.“EZ-Farm will help the farming industry in developing markets reach new levels of productivity and reduce costs—all translating into greater profits for both farmers and aggregators,” comments Dr. Fleming. “Larger, healthier yields means greater food security and a reliable supply of crops for market.”
Dr. Fleming concludes: “The potential for the solution is huge. For example, we are uncovering insights that can be used to improve government policy on subsidy distribution and groundwater management. The development of
EZ-Farm, based on IoT technology, enables a smarter approach to agriculture in Africa and beyond.”
IBM launched Bluemix with a $1 billion investment in 2014, and has grown rapidly to become the largest public Cloud Foundry deployment in the world. The open-standards-based Bluemix catalog includes over 120 tools and services spanning categories of big data, mobile, Watson, analytics, integration, DevOps, security and Internet of Things. IBM Bluemix was recently shown to be the "developers’ choice" of PaaS and is growing 10-times faster than the overall PaaS market.
IBM Bluemix is a Cloud Based Pla