ONE could term the technology sector the “the creeping sector”. Whilst all other global economic sectors make a lot of noise about their developments, the technology segment just keeps on releasing newer technology on a constant basis and at an even higher rate than a decade ago. This is largely because of the increase of capital and investment ability of multinational corporations, venture capitalists, millionaires and billionaires. As for agriculture, it seems to usually be the last of most sectors to adopt new tech, a pattern that is changing as more companies realise the profitability margins possible in agri-tech.
One of the amazing technologies of this 21st century is virtual reality. It is a comprehensive integrated and interactive technology that utilises hardware and software accessories and programmes to transfer one into a multi-projected environment capable of interacting with the sensory abilities of the human body. According to the article – “Virtual reality application in Zimbabwean agriculture” – virtual reality covers four main aspects: autonomy, interaction, multisensory and immersion. This technology was first mentioned in the nineteen sixties and development began in the nineteen nineties and its application has grown into a multibillion dollar industry.
Companies currently at the forefront of virtual reality technology include HTC with Vive, which works with the personal computer (PC), but one needs a computer or laptop with a powerful enough graphics card to play. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is found among virtual reality players with their Oculus Rift, a headset with immersive OLED panels with 2160 x 1200 resolution for massive immersion. From Google there is Daydream View that is compatible with the Google Pixel and several other Android smartphones. Samsung also has the VR headset, the Gear VR. Gear VR has been around since 2015 but remains one of the best ways to get a virtual reality experience on mobile, providing you have a Samsung device. Unlike most other virtual reality apps for Android, Gear VR uses apps made for Oculus Rift.
Within the agricultural sector, virtual reality can be used to train farmers how to efficiently and effectively utilise new machinery. Interactive simulations can better assist a farmer to improve their handling skills.
As agricultural projects are often done in locations far away from most central business districts, access to veterinary doctors is often a challenge that leads to the loss of livestock. Veterinary doctors can assist farmers with their livestock inquiries in real time from a distance. In crop production farmers can examine their field and crops.
The information collected by virtual reality can be combined with satellite imaging to optimally diagnose plant specificities. Also future crop growth patterns can be predicted significantly improving crop data collection, testing and observation.
The Zimbabwean agricultural industry still lags behind technologically when compared with other countries. The opportunities for tech development in our agricultural industry are too many and quite profitable. The Zimbabwean farmer can only benefit from these opportunities once capital is invested in virtual reality by the Government and research intensified by academic institutions like the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) etcetera. The farming unions also need to come in and progressively participate in the technological road map for virtual reality applications in farming. Many farming challenges/obstacles can be easily solved faster and efficiently through these technologies.
Zimbabwe, among other sub-Saharan countries continues being the recipient or user of products and services of trillion/billion dollar multinational technological companies yet we have the brain power to do it on our own. Surely we are not optimally exploiting all the opportunities we have.
As long as third world countries do not take the initiative and steps to be world class product and services manufacturers we will be stuck on the buying end.
First world countries despite their lack of raw materials, over the years have formulated their success roadmap that thrives on obtaining their raw materials from impoverished countries that lack an appreciation of their resources. They process the aforementioned raw materials and then resell the final made product back to those countries.
*The writer is Engineer Tapuwa Justice Mashangwa, CEO – Emerald Agribusiness Consultancy. He can be contacted on +263771641714 or email: [email protected]