Sara Menker and Gro Intelligence Are Tackling Global Hunger with Smart Farming
Smart farming allows farmers, ranchers, and fishers worldwide to track and measure the food they grow and consume, using technologies like smartphone apps (i.e. Gro Intelligence) that analyze data to tell farmers which crops have the best nutritional value, grow conditions and temperature that will provide the highest yields, and the most efficient and cost-effective ways to harvest and process the crops.
“With a new approach to farming, we can feed everyone,” says Gro Intelligence CEO, Eric S. Johnson. “We’re taking advantage of the Internet of Things and big data to build a platform to help everyone, from small growers to big companies, become smarter about the food they grow.”
In their first years, Smart Farming grew to encompass nearly two dozen farmers in rural, off-grid regions in South Africa, where they grew over 10,000 acres of crops with mobile technologies.
Now, as they transition from an off-the-grid food system to a connected, smart one that provides the connected agriculture of the future, Gro Intelligence is focusing on the world’s poorest people in Sub-Saharan Africa and other areas in need of improved food security.
In recent months, as the global food production system has collapsed from extreme weather events like droughts and floods, the UN recently warned that there could be no more food available for the nearly 2 billion people who need it.
More than half the world’s undernourished children are in Africa, and over 1 billion people worldwide face hunger, according to the FAO.
In 2015, South and East Africa were hit with three of the highest number of natural disasters on record. More than 1.25 million people, in both countries, died and over 400,000 people were displaced, and the UN said that extreme weather and poverty make up the biggest threats to food security and food availability, particularly in the areas in which Gro Intelligence works.
“With smart farming, we can help farmers with drought conditions, pests, pest outbreaks, and climate change challenges, as well as help the people who are growing our crops to avoid famine due to crop failure,” says Johnson.
“For the first time ever, we are able to use data to see what is happening in real time with how water or crops are being affected by climate change,