Durban — KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube has launched a smart farming project that is expected to benefit more than 3 000 unemployed youth graduates and boost food security amid climate challenges.
The provincial government said that Dube-Ncube is revolutionising farming to increase productivity by using the latest technology to water crops, monitor pesticides in fields and grow the economy.
Dube-Ncube launched the smart farming project on Saturday, in partnership with the Fuze Institute and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as part of a province-wide “Smart Province” drive to boost food security and economic growth at Fuze’s uKulinga Research Farm.
The farm has been the site of unique and ground-breaking research in several agricultural disciplines, providing an invaluable resource for close to 5 000 smallholder farmers in the region.
The solution incorporates state-of-the-art technology, such as smart sensors, automated irrigation, crop monitoring, automated harvesting and many more.
The highlight of the event was the walkabout and demonstrations on Smart Farming Technology systems, hydroponics and greenhouses, and drone pesticide demonstration.
Attendees had the opportunity to experience first-hand the ground-breaking Smart Farming Technology systems and learn more about how they will benefit close to 5 000 smallholder farmers and cooperatives in the region.
Dube-Ncube was joined by the MEC of Agriculture and Rural Development Super Zuma, uMgungundlovu District Municipality mayor Muziwokuthula Zuma, Founder of Fuze Institute Dr Thandi Ngcobo and deputy vice-chancellor of UKZN College of Agriculture Engineering and Science Professor Fhatuwani Mudau.
Dube-Ncube emphasised the importance of investing in the province and the role of technology in farming.
“We are proud to launch this ground-breaking Smart Farming Technology solution that combines innovation, efficiency and sustainability.
“Investing in technology is key to growing our economy and ensuring sustainable food production in the region.
“We need to embrace the concept of smart farming and the use of technology, to ensure that many more people are employed in the value chain and we have resilient farming,” Dube-Ncube said.
The smart farming system is designed to integrate seamlessly into any farming operation, regardless of the size of the farm.
Key components include a smart greenhouse which incorporates smart automated irrigation systems, sustainable energy generation, and a mobile app for real-time insights and remote control of greenhouse functions.
The importance of smart farming technologies to upskill and capacitate residents in the province, particularly rural women and youth was highlighted; to improve the quality of life for rural communities by reducing the need for manual labour and providing new opportunities for economic development.
Dube-Ncube said government investment through UIF Funded Projects will ensure that 14 771 food handlers are to be trained and employed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.
“With an average of five members per cooperative, each supporting an average of three family members – this Fuze Institute Smart Farming initiative will uplift close to 80 000 lives out of poverty and boost family incomes.
“Over and above that, more than 3 000 Unemployed Youth Graduates will be trained in Smart Farming including agricultural drone operators,” Dube-Ncube said.
KZN is the largest agricultural province in South Africa, accounting for 18% of the country’s agricultural land and the uKulinga Research Farm Smart Farming promises to revolutionise agriculture in the region.
“The smart farming technologies we introduced today (Saturday) can help farmers improve their sustainability by reducing their water usage and their reliance on pesticides and herbicides.
“Moreover, sensors can be used to monitor soil moisture and nutrient levels, and drones can be used to survey crops for pests and diseases,” Dube-Ncube said.
WhatsApp your views on this story at 071 485 7995.