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Farmers not waking up to agriculture-as-a-service

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As the backbone of developing economies, agriculture not only serves to feed a nation but creates employment and, often, contributes significantly to the GDP. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require a 70% increase in overall food production, highlighting the need for increased, and more efficient, agricultural activities globally. Additionally, the FAO states that 80% of farmland in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is managed by smallholders working on 10 hectares or less.

According to Thomas Fuerst, WING Marketing at Nokia, while research clearly shows that technology can add tremendous value to South African farmers, the uptake has not been what it should be, particularly among subsistence and small-scale farmers. “This is likely due to the perceived costs associated with technology,” he says.  

The adoption of technology in agriculture also requires that various stakeholders work together. In a report done by the University of Stellenbosch for the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, while agricultural technology will result in higher yields, reduced costs and improved nutritional value of foods, it needs the farming sector, government and education institutions to work together. “Crop disease, pests, and drought are some of the biggest issues facing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Fuerst. According to CAB International crop pests and disease account for close to half of the total crop losses in developing countries and in a 2017 UN report, it was stated that about 200 000 people, mostly from developing countries, die every year from pesticide poisoning. “By using technology, and more particularly the Internet of Things (IoT), we can arm farmers with more detailed data about their farm as well as the macro environment to assist them in planning their crops more accurately and thereby driving a better yield, while eliminating risk,” he says.

Fuerst says there are three key challenges that need to be solved, the first of which is data availability and integrity. “The farmer has a small plot and can’t necessarily afford to buy different types of sensors to measure moisture, temperature or pests and put them on their small farm. Even if they could afford it, they need to know about weather and other conditions from a macro or wide area perspective, so that can predict what the impact of these will be on them in the future.”

The second challenge is what do they do with the data. They need tools that help them know what the weather is, what pests are coming, etc. and enable them to make decisions based on that information. The third challenge is the business model – it must be affordable for both the operator and the smaller farmers for it to be successful.

“If you look at developing economies, you don’t always have the large commercial farms that you find in developed countries. You have lots of smaller farmers who are working a small plot of land and operate in almost subsistence mode. That means that they have a limited budget available to spend on rolling out technology solutions, even if those will make their farms run more efficiently and save them costs. They require a solution that is packaged as an affordable ‘as-a-service’ package that will enable them to gather data to drive more intelligent decisions. This is where IoT comes into play,” he says.

Nokia’s Smart Agriculture-as-a-service solution runs on the Nokia Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING), which is a global horizontal platform which allows telcos to notonly roll out IoT services more quickly on their network but gives them the flexibility to scale globally when they need to. “They don’t have to rely on the cost and complexity of things like roaming agreements that you have with traditional mobile phone services. It allows operators to roll out IoT services much quicker and scale their network much faster without investing huge amounts of CAPEX,” says Fuerst.  

Nokia works with the operator to roll out sensors that detect moisture, temperature, wind speed, and pests and deploy them across their whole network, not just in one province or town. “This way they are gathering data about the weather, pests and climate conditions across a far wider area and provide this data to the farmersas a service. There’s a smartphone, tablet or a computer application where they can access and leverage that data. It gives them access to data on weather conditions, pest trends, etc. and they can make smarter decisions about irrigation, applying pesticides, when to harvest or not and things like that. The farmer then also has the ability, if there’s some specific problem they have, they can send an SMS to an advisory centre and get advice on how to solve a specific problem.”

The operator, on the other hand, doesn’t have to invest a lot of CAPEX to roll out this IoT network and then put all these sensors on it – they can leverage WING to keep their costs low for the infrastructure and all they have to do is buy these sensors and put them across their network. Then they can access all that data and it can allow them, with minimal CAPEX, to now offering a service to their farmers at a low enough price so that the business model works for both parties.

Addressing the issue of future food requirements resides not in trying to find and develop new agricultural lands but in transforming current farms into more ’intelligent’ ones for sustainable agriculture.  “A successful smart agriculture program can be achieved through collaboration between the various stakeholders – technology providers, device manufacturers, platform providers, governmental entities, non-governmental organizations, agricultural cooperatives, agricultural companies, and farmers,” Fuerst concludes. “Critical to this, however, is finding the right business model, which works for both the farmer and the network operator.  The WING smart agriculture as-a-Service is unique in this regard because it allows farmers to benefit from IoT technology without the need to invest in it while giving the operator a pay-as-you-go business model that limits investment demands while offering a clear path to new revenues.”

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Gaming gets rad at Rand Show

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With the opening of the 125th Rand Show at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, today, gamers and cosplayers have a new destination to strut their stuff.

A new addition to the show, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion, is offering anything from gaming and cosplay to dance-offs and  science displays.

The organisers provided the following information (although several million exclamation marks and exaggerations have been removed!):

Fortnite Tournament

There was a time when Gaming was a considered a solitary pastime, confined to single player consoles; but that truly is a thing of the past with a fully immersive Fortnite Tournament open to all Fortnite afficionados and even those just starting out. Players can battle it out over both show weekends, including a final on each weekend. Family fan clubs can also get in on the action with live broadcasts of the game as it happens across screens – a full-on Fortnite family affair. Sponsored by PlayStation, gamers are truly going to be spoiled and should get in on the action as fast as they can because R 100 000 in cash prizes is up for grabs.

Smart Technology Centre will deliver a super-fast FibreMAX 500Mbps fibre link, wholly dedicated to the gaming pavilion to ensure that absolutely nothing ruins the thrill of the National Fortnite Tournament. 

“As the exclusive connectivity provider, we have gone all out to ensure an amazing experience for gamers,” says Dillynn Els of Smart Technology Centre (STC), an internet service provider (ISP) and IT technology partner. “When it comes to gaming and the best experience possible, it’s all about ensuring we provide a dedicated, uncapped, unshaped connection that makes every second count.”

Keen players can come along and enter on the day, but don’t delay because space is limited.

Fortnite Inspired Dance Off

Visitors can come along and be entertained by the finalists in the Fortnite inspired dance-off. There will be daily dances to enjoy for the entire duration of the show.

Come and play – Cosplay, to be exact.

The stage is set for a celebration of creativity and imagination that is going to be literally out of this world. Super hero heavy weights and masters of the mysterious will be letting their creative vision loose and take part in various Cosplay Tournaments and a visually stunning Cosplay Masquerade. Come see what all the fuss is about and get lost in this world costumes, colour and creative talent.

Games, Games and Science

For those wanting to get their gaming on, there will be three free play areas sponsored by Xbox with a host of games available to play. Xbox will be giving away 3 Xbox 1’s and an awesome Xbox 1X, but you truly have to be in it to win it, so make sure you don’t miss out.

The Kalahari Scientist will be onstage delighting visitors with his explosive displays that are guaranteed to up the ooh and aah factor with audiences young and old.

But wait, there’s more

Along with the larger-than-life gaming entertainment offering, visitors will also get to be the first gamers on SA soil to get a sneak peak of PlayStation’s brand new Mortal Kombat 11. Don’t miss your chance to experience the continuation of this epic saga through a new cinematic story that is more than 25 years in the making. The iconic showcasing brutal battles like never before, along with a host of customisable fighters with enhanced graphics and animations.

Other activities at the Pavilion include VR Experiences, a full-on NAG Nerf Arena, Gaming vendors with awesome gaming content, retailers selling gaming related products and software, and tutorials and workshops on how to improve your gaming skills, Celebrity Fortnite match off for charity.

With huge sponsors such as PlayStation, Xbox, MMS, NAG, SABC 2 and Smart Technology, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion is geared up to become a hot zone of entertainment.

Win big

In case the entertainment offering just doesn’t get the heart beats racing fast enough, an all-expenses paid trip to TwitchCon USA, sponsored by PlayStation, in conjunction with 94.7 Highveld Stereo, is waiting for one lucky visitor to grab it. Every ticket purchased into the Entertainment Gaming Pavilion qualifies as an entry, so bring the whole family along for the ride.

Tickets to the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion can be purchased at the show for R 20 which gives the ticket holder access for  two hours.

The pavilion will be open from 14h00 to 19h00 weekdays and 10h00 to 19h00 on weekends from 19 to 28 April 2019.

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Riaad Moosa show debuts on Vodacom Video Play

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Riaad Moosa’s comedy special, Life Begins, will be the first major local title to be released on Vodacom’s video-on-demand service, Video Play.

As an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and presenter, Riaad Moosa is one of South Africa’s most renowned funny men. His one-man show is available for download on the platform from today, 26 April 2019. Life Begins is rated PG-16L

Vodacom’s says its affordable video-on-demand service, Video Play, has had an incredible uptake since its launch in August 2018, with over 2-million subscribers. 

“But with a proliferation of affordable video-on-demand platforms available to the South African market, what is it that gives Video Play the competitive edge?” it asked in a release this week. “Recognising the consumer’s need for flexibility and freedom of choice, Vodacom has ingeniously developed an adaptable subscription model that puts the power in consumers’ hands. Forget being tied down to a monthly subscription. Video Play gives consumers the liberty of choosing a daily, weekend or even monthly package. 

“Blockbuster movies can even be viewed for a once off cost, without subscription. Furthermore, these bundles can be purchased according to niche categories and genres, from Bollywood movies to gospel music.”

Consumers are able to pay for movies and series by using their airtime or adding it to their bill, eliminating the need for a credit card. Subscribers are also able to purchase video-specific data at a fraction of the regular price to consume constant content without overspending. Daily subscriptions start from R5 a day.

Zunaid Mahomed, Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer, says: “Video Play has enabled the company to provide a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. With the addition of Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins, we’re excited to offer consumers even more quality content and a wider variety of entertainment on demand than ever before. We’re putting quality entertainment, into the hands of anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.”

Riaad Moosa describes his show as “very philosophical and existential”.

“It involves the normal issues of getting older while at the same time experiencing, at a maturity where I’m supposed to be wise, a world that is completely turned on its head.  It’s about how I negotiate all these things happening around me while trying to maintain a positive attitude. Through my comedic lens, I hope to put a different spin on that and hopefully I can enter my next 40 years with renewed vigour and excitement.”

To access Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins comedy special, register for Video via the Video Play website (www.videoplay.co.za).

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