IoT Sensing Platform as a Driver for Digital Farming in Rural Africa

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Jun 21;20(12):3511. doi: 10.3390/s20123511.


Small-scale farming can benefit from the usage of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve crop and soil management and increase yield. However, in order to introduce digital farming in rural areas, related ICT solutions must be viable, seamless and easy to use, since most farmers are not acquainted with technology. With that in mind, this paper proposes an Internet of Things (IoT) sensing platform that provides information on the state of the soil and surrounding environment in terms of pH, moisture, texture, colour, air temperature, and light. This platform is coupled with computer vision to further analyze and understand soil characteristics. Moreover, the platform hardware is housed in a specifically designed robust casing to allow easy assembly, transport, and protection from the deployment environment. To achieve requirements of usability and reproducibility, the architecture of the IoT sensing platform is based on low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware and software modularity, following a do-it-yourself approach and supporting further extension. In-lab validations of the platform were carried out to finetune its components, showing the platform's potential for application in rural areas by introducing digital farming to small-scale farmers, and help them delivering better produce and increasing income.

Keywords: computer vision; digital farming; internet of things; rural Africa; sensing platform; small-scale farmers.