Agriculture and artificial intelligence

There is a link between agriculture and artificial intelligence. This piece of information was given by the Co-founder and Global Director of BudgiT, Nigeria’s leading civil organisation, Mr. Oluseun Onigbinde, during a recent discourse on the economy. Onigbinde said that the world is now at a convergence point where soil scientists, nutritionists, extension workers and animal experts may have to learn coding, machine language, and other tools in order to belong to the emerging agri-conomy.

This reality comes to play because over the years, agriculture was relegated to the background as a means of foreign exchange earning for the country that is in dire need for transformation for the good of the nation and that of the citizenry. Onigbide’s intervention was noticed and should be given the He said this while speaking at the 25th Annual Convention and 24th Annual Lecture Series of the Alumni Association of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, with the theme ‘Leading Agritech Revolution: The Role of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain in Agri-conomy’.

According to him, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming various industries, and agriculture is no exception, adding that the use of AI in agriculture had increased in recent years, bringing about significant improvements in the industry’s efficiency and productivity. He explained that “it is essential to ensure that big data is collected, stored, and analysed responsibly and appropriately to protect individual’s privacy and prevent data misuse”, noting that blockchain could help small farmers access financing and reduce the risk of fraud.

On his part, the co-speaker, Mr. Femi Adekoya, widely known as Flying Farmer and founder, Integrated Aerial Precision and Precision Field Academy, has charged the University Management to incorporate drone technology into its curriculum, establish drone training centre, promote collaboration, between the university and industry partners, provide financial backing for research and development in the use of drone technology applications, and support local content in the manufacturing and assembling of agricultural drones.

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of FUNAAB, Alhaji Umar Ahmed revealed that alumni associations are known to be key stakeholders in the advancement of their universities, noting that in many institutions, including FUNAAB, “a seat is most reserved for the alumni body on the governing council, which places a burden on the association to, not just be involved in policy making for the good corporate governance of the university, but to also be involved in agenda setting for the University administration”.

The Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Olusola Kehinde disclosed that the University had continued to register and record giant strides in its continued growth and development, and in its pursuit of excellence, which had been the hallmark of the institution since it was founded in 1988. The VC, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Christian Ikeobi, said the alumni should be proud of their alma mater because it had continued to move forward in the global comity of universities, adding that FUNAAB had always registered landmark achievements in all fields of endeavours. The National President of the Alumni Association, Dr. Olusegun Ogundiran, has reiterated that the theme of the annual lecture was carefully crafted to address the opportunities embedded in applying emerging technologies of AI, stressing that big data, and blockchain in agriculture.

Earlier, Dr. Ogundiran, had assured the university management that the association is ready to assist the institution in the fulfilment of its mandate. Dr. Ogundiran noted that “there are benefits in joining an alumni association”, saying it assists in making sure that the mentoring process continues and they are building a strong network, which was already yielding results. He added that the association “is connecting all FUNAABites across the globe by encouraging them to give back to their alma mater. We appreciate the management for the good work it is doing and for providing a conducive environment; they should be assured that the alumni association will always be there for them”.

Speaking on the programme, the Chairman, National Convention Organising Committee of FUNAABAS, Hon. Moruff Olalekan said Nigeria was getting closer to an era where universities in the country would have full financial autonomy, stating that as a specialised university, FUNAAB has both human and technical requirements to key into modern agricultural system. Also, the Director of Treasury (FUNAABAS), Alhaji Sikiru Salako said putting up a special programme like this was capital intensive, stressing “that there is synergy between the local and the international branches of the association”, and with their support, they have been able to weather the storm.

In summary, agriculture can take its pride of place in national development when farming is taken away from the traditional practices by embracing artificial intelligence, which can go a long way in production and revenue generation. Not only that, the role of specialised institutions can add value when the various components such as the alumni are allowed to drive their activities by using their talents, time, and treasure for the development of their alma mater. By so doing, the quest for the diversification of the economy, employment generation, and favourable foreign exchange earnings for the Nigerian economy would be advancing.

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