Big data: Future of agriculture in Emirates

Big data Productively evolving the future of agriculture in Emirates (2) copy

Alkesh Sharma / Emirates Business

Imagine a UAE farmer sitting in the cabin of his high-tech tractors. Through the glass windows he is able to oversee hectares of crops while monitoring couple of computer screens and he can point out the exact locations in the field where his worker had missed a seed or the location that is facing a likely threat of termite attack.
Soon it’s all going to be a reality as it’s not only technology sector that is prolifically impacted by ‘big data’ but UAE agriculture is also aiming to harvest good yields out of it in the coming days. Experts are suggesting potent solutions to arid soil and lower levels of ground water to UAE agriculturists, with the help of big data.
“Agriculture sector in UAE is facing stiff challenges in the form of arid landscapes, saline water and acute shortage of fresh water for irrigation. So far, much advancement has been made to overcome these hurdles and intelligent use of big data could be an effective tool to counter them further,” said Mark Stephens, a Botany scientist, who is doing research on the usefulness of big data in MENA agriculture, told Emirates Business.
“Many farms in UAE have started considering the usage of big data. It’s still at nascent stages but initial outcomes are quite encouraging. Cues collected from big data are helping to draft an efficient mechanism to manage crops and their water supply,” stated Stephens, who has collected data related to vegetable cultivation in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
Stephens said that vegetable yield could be easily increased between 10 to 15 percent in UAE if farmers go by the big data findings.
Researchers are expecting to curtail the amount of water needed for crop irrigation and to foresee the crop behaviour at particular areas.
“We are hoping to reduce the amount of irrigation water by upto 50 percent if we closely monitor the past as well as current trends. This could be done by strategically placing sophisticated sensors in farmlands. These sensors would precisely clock the moisture levels in the soil and air, and farmers could plan the irrigation levels accordingly,” said Singapore-based agriculture scientist Dr. Vinay Sharma, who has partnered with various UAE investors to implement the project.
At the same time farm experts are suggesting to have a futuristic strategy while making use of
big data.
“We are getting immense amount of data everyday. Yes, it has helped to raise the standards of crop cultivation in this region but still we have a long way to go. Only problem that we are facing right now is that this data is fragmented in this region. You cannot imagine the potential when we start getting the data from thousands of farms at one place and it is analysed in real time,” said
a university professor in Agriculture Sciences, requesting not to
be named.

Big data Productively evolving the future of agriculture in Emirates (4) copy

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