For Immediate Release
Date Posted: 4 December, 2018
The ICAC’s 77th Plenary Meeting:
High-Tech Help Is on the Way
for Small-Scale Farmers
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire — In many
of the world’s industries, robots and artificial intelligence are eliminating
jobs and putting people out of work. In some less developed countries, however,
high-tech solutions are being created to perform agricultural tasks for which
human labour is either too expensive or simply not available.
That was the key message from the Third Open Session at the
77th Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee
(ICAC), which is being held 2-6 December at the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire.
Cutting-edge technologies are focusing on new ways to enhance cotton cultivation throughout the growth cycle. Growers can use flying drones equipped with cameras to map their land prior to planting; artificial intelligence can evaluate the information provided by drones to help the farmer use that space as efficiently as possible; and self-driving rovers can be used not only to pick cotton during harvest, but also to inspect the plants as they mature to identify and eliminate pests and weeds.
Significant challenges will need to be addressed before
these technologies become widely available, especially their up-front costs and
the lack of power sources efficient enough to run the equipment for an extended
amount of time. Small-scale farmers rarely have the financial resources needed
to buy cutting-edge equipment at current prices, and many small-scale growers
live far from fuel supplies, severely limiting the utility and effectiveness of
However, all of the speakers agreed that while the
challenges might be formidable, they are far from insurmountable. They pointed
out that cell phones were prohibitively expensive when they were first
introduced, but once the technology gained broader adoption, prices dropped
rapidly. And, while batteries haven’t been a major focus of technology firms in
recent years, the potential of solar power and the development of innovative new
fuel cells offer tremendous potential.
With both the private sector and governments actively
searching for — and investing in — innovative ways to eliminate poverty, there
is reason for small-scale farmers around the world to be optimistic that
high-tech help is on the way.
The speakers at the Third Open Session were:
Manohar Sambandam, founding partner and CEO of Green Robot Machinery
Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, India
Rajesh Jain, Senior Director, Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Mumbai
Glen Rains, Professor, University of Georgia-Tipton, USA
Paulin Konan, Technical Director,
WeFlyAgri, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
About the International
Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC)
Formed in 1939, the ICAC is an association of
cotton producing, consuming and trading countries. It acts as a catalyst for
change by helping member countries maintain a healthy world cotton economy;
provides transparency to the world cotton market by serving as a clearinghouse
for technical information on cotton production; and serves as a forum for
discussing cotton issues of international significance. The ICAC does not have
a role in setting market prices or in intervening in market mechanisms. For
more information, please visit www.icac.org.