A paper published in 2013 on World Bank’s Group open knowledge repository depicted a medium to long term development potential for the African livestock sector as it reviewed data on the estimated consumption of animal sourced-food.
One of the predictions indicated that by 2050, the meat market for the continent is projected at 34.8 million tonnes and that of milk about 82.6 million tonnes.
Over this period, Africa’s increase in the volume of meat consumed will be on a par with that of the developed world and that of Latin America, with only South and Southeast Asia anticipated to register higher growth.
However, this data set may not come in as predicted as the narrative around agriculture has been emphasized much on crop production.
Owing to the prospects of the African livestock market, it is necessary to deploy technology in fast-tracking precision for livestock farming on the continent.
One platform that is driving this push is XY Analytics, a South African-based agritech startup that leverages technology to aid livestock farming on the continent.
Co-founded in 2016 by Kearabetswe Nyandeni (Chief of Operations) and Thulani Nyandeni (Chief Executive Officer), the duo figured that doing something that would improve their lives would be awesome, however taking it further to what positive impact it could have in the lives of others would prove more beneficial to the society at large.
“There’s been a continuous push in many industries by many organizations, to augment their technological capabilities so they can do business faster, cheaper & securely. Agriculture should not be left behind.”
“We knew we had something big in our hands that could be used in a myriad of industries. But we wanted to do something that would make a maximum impact. We chose agriculture because farmers do really play a critical role to the survival of our societies.”
Agriculture is the largest employer in the world, and a large percentage of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers.
Furthermore, 80% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and work mainly in agriculture.
“We wanted to create solutions that would educate and empower people to be able to use the resources they have to improve their own lives and those of others.”
By equipping smallholding/emerging farmers with the tools to manage their farms and grow enough to compete in the formal market, XY Analytics contributes towards alleviating hunger, creating employment opportunities, education and improved nutrition.
“Having established the importance of agriculture, we believe in sustainable farming, and that IoT and machine learning technology can enable farmers to farm in a way that does not harm the environment.”
Through the adoption of the aforementioned technology on the African continent, XY Analytics is not only transforming agriculture but also creating a window of opportunity for gender equality by advocating and encouraging more female participation which thus enhances the socio-economic autonomy of women.
“As a team of African individuals, who were lucky enough to get an education, despite our circumstances.
This is how we have chosen to give back, in the hopes that we can improve the lives of others so that they may have the opportunities to do the same for the generations to come.”
State of consumption of animal products in Africa
A large share of Africa’s poor household is made up of smallholder farmers, the majority of which rare animals.
This only shows that cattle farming is expected to continue growing at an exponential rate as the demand for beef and dairy continues to increase.
“It makes sense because we’ve seen reports of increasing incomes, changing diets and population growth.
All these changes have resulted in livestock farming becoming one of the fastest-growing agricultural sub-sectors, as the demand for beef and dairy products increases.
As Africans, we know that livestock contributes in many ways to the national welfare of our countries. We rely on livestock for many other reasons beyond food.
According to the World Bank, millions of farmers rely on livestock herding for food, income, and as a store of wealth, collateral or safety net in times of need.”
XY Analytics mission and vision
According to the founders, XY Analytics intends to achieve both with one farmer at a time.
“Everything we do is intended to deliver solutions that enable our farmers to make the right decisions and be more productive while minimizing costs and preserving natural resources.
We hope to empower and educate, whilst giving them the ability to increase their yields and profits.
In doing this, XY Analytics hopes to create an environment in which technology adoption is utilized to achieve sustainable growth in agriculture while minimizing the negative effects on the environment.
Each farmer we are able to reach and help transform their farming business, bring one step closer to achieving our vision.”
How XY Analytics deploys technology for livestock farming
The founders explained that XY Analytics’ technology is afforded by the 4IR, which has the ability to develop services that can overcome geographical and productivity limitations.
“Today we have a pathway to the many challenges facing the African continent. We live in an age where it is more possible now, than it has ever been, to address pressing societal and environmental challenges while alleviating poverty and raising people’s wellbeing.
We have a machine learning engine that could be used in so many other use cases, but we chose to focus on agriculture.
This is because we realized that food production is data-intensive, there are so many factors that farmers need to be aware of and take into consideration when making their decisions.”
Unfortunately with the uncertain weather conditions, it has become even more difficult for farmers to succeed.
However, farmer’s decision-making can be highly improved if all the data could be processed and analyzed faster. This is where artificial intelligence comes to the rescue.
“We developed a machine learning engine for precision agriculture, through which we can analyze data drawn from various sources.
We are able to cut through the noise and make sense of it, leading to vital insights that can transform business operations.
Both our precision livestock farming applications are machine learning-based, we make use of IoT and remote sensing to collect data.”
Explaining further about the technology, the founders said that the data is then processed in XY Analytics’ cloud-based machine learning engine that processes and analyzes the data (in context) and then provides timely, accurate and actionable insights.
This ultimately helps farmers to understand their animals and their land better, which results in better and informed decisions.
There is continuous monitoring of the animals and the environment and critical events are detected way before the farmers notice them.
“Machine learning allows for faster recognition of patterns & learns the specifics of the farm, which enables prediction of future events.
Farmers stay informed, make faster decisions & are able to take targeted action. This is why it’s called precision farming.”
Milestones since inception
According to the founders it took XY Analytics a while to find its footing and deciding the role it will play in the agriculture space because at some point the startup was crop-focused.
“However, we realized that from a technology perspective there is already a lot happening in crop farming. But livestock farmers were quite behind, except for the dairy farmers who have been incorporating technology in the past couple of years.
We realized that if we really wanted to make a difference we would need to tap into the livestock market. We went back to the drawing board, and hence we are here today focusing on livestock farming. This was our first and biggest turning point.”
In addition, the founder explained that the COVID-19 placed XY Analytics in a very challenging position, however, the agritech startup leveraged what appears to be a delayed time to develop its new application “SimplyGraze” which will launch on Thursday, April 1, 2021.
“At this point in time, we have 121 farmers from across Southern Africa, who are piloting the application. So far the feedback has been good and we’ve made the necessary improvements. We are now preparing for the big launch day. So far we have about 400+ farmers who have signed up for SimplyGraze and waiting for the big day.”
About Melusi-Connect and SimplyGraze
Melusi-Connect and SimplyGraze enable precision livestock farming. Both are targeted at cattle farmers and when used together they provide farmers with a full cattle management solution.
Is a cattle management solution that enables cattle farmers to monitor and track the wellbeing of the animals, at an individual and herd level.
Through a simple application, XY Analytics connected cow intelligent system eliminates the need for guesswork.
According to the founders, the app provides accurate, timely and actionable insights into each of the cow’s reproductive system, health status and physical movements.
This enables the farmer to make informed decisions about the herd and general farming operations.
This was designed to help farmers manage and improve the quality of their grazing.
“We analyze satellite images of the specific veld/pasture to determine the health of the vegetation and the soil on the land.”
The value to the farmer is that they receive monthly insights with recommendations, specific to the needs of their particular cattle breed, type of operation (stud or commercial) and farm season (mating, calving, weaning, etc).
Farmers also receive weather alerts, informing them of any changes or expected changes in the weather.
“The livestock farming business is big and is more than just cattle. So we intend to branch out into other markets.
As stated before our machine learning engine can be used in many use cases, and we will be continuing to introduce new applications so that other livestock farmers may have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of our technology.”
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