The Connected Farmer: How Vodacom is Making Farming Cool

The Connected Farmer: How Vodacom is Making Farming Cool

by Staff Writer

Farming is sexy, again.

No. You are hallucinating!

This could be a stupid way to lure young people into an agricultural industry that is dominated by old people with no technology at all.

With the South African farming industry being dominated by old Afrikaner farmers, many people in the country have been scratching their heads how do we make this sector cool again – if it ever was before.

Farming is for the Afrikaners.

Blacks are not into farming at all.


There are those who have received their land from claiming it back from the state and ready to work the land – technology can help.

But there are also many smallholder farmers with no skills.

And it seems Vodacom wants to promote farming as a sexy profession.

But how?

Vuyani Jarana

Vodacom Business Chief Officer Vuyani Jarana addresses the audience at Vodacom’s business briefing in Port Elizabeth on Friday 4th November. (Photo Credit: Vodacom)

Vodacom, which is owned by British mobile phone giant Vodafone, has collaborated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Government and Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions to launch a mobile technology solution to support South African smallholder farmers into commercial agriculture.

With an estimated combined investment about R21 million over three years, the ‘Connected Farmer’ platform, a cloud-based web and mobile software solution, will link thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain enabling access to information, services, and markets.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a much wider impact on nation economies and in the case of agriculture, IoT is expected to help improve agriculture productivity, address food security, create jobs and increase incomes in the agriculture sector. The project will support participating agribusinesses to promote sustainable agricultural practices among smallholder farmers.

Female hand holding a smartphone against table of fresh produce at market

Female hand holding a smartphone against table of fresh produce at market (Photo Credit:

“Vodacom believes that ICT provides innovative solutions to address Africa’s societal and economic challenges.  Leveraging the successful implementation of Connected Farmer projects in East Africa, we are laying the foundation for inclusive growth in the agriculture sector through integrated value chains in agriculture.

Africa is a net importer of cereal, yet it is endowed with greater proportions of arable land. For Africa to be able to feed itself, the application of ICT-based solutions like the Connected Farmer is critical,” Vuyani Jarana, chief officer for Vodacom Business, said in a statement.

Food security in South Africa remains a challenge, with just 30 000 commercial farmers being responsible for most of the country’s food production. Over 200 000 smallholder farmers and an estimated 2 million subsistence farmers have an important role to play in food security and poverty reduction, yet their access to markets, information and finance are limited or non-existent.

There is also a lack of available data on smallholder farmers and their supply chains, which is a barrier to informed decision-making by agribusinesses and policy makers.

Mobile ICT solutions such as Vodacom’s Connected Farmer platform will help to address this by providing farmers with the services they need. This promotes sustainable agricultural practices, enhances productivity and, most importantly, reduces risk.

Sourcing from smallholder farmers, as a result, becomes more realistic and executable for food manufacturers and retail businesses, increasing the number of smallholders and subsistence farmers in commercial agricultural value chains. This has been proven in the deployment of the Connected Farmer platform in East Africa.

“Digitising the agricultural value chain means that smallholder farmers will benefit from access to information and markets. Vodacom and its partners will enable this while reducing some of the risks carried by agribusinesses,” Jarana said.

“Vodacom’s ICT services enable enterprises to have real-time visibility of their supply chains, as well as the ability to engage and communicate with smallholders directly.”

The Connected Farmer platform is aimed at connecting enterprises, small and commercial agribusinesses, NGOs, and farmer associations.

Vodacom’s partnership with GIZ will provide commercial and operational support to link thousands of farmers to this platform, enhancing the sustainability and longevity of the initial deployment of the service in the South African agriculture sector. The launch of this platform further complements the current Internet of Things platforms which Vodacom has launched into the various markets and segments.

A farmer can use any mobile device on any network to access the Connected Farmer’s platform and through SMS receive valuable information including weather forecasts and market prices. Farmers with smartphones can access the same platform with increased capability to access additional content.

Man use mobile phone, blur image of harvested rice field as background.

Man use mobile phone, blur image of harvested rice field as background. (Photo Credit:

Through the partnership with Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions, a local developer of Agricultural Decision Support Systems for the past 25 years, Vodacom will provide farmers and enterprise users with access to a broad and deep reservoir of relevant and expert content.

Agribusinesses pay a monthly service fee per farmer and per mobile enterprise user, who are provided with the requisite hardware, software, training, and support as a managed service.




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