Farmers, Agricultural Extension Officers and Researchers converged in Abeokuta on Wednesday 6th of July, 2022 to exchange ideas on the use of technology to determine soil nutrients status for improved crop yield.
The seminar organized by SmartSoil Project team of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) was titled “Digital Soil Mapping for Optimal Agricultural Yield and Sustainable Soil Biodiversity Management Using Artificial Intelligence” was held at the Conference Centre of Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority, Alabata Road, Abeokuta.
The SmartSoil Project Leader, Professor Olusegun Folorunso while speaking at the seminar stated that the development objective of the new project is to “improve sustainable soil management for agricultural production in Southwest, Nigeria” and it will be the beginning of an impactful journey in an interdisciplinary collaboration between soil scientists, computer scientists, agricultural extension agents, agricultural policy makers and farmers in Southwest Nigeria.
He stated that the SmartSoil Project is one of the projects under the AGriDI programme sponsored by the European Union under the supervision of International Centre for Insect Physiology & Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, Kenya.
Professor Folorunso who is the Head of Department, Computer Science, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta informed the gathering of objective of AGriDI which is to “enhance inclusive green growth through agri-based digital innovations especially for women and youth farmers in Western Africa” and the 10 projects funded under the programme will be implemented for a duration of two years, starting from 2022.
The FUNAAB team emerged one of the winners of the call after a very competitive and rigorous selection process by the project donor (EU) and project coordinator (ICIPE). He congratulated the team for the very impressive feat of being the only University/Research Institute in Nigeria that was selected for the award.
Prof Folorunso explained that “without doubt, the importance of soil fertility and its effect on crop performance and yield can never be over emphasized, yet majority of farmers either overlook this important fact or largely underutilize it principally due to their inability to investigate or estimate correctly the level of nutrients inherent in the parcel of land available to them and by extension do not know if the land is actually suitable for the crop they are planning to grow on the same land. This in turn affect their yield negatively and consequently their income”
The SmartSoil project according to the project leader is aimed at solving this fundamental challenge faced by farmers by utilizing latest technologies and innovations in soil and computer science. Two major target outputs of the project are SmartSoil Android app through which farmers can access the estimated soil fertility information of any location in Southwest Nigeria and capacity development for researchers and students on digital agricultural innovations. These solutions will in turn boost the productivity of farmers, encouraged the practices of smart agriculture and improve the livelihood of target beneficiaries.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Felix Kolawole Salako who was represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Professor C.O.N. Ikeobi congratulated the SmartSoil Project Team for making FUNAAB proud and re-echoing FUNAAB among the international research community.
He promised total support of the University administration to the project and wish the team a successful endeavour.
Other dignitaries present at the occasion includes Professor O. B. Kehinde, Deputy Vice-Chancelor (Development) FUNAAB, Professor Victor Makinde, Acting Dean, College of Physical Sciences, FUNAAB and Mrs. Ibukun-Oluwa Iroko, Director of Agricultural Extension Services, Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (OYMA&RD).
Detailed project overview was presented by Dr. Mutiu Abolanle Busari (SmartSoil Co-Project Leader). Dr. Busari who is also the Acting Director of the Directorate of Research, Innovations and Partnerships (DRIP-FUNAAB) explained the history of how the project came into being and what the project intends to achieve at the end its tenure.
Dr. Busari also explained practically how the project intend to achieve the goals and the role of all stakeholders. The project manager, Mr Adebayo M. Adebayo demonstrated a prototype SmartSoil web applications for determination of soil nutrients during the seminar attended by over 100 farmers, agricultural extension agents and policy makers from Southwest Nigeria. Representatives of Ogun state Agricultural Development Programme, (OGADEP), Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development (OYMARD) and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) Moore Plantation, Ibadan were at the event.
The farmers while sharing their goodwill messages expressed their joy to be part of the seminar noting that a lot of development projects in agriculture have focused on agronomy/crop production aspect, only a few have addressed soil nutrients and fertility issues..