A NEW digital farming system has boosted crop yields across thousands of hectares of farmland in southern Africa, creating jobs locally and in the UK.

AgSpace Agriculture’s new GRID system gives farmers access to advanced agricultural satellite mapping and analysis, backed by independent agronomic advice. The information helps producers to make better management decisions and allows them to offer evidence of their crops’ performance to financial providers to gain access to credit and insurance.

Launched earlier this year, the new system is now operational in nine African countries and further expansion is predicted to create up to 775 jobs between the UK and Africa by 2024.

AgSpace Director, Vince Gillingham, said: “Some 80% of the African workforce makes a living from agriculture, but many are crippled by a lack of access to financial products to develop their businesses. Price fluctuations for inputs and products, along with crop failure, due to pests, diseases, temperature or variable rainfall, hold the entire agricultural ecosystem back.

“It is very difficult for credit providers to measure risk in the face of such variables without good data from farmers," he explained. "GRID offers a precision data-driven opportunity for overcoming this barrier, giving providers the evidence and confidence they need to support farmers in increasing yields, growing their farms and ultimately contributing to wider economic development.”

GRID uses high resolution satellite data to monitor crop performance while providing local weather data for every farm on an hourly basis. It provides soil mapping and soil health monitoring, supports fertiliser planning for increased efficiency and higher yields and calculates yield predictions.

Farmers access agronomy advice by smart phone to improve production while financial providers use the same satellite data to monitor crop performance and build a clear picture of each farm, whatever its size and however remote.