Agriculture is a dominant sector in Uganda having the biggest population in the country depending on it for not only food but also income. As a farmer growing crops, your major requirements for plant growth include sufficient sunlight, water, air and mineral elements, and a suitable temperature. And yet most farmers in Uganda are ignorant about soil minerals which determine the kinds of yields for their crops.
Three Computing students at Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) have come up with a simple innovative soil mineral deficiency detection device that analyzes and accurately detects mineral content in soil. This portable device can be accessed by any farmer to use to determine the type of mineral in their garden before planting any crop.
“Many farmers do not know that soil minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium greatly affect the farmland productivity. If the soil has low levels of any of these nutrients, the overall fertility of the soil decreases however application of fertilizers can help avert this condition,” says Morgan Lucky Kiconco, one of the developers of the innovation.
He elaborates that the problem today, is that farmers’ ignorance concerning the nutrient content of the soil on their farmlands is leading to poor crop yields, low income and ultimately; to poor health within women and their families.
Results from the FAO food trials indicate that an estimated 80% of arable land in Africa has low soil fertility and significant amounts of nutrients are lost every year which has led to a decline in the yield of crops due to low nitrogen and phosphorous content. Between 1975 and 2005, the crop yield deficit rose from 5% to 15%. These low yields contribute to low income, and malnutrition which arises from the food shortages.
With SoMiT Lab, a farmer would be able to analyze and accurately detect mineral content in soil in real-time. This device/lab is composed to two components i.e. a smart phone and a portable soil sampling device. This portable product, weighing about 5 kg, detects three main soil mineral i.e. nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are the most important that plants actively extract from the soil as nutrients. The soil content is detected in under 15 minutes by first extracting the soil sample, capturing the image and then analyses the image and send the report via SMS to the farmers phone.
Jean Amukwatse, who is also a co-developer of the innovation says the device allows for the farmers to clearly plan and make decisions concerning his crops and farmlands thus having our relationship between the device and the customer.
Speaking to the developers, they say the parties expected to purchase this device are the researchers, farmers, private and government institutions. The resources necessary to build up this device are a layered PVC box, high resolution camera, mobile phone and batteries both solar and electrically charged.
“Expecting to get healthy from eating food produced by crops planted in infertile soil is like drinking water with the hope of getting drunk. It’s never going to happen. Let’s grow the right crops in the right soil at the right time,” says Denise Nsubuga.