I think there are at least two kinds of digital agriculture. One is on value chain, linking farmers to other value-chain actors and markets by providing information on prices as well as location and demand/preference of actors/potential buyers. Under this category, we can put giving farmers access to formal finance programmes/institutions through mobile phones.
Another type deals with information more related to production itself. While weather forecast based on the latest meteorology and climatology is of great use to the farmers, it should not replace their ability to observe the fields and their surroundings and to deduce weather, climate and the state of the environment (e.g., soil moisture, temperature) from observations. We should encourage complementarity between (digital) technology/science and farmers’ on-the-ground knowledge, just as western science and indigenous knowledge have drawn benefits from each other. Citizen monitoring of the environment has been noted for its financial and technical effectiveness, but also for raising awareness and instilling sense of responsibility. It could be said that farmers’ involvement in observing, recording and sharing information on the environment is a type of citizen monitoring.
We should also ensure farmers’ involvement in development of digital information, which would boost usefulness to the end users, i.e., farmers, and their interest in the products. Given that the youth are very much adept at ICT and that IT related jobs are considered attractive by them, digital agriculture provides a means for keeping the youth in rural areas. In remote areas, where the technicians in charge of meteorological stations cannot visit often, involving farmers in weather station installation and other related information sharing could well lead to farmers’ acting as guardians of the stations. With proper training, they may be able to conduct simple repair, which can also be of interest to the youth.
The related issues of infrastructure and education are often mentioned, but we should also consider the increases in energy demand (and also water, in case fossil fuel continues to be used) that would be required to support any digital system.