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Case study

Agricultural digitalization and automation in low- and middle-income countries: Evidence from ten case studies. Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2022

Digital and automation solutions can solve labour bottlenecks, increase agricultural productivity, resilience and efficiency, and improve environmental sustainability. However, access is limited in low- and lower-middle-income countries, especially for small-scale producers. Based on ten case studies in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia, this study investigates the suitability of digital and automation solutions for small-scale producers, the main drivers and barriers to their adoption and the role of policies and regulations in creating an enabling environment.

Findings show that technologies in the study countries are largely limited to smartphones and tablets, and related software tools (e.g. mobile applications). Most digital and automation solutions focus on crops, some on livestock and aquaculture, and a few on agroforestry. The most important adoption barriers include the high investment cost, lack of digital skills and knowledge and a lack of an enabling environment.

Yet, advances in mechanization supported by digital technologies, and the development of hiring platforms foster adoption. The emergence of guidelines, strategic plans and policies that regulate and streamline automation should be encouraged, as should providing producers with information about the benefits and costs of digital and automation solutions.

This study was developed as a background document for the FAO report The State of Food and Agriculture 2022 – Leveraging automation in agriculture for transforming agrifood systems.