Kathmandu, September 8, 2017
I was mesmerized to hear out innovative ideas from the 13 Finalists for Data Driven Farming Prize yesterday held at Radisson Hotel, Lazimpat, Kathmandu. Data-driven agriculture is not a new concept, yet the potential of these techniques and approaches has not yet come into full effect in less developed economies. This event aimed to provide a platform to showcase such approaches.
All the finalists presented their tools and approach that source, analyze and translate data into actionable, timely and context-specific information for smallholder farmers to improve value from agricultural productivity.
The 13 teams of entrepreneurs were very enthusiastic to present their idea to everyone in the exhibition and showcased the modules of their projects.
APPROACH AND IDEAS OF THE FINALISTS:
Farming Online: The team of UK-based venture, Farming Online, has created a smart-phone app ‘The Annapurna App’ with which Nepalese farmers can monitor the health of their crops and be inspired and connected to neighboring farmers growing the same or diverse crops. Their main focus is to use satellite imaging techniques to get the required and accurate data. “We want to use advanced technology to generate satellite data to bridge the communication gap between buyers and growers,” expressed the team.
ICT For Agriculture: Nepal-based ICT For Agriculture’s mobile and web platform IFA is capable of providing a localized core content, market prices of farm produce, crop advisories, input supply, on demand inquiries etc. “One of the major problems in Nepali data driven agriculture is the failure to address issues at the grass-root level. So, our major aim is to create an effective two-way interaction between farmers, suppliers, experts and government agencies working for a common goal,” mentioned the co-founders.
iDE: Working on integrated pest management practices (IPM), iDE has created a mobile integrated pest management solution, ‘IPMobile’. It delivers reliable information on IPM practices to smallholder farmers and connects them with local sales agents to buy essential inputs. “There is an urgent need for better information and service delivery for pest management in Nepal, especially with the dangers of the pest exotic Tuta absoluta, so that is how we came up with this idea,” shared the enthusiastic team.
Intrepid Geoinformatics: “The ability of farmers to maximize their selling price on their harvest is very important. More than productivity, farmer’s livelihoods depend on getting the right market prices. That’s why our web portal exists,” revealed the team. Their solution is a web portal ‘ingeoninfo.com’, which helps farmers select and manage vegetable crops based on historical market demand and pricing.
DB2Map: The initiator of the idea ‘GeoKRISHI’- an integrated data-driven agriculture intelligence system for Nepal to improve crop productivity, Nepal based DB2Map is working for better interpretation of data for farmers. “Though Nepal has enough useful agricultural data, it lacks proper interpretation for the farmers to be able to understand it well. So, we want to simply the process for everyone through our app which will guide them towards the entire planning, preparation, growing and post-harvest phases,” explained DB2Map co-founders.
Peat: Germany based Peat has developed ‘Plantix 2.0’ app for crop diagnosis for farmers worldwide. Plantix 2.0 gives instant and customized advice using image recognition and machine technology. The coordinator elaborated, “Plantix 2.0 will be adapted to cover Nepali crops in local languages and help smallholder farmers to prevent yield losses and adapt their fertilization and diversity tactics to boost the productivity.”
Spero Analytics: The team of Spero Analytics is working to enable precision agriculture among smallholder farmers in Nepal. “Nepal faces many climatic disasters regularly. So, we thought of organizing the data from soil moisture sensors to help farmers be prepared for such unpredictable scenarios,” shared the inventors. They have proposed using a wireless soil moisture mesh network to solve the existing problem.
Tel Aviv University: “Farmers usually tend to accept recommendations from people they know and trust. So, we want to build a trusted network to reach more farmers individually,” expressed the team from Tel Aviv University. The Israeli University has proposed a web-portal, NITSAN, which enables mobile phone based data exchange between Nepali smallholders and experts who train them in Israeli farms. It will provide targeted recommendations for the users.
VOTO Mobile Nepal: VOTO Mobile Nepal has developed a free mobile agricultural information service 321, aiming to optimize voice-based localized advisories. 321 addressed the informal value chain: smallholder farmers, agricultural cooperatives, and input suppliers. The team of VOTO Mobile Nepal mentioned, “We aim to provide contextual information to farmers with interactive voice messages through free phone calls. We believe that a simple addition of a human voice can make people more receptive to new information.”
R&D Innovative Solutions: “We want to provide the right information to the right people in the right sector. Our ‘Agri Nepal’ aims to address the challenges faced by farming communities in Nepal through digital innovation”, shared the team of Agri Nepal. Agri Nepal is a mobile app that has interactive features on and off line. It helps farmers to manage appropriate seeds and crops, as well as providing market linkages based on the farmer’s location.
Dreamwork Solution: Developing a cloud-based software that monitors cultivation practices remotely and shares information, the team of Dreamwork Solution, believes, “As farmers in Nepal lack access and knowledge about information technology, we made a software to let them use the solutions without knowing the nitty-gritty’s behind the process.” They use the network of local agricultural entrepreneurs to reach out to the smallholder farmers.
Ekutir Global, PBC: Presenting ‘FarmChalo’, Ekutir Global identifies and trains agro-dealers and community agents armed with mobile devices. The agents gather reliable farmer data consistently on the mobile platform ‘FarmChalo’, allowing previously disconnected smallholder farmers’ access to sustainable inputs and markets. “Our solution is the right combination of people, micro-retailers and the digital platform,” described the app-developers.
Gham Power: Gham Power has invented ‘Off Grid Bazaar’, a project development platform that helps small farmers improve their yield by selecting an optimal mix of crops and agro-processing systems like water pumps. It predicts water requirements and recommends appropriate solar water pumps by using actual yield-level data. Members of Gham Power, shared, “Since we know that having access to energy is not enough, we have combined solar grid systems to help people make productive use of energy.”
The exhibition event not only provided an opportunity for these creative entrepreneurs to present their idea, but also a wide networking platform with investors, business leaders and people from different walks of life. All in all, it highlighted the advanced use of technology to reach the grass-root level farmers in the nation. Data-driven agriculture will surely provide a significant boost in the agricultural sector of Nepal.
By Drishti Maharjan