CGIAR announces agritech blog post contest winners
25 February 2020
Agritech – the use of cutting-edge technological innovations in agriculture – is generating a lot of buzz these days. Entrepreneurs and start-ups all over the world are brimming with brilliant ideas for bringing big data, connectivity, and digital platforms into the field, and the results so far have been incredibly promising.
But in addition to the typical practical challenges facing new technologies, agritech entrepreneurs seeking to extend their digital services into remote areas face the dual problem of unnecessarily duplicated work contrasted against gaps and bottlenecks. And, of course, getting the word out about these new technologies is difficult as well.
To combat these challenges, the Community of Practice on Data-Driven Agronomy, one of six expert communities established by CGIAR´s Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, launched a blog competition. Small entrepreneurs on the front lines of agritech were invited to share their experiences with their technologies – the types they use, their business model, the expected impacts – and the challenges they’ve faced, as well as how they’ve addressed them. A panel of industry experts evaluated the entries and ultimately chose three winners from among a pool of finalists. Each of the three winners received a prize of US$200.00.
Read on for an introduction to each of the three winners, plus links to their posts.
Atula Owade: Financing rural farmers through an integrative digital platform
Kings Agricultural Services is dedicated to helping smallholders in Kenya access the finances they need. To do their best work, Kings needs accurate and comprehensive credit scores for each of their applicants – and the farmers they serve benefit from it, too.
As a way to collect these data, Kings built Digifarm, an innovative platform that combines data from several pre-existing digital applications. It synthesizes real-time data on inputs and uses powerful analytics tools to deliver highly detailed and accurate credit scores. In turn, participating farmers can also use the platform to access mobile money services at many different locations across the country.
Atula Owade, Project Manager for Kings, shared the rationale behind Digifarm and the positive benefits it has already had. Perhaps one of the most subtle but positive effects, Atula explains, is the encouragement of farmers to begin keeping detailed records for reporting to the platform.
The platform has been very well received by farmers and has enrolled over 1 million participants since 2017.
Idah Mugambi: A digital revolution for plant health
Plant clinics play an important role in rural agriculture. Farmers can bring samples of diseased crops to a “plant doctor,” a trained agriculturalist who can diagnose the problem, recommend treatments, and suggest prevention strategies for the future.
Plantwise, a project of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), has pioneered the model, hosting clinics in 33 countries to date. But, as CABI’s knowledge and data management officer Idah Mugambi explained in her blog post, the true revolution came when Plantwise went digital.
The new Plantwise Data Collection Application is an Android-based platform that hosts standardized application and prescription forms, facilitates communication between farmers and plant doctors, and aggregates all the data it collects into a centralized database.
This digitization has made a world of difference for Plantwise. The data it collects are better quality, which means less time and work are needed to prepare it for analysis. Clinic visits are now more efficient – plant doctors can see more farmers in the same amount of time and give them better advice. And the data aggregation means that experts can study trends and proactively identify broader problems such as pest outbreaks.
Eric Terver Nyikwagh: Taking over the airwaves for today’s farmers
For small farmers, information and connection are the keys to success. Being able to access the latest news and communicate up and down the value chain makes all the difference. But in rural Nigeria, like in many places around the world, it can be difficult to stay connected.
Agriwaves TV (ATV) seeks to change all that. It’s a new platform dedicated to connecting farmers, entrepreneurs, and investors through high-quality audio-visual content. Available via both app and web, ATV broadcasts information about best agricultural practices, investment opportunities, and innovations that can connect various actors throughout the value chain. Much of the content is geared towards Nigeria’s youth, positioning agriculture as a trendy, innovative business opportunity. All content is downloadable for maximum portability into remote areas.
Eric Terver Nyikwagh, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ATV, acknowledges that this platform would not be viable without widespread access to cell phones among Nigeria’s rural population. He plans to further extend ATV’s reach by making its content available in the major local languages.Find Eric’s post here.