How Agtech is Helping Small Farmers to Get Ahead
Smallholder farmers are reaping the benefits of new agtech solutions
Small scale and family farmers are a crucial part of the global food and agriculture industry, producing 80 percent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Yet, they often don’t have access to the same agricultural, food storage or food trade technologies used by larger producers. With the global population projected to grow from 7.3 billion today to almost 9.8 billion by 2050, it is important to nurture and improve the productivity of smallholder farmers to help meet increasing demand. Additionally, helping smallholder farmers often helps to alleviate poverty, employ and empower women and create jobs in rural areas. With this in mind, an overwhelming number of startups and established companies are working to bring agtech solutions to small farmers in developing countries.
Here we highlight some of the most interesting and uplifting projects around:
InspiraFarms specialise in turn-key, on and off grid refrigerated storage solutions. For many small agribusinesses keeping produce cool and fresh after harvest is a major challenge. InspiraFarms designs lightweight structures which can be used as cold storage and production facilities.
InspiraFarms, in conjunction with their partners, help small agribusinesses to reduce food loss, energy costs and grow their operations. Their success stories include an Off-Grid Dairy Chiller in operation in Kenya and an entire food processing facility in Guatemala which helps to connect small farmers to the export market.
Plantix is a smartphone app which provides smallholder farmers with on-the-spot knowledge of plant diseases. Farmers can upload pictures of sick crops to the app where they are analysed by deep neuro networks to provide an instant diagnosis as well as a range of biological, chemical and cultural treatments. Plantix uses a combination of machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence to analyse the images and create a library of plant diseases. To date Plantix can identify 350 plant pests and diseases and they have received over 5 000 000 images from their users.
Plantix is popular among small farmers in India where it has helped to increase the quality and quantity of smallholder farmer yields. Community is a central part of the app, which also puts users in touch with scientists, farmers and plant experts at a local and global level.
Focused in Kenya and Ghana, Tulaa empowers farmers by giving them greater control over their finances and transactions. Tulaa is a mobile commerce platform which brings together smallholder farmers, financial institutions and input suppliers. It lowers the cost and risk for input suppliers and banks to transact with small farmers which in turn enables farmers to save and borrow money to purchase inputs at the right time and so increase their yields.
Futurepump create low-cost solar irrigation pumps for the world’s one acre farmers. By increasing farmers’ access to water, Futurepump provides them with more reliable harvests, the ability to farm larger areas of land and the opportunity to grow crops out of season.
The Futurepump SF2 is their smallest, most robust and portable pump. This tiny workhorse can pump up to 21,000 litres per day and lift water 15 meters, changing the way many small farmers operate their farms.
5. EZ Farm by IBM
EZ Farm uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to help Kenyan farmers to manage water on their farms. In-tank sensors and soil moisture probes collect data on water levels which is analysed using the IBM IoT Foundation and Bluemix. As these farmers don’t use irrigation, the information they receive via EZ Farm helps them to make important decisions regarding crop management.
We’ve mentioned AgUnity before and love the innovative way they use blockchain to empower small farmers. AgUnity’s Agri Ledger smartphone app allows farmers to use blockchain to sell their produce and negotiate better prices for inputs. The use of blockchain adds legitimacy and security to transactions which would have taken place verbally or on paper. Agri Ledger also helps to reduce food wastage by improving the efficiency of transactions and making sure food is sold before it spoils.
The best thing about the startups and companies mentioned above is that they are just a handful in a multitude of agtech solutions aimed at the improving the productivity of smallholder farmers. Here are some more to check out: