Tag Archives: mobile-agricultural-systems

How mobile phones are transforming African agriculture? Why can’t we in Pakistan?

23 Jan

First of all I was much much surprised about the maturity of mobile based agriculture services in Africa. Although I knew some of application using  mobile phones for agricultural   information delivery in Africa. I have recenlty gone through an article on http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com  named as “How mobile phones are transforming African agriculture” . It contains the review of all the successful mobile phone based services operating in Africa.  After reading the article I am much much motivated that we  in  Pakistan can also transform our agriculture through the mobile phone based services.  It needs only some sincere efforts from Government and Private Sector both. There is no rocket science in  technology required for this purpose.  I have already developed system for this purpose but I need co-operation from some agriculture expert to make a successful bussiness plan. I already have a business plan but needs some consultation.

I am pasting here the same article. I have copied it only for the purpose awarness in this area in Pakistan.

Mobile phone technologies are presenting Africa’s smallholder farmers with an unprecedented opportunity to run their operations more productively and to grow their own income levels.

Ghana-based service Esoko sends farmers crop prices and supplies directly to their phones.

Ghana-based market information service Esoko provides farmers with crop prices directly to their phones.

Private companies, budding IT entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as governments are all involved in a variety of mobile phone-based products, services and applications (small software programmes that users can access on their handsets) aimed at boosting small-scaleagriculture.

Market information systems

One of the largest challenges traditionally experienced by Africa’s smallholder farmers has been a lack of transparent information about the market prices of crops. A number of new mobile phone-based services is, however, addressing this problem by giving farmers access to market prices, enabling them to negotiate better deals with traders and improve the timing of getting their crops to market. These services typically include a function where famers can send a SMS text message to a specific number which then gives them wholesale and retail prices of crops.

Mobile-based market information systems have been around for a while. According to a document published by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), some of the first services were launched as early as 2002. The success of these earlier services has, however, been haphazard, largely because of lower mobile penetration rates at that stage as well as a lack of a viable business plans behind many of the projects. “A lot of the projects are donor funded and they haven’t got a viable business model on the other end. Once the funding runs out the ability to sustain the project or . . . application disappears,” says Matthew de Gale, ICT services manager at the Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT), an organisation also involved in developing mobile applications for farmers.

New generation of services

The explosion of mobile phones on the African continent and much reduced data costs, has led to the development of improved products for farmers.

One of the most successful technologies is arguably the Esoko service developed by Ghana-based BusyLab. Orginally established in 2005 as TradeNet, the company was rebranded as Esoko in 2009, operating on a new platform with a broader set of tools. In addition to providing access to market prices, farmers and traders can also place buy/sell orders. Esoko has attracted investment from the International Finance Corporation, the Soros Economic Development Fund and well-known Silicon Valley engineer Jim Forster. Through a variety of partnership agreements, the company currently has a presence in ninecountries on the continent.

“I think the potential to transform value chains and market access through mobile is enormous,” Forster said at the time of announcing his investment. “I believe this doesn’t need to be about aid in the sense we know it now. Here’s a local company building an innovative product to meet a local need and selling it in a profitable way. That’s how I want to see Africa develop its own markets and capacities, and that’s why I decided to support Esoko.”

Many of the new applications go beyond merely providing farmers with market information. Kenya’s M-Farm, developed by an all-girl team of developers, allows farmers to group together through their mobile phones to offer exporters and big retailers large quantities of crops. Farmers connected through M-Farm can also save on the cost of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides by buying in bulk.

Earlier this month, in Ghana, the pilot phase of a programme called CocoaLink was launched by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), chocolate manufacturer The Hershey Company and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). The programme uses mobile technology to connect cocoa farmers with useful information about improving farming practices, farm safety, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing. Through voice and SMS messages delivered in their local language or English, cocoa farmers will receive the information at no charge. They also will be able to share information and receive answers to specific questions relating to their cocoa farming livelihoods.

In the area of livestock, SANGONeT is involved with an application that allows small-scale dairy farmers in East Africa to record the lactation history of their cows. This allows farmers to increase the sale price of their animals.

Access to insurance

Mobile phones are also being used to distribute agricultural insurance products to farmers, most of whom cannot afford conventional insurance. A product called Kilimo Salama, Swahili for ‘safe agriculture’, enables smallholder farmers in Kenya to insure their agricultural inputs against adverse weather conditions, such as drought or too much rain. Developed by UAP Insurance, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and mobile operator Safaricom, Kilimo Salama allows smallholder farmers to insure as little as one kilogramme of maize, seed or fertiliser. To be covered under the scheme, farmers only need to pay an extra 5% for a bag of seed, fertiliser or other inputs.

Mobile technology plays a central role in the scheme as it is used both for registration of new policies as well as for payouts. Kilimo Salama is distributed mostly through agro dealers that have been equipped with a camera phone that scans a special bar code at the time of purchase, which immediately registers the policy with UAP Insurance over Safaricom’s mobile data network. This innovative application then sends a SMS message confirming the insurance policy to the farmer’s handset. Payouts are determined by automated weather stations that monitor the rainfall. Based on the stations’ measurements and a predefined formula of crop rainfall needs, payouts are automatically made to farmers using Safaricom’s mobile money transfer service M-PESA. Farmers don’t have to fill out any claim forms. Since its official launch in 2010, the scheme has already made payouts to numerous farmers. Other insurance companies have since also introduced similar products.

It is expected that products like Kilimo Salama will increase productivity since only about half of Kenyan farmers invest in improved seeds and soil inputs. A key reason for the low demand is the fear among farmers that poor conditions, such as drought, will render their investment worthless, robbing them of both their crops and their savings.

“This ‘pay as you plant’ type insurance allows farmers to try out insurance, a product they have never bought before and which has a negative reputation in Kenya,” said the Syngenta Foundation in a statement. “Experience shows that as farmers learn to trust insurance, they expand their coverage and are comfortable investing more in their farm, raising their productivity and increasing their food security.”

I invite all the agricultural professional to co-operate with us regarding the development of such services in Pakistan. I must mention that agriculture Pakistan have great opportunities for “Entreprenurship”. Some come out to help Pakistan and raise our standards of livings.

Contact Me: +92-345-7055195

Email: mahtabrasheed195@gmail.com

References : here

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Using mobile technology to improve farming skills in Thailand

19 Nov

Food of thought for Pakistanis

If Thailand can implement this system (described below ) successfully why not we? Agriculture is our back bone and we can educate our farmers through this type of service.

I need your suggestion / comments

Can this system be implemented in Pakistan?

If not what are the reasons?

Thai farmers can access useful information on agricultural developments by using the dtac service “*1677 Farmer Information Superhighway”.

Mrs Rungnabha Yordmai, a 36 years old rice farmer and subscriber of *1677, has received daily information on ‘rice cultivation’ since May 2009.

Free agricultural SMS updates

The subscription service “*1677 Farmer Information Superhighway” is free for Happy (dtac’s youth brand) and dtac customers. By subscribing to the service, farmers will receive SMSes to their mobile phones every day, containing updated agricultural information on

  • market trends
  • commercial crops
  • new farming techniques
  • interesting know-how
  • important news update
  • warnings on weather conditions etc.

The farmer’s can subscribe to three different topics: rice, fruits & vegetables and livestock & fishery.

By using this service, farmers gain knowledge to advance their farming skills and techniques that help them improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase income while also getting maximum benefits from mobile phone usage.

“I’m eager to learn about farming and agricultural techniques, but I seldom have the chance to attend any training courses. So I think it’s great to learn from *1677 as the info is sent daily to my mobile phone,” says Mrs Rungnabha Yordmai, a 36 years old rice farmer and subscriber of *1677. She has received daily information on ‘rice cultivation’ since May 2009. “It’s a convenient approach of providing information, but can also be a good comforting support to farmers.

Developed into a Mobile Application
The SMS service was introduced in 2008 by the Telenor Group Thai mobile operator dtac together with the Rak Ban Kerd foundation and the Ruam Duay Chuay Kan DFM Radio Station.

In 2012, the service was extended with a “Farmer Information” application available on iPhone and iPad. The application offers up-to-date agricultural information such as comparing product prices at the major markets in Bangkok. This enables farmers and consumers to keep track of the market development and to make the right buying and selling decision at the right time. The application aims to pave the way for online marketing or e-commerce in the future.

Experts’ consultation at help centre
Subscribers of the service may also access the information through the farmers’ help centre. The information centre, accessible across the nation, provides access to the network of 123 successful farmers and academics for experts’ consultation.

Traditional farming techniques
Thailand is an agricultural country with over 60 % of the population working in this sector. However, more than 80 % of the Thai farmers are still poor and in debt. This is because most of them still base their productivity on outdated farming processes and follow traditional farming techniques which imply:
•    high production costs
•    no marketing knowledge to sell their product
•    inefficient know-how to improve the farming techniques

*1677 empowers the farmers with knowledge
The Thai farmers living in remote areas tend to be too far away to gain new knowledge on agriculture. The *1677 Farmer Information Superhighway is thus adopted in order to solve these problems and empower the farmers with knowledge in their hands through the use of mobile phones.

Improving farming skills and techniques
Based on the techniques Mrs Yordmai has received from *1677 Farmer Info, she has applied self-made biological fertilizer on the same plot of land. The production cost and the cost of fertilizer have been significantly reduced with 67 % while gaining an increased production capacity of 40 %.

300,000 active subscribers
Since the launch of the service on 12 August 2008, there are more than 300,000 active subscribers in June 2012.

Seminars and workshops to establish farmers’ network
Apart from sending SMSes and having the service available as a mobile application, dtac and partners have also organized seminars and workshops to help the Thai farmers establish the “farmers help farmers’ network” and learn agricultural techniques based on the “sufficiency economy”. The workshops and seminars have been held in every region and there are more than 20,000 farmers from all over the country have joined the activities so far.

Samnuek Rakbankerd Farmer Awards
Once a year, dtac and its partners Samnuek Rakbankerd Foundation and Ruamduaychuaykan DFM Radio Network is handing out the Samnuek Rakbankerd Farmer Award. The award is granted to ten farming communities from every region of Thailand innovating agricultural products.  In 2011, there were more than 30 farming practices that submitted the applications for consideration. The winners of the award will be part of the network sharing knowledge and agricultural practices through the *1677 Farmer Information Superhighway services.

Shared value for the society
Studies by the Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte show that the telecom industry makes an important contribution to economic and social welfare and is an important driver of social and economic development.
“The “1677* Farmer Information Superhighway” is an excellent example showing how we successfully extend information and telecommunication technologies to the benefit of the society as a whole,” said Perapong Klinla-or, Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility at dtac.

Award winning service

dtac and the *1677 Farmer Information Superhighway service has won several awards:

dtac wins ICT awards 2011

dtac wins ICT Excellence Award 2009

dtac wins Corporate Social Responsibility  award 2008

Socio-economic impact of telecommunication

Telenor Group has commissioned studies on the socio-economic impact of mHealth, mobile financial services, the Internet and of mobile communications. The findings show that the telecom industry is an important driver of social and economic development.

This article is copied from Telenore Thailand website.

Reference:

Farming Life Cycle: Steps a farmer performs and what information is required at each step?

14 Nov

FARMING STEPS

A farmer performs following eight major steps from crop selection to harvesting:

  1.  Crop Selection
  2.  Land Preparation
  3.  Seed Selection
  4.  Seed Sowing
  5.  Irrigation
  6.  Crop Growth
  7.  Fertilizing
  8.  Harvesting

The steps are also shown in Fig. 1.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Farmers typically rely on following sources of information:

  1. Agriculture department of provincial government.
  2. Fellow farmers.
  3. Field agents of seed, pesticide and fertilizer companies.
  4.  TV and radio programs.
  5. Newspapers.

CHALLENGES AND ROADBLOCKS IN INFORMATION FLOW

Farmers typically face following challenges in receiving timely and personalized information:

  1.  Farmer has to travel to offices of agricultural department for information.  This is a costly and time consuming activity.  Availability of government officials is unpredictable.
  2. Radio or TV programs are broadcast at a predefined schedule which may or may not be convenient for the farmer.  Information should be available to the farmer on demand and should be personalized to his needs. Majority of farmers in villages either do not have access to newspapers or lack of education makes their access limited.
  3. Most of the information broadcast may not be specific to a farmer’s needs.
  4. Fellow farmers do not have the best or most up to date knowledge.
  5. Field agents of pesticide or seed companies are unable to pay frequent and timely visits to all farmers.

INFORMATION REQUIRED BY THE FARMERS

Farmers need information at each step form crop selection to harvesting. Information required by the farmers at each of these steps is presented next.

1 Crop Selection

  • Comparative pricing of different crops. For some crops government releases prices of the crop at the time of seeding.
  • Market demand and sale potential of the crop.
  • Budget required for the cultivation of each crop.
  • Feasibility of the crop considering climate and quality of land.
  • Crop productivity compared with other alternatives.

2 Land Preparation

  • Effects of any disease from the previous cultivation and steps needed to minimize this impact.
  • Fertilizers needed to bring land to its normal fertility depending upon the previous crops and fertilizer used.
  • Layout and design of the field with respect to crop for efficient irrigation.
  • Latest techniques for leveling the fields and their cost.

3 Seed Selection

  • Price and quantity needed per acre
  • Average yield and sprout to sown ratio.
  • Suitability to particular area and climate.
  • Water requirement.
  • Resistance to diseases.
  • Location of distribution offices for the seed.

4 Seed Sowing

  • Appropriate time to sow the seed.
  • Optimal weather conditions at sowing time.
  • Best method for the sowing of seeds.
  • Seed sowing depth.

5 Irrigation

  • Critical time for irrigation.
  • Amount of water to be given to the plants.
  • Frequency of irrigation.

6 Crop Growth

  • Number of plants per unit of area. At times more than optimum number of seeds sprouts are planted in a given area. Farmers must reduce density for healthy growth of plants.
  • Average growth rate of the crop in normal conditions.
  • Comparison of crop growth rate, leaf size, crop color etc. with expected growth for given conditions and input.
  • Interventions needed to maintain expected growth.
  • Frequency, quantity and method for fertilization.
  • Proper time, frequency and method for plowing.
  • Proper time, frequency and method for weeding.
  • Expected pest and virus attacks, symptoms of such attacks, precautionary measure that can be taken in advance to avoid these attacks, immediate actions including pesticide to be used to kill pests and viruses, quantity of pesticide to be used per acre,  most effective method for pesticide spray, avoid health issues related to pesticide spray.

7 Harvesting

  • Proper time and method for harvesting.
  • Comparative market rates.
  • Proper crop storage.
  • Cost of transportation.

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Problems of Agriculture Pakistan and Solution

8 Nov

Pakistan’s high potential for producing food is an internationally established fact.  However, agriculture sector in Pakistan is facing significant challenges.  Some of these challenges are:

  1. Communication gap between farmers and agriculture information providers including agricultural advisories and product sellers
  2.  Shortage of water, power and capital

Fortunately, progress in mobile communication and information technology has the potential to provide significant support to farmers in surmounting these challenges.  Some of the technologies that can be leveraged include: Mobile communication and smart consumer devices like phones, PDA’s etc.

Integrated use of these technologies can lead to optimization of individual farmer’s operations as well as accurate estimation of total farm production at district and farm level. A number of efforts have been made to leverage mobile communication to assist farmers. These efforts have had mixed results. One of the key short comings in these efforts has been a lack of analysis and understanding of farmers’ end-to-end information flow requirements.

Mobile phone is the most common means of communication that is available to every farmer across the country. Most farmers have access to mobile phones (price range from Rs.2500-3500) and mobile network coverage is quite widespread in the country (up to 70% penetration). So the information delivery to the farmers through mobile phones is most likely to resolve the communication gap among farmers and agricultural advisories.

Information about weather, seeds, trusted pesticide and fertilizer suppliers, pesticide sprays, crop diseases and their solutions, comparative pricing of crops and inputs, balanced fertilizers and marketing techniques is the information most needed by the farmers.

Copy Rights @Mahtab Rasheed. Please do not copy without permission.  Contact:mahtabrasheed195@gmail.com

Mobile Phones based Agricultural Information Systems

7 Nov

Many systems have been developed for the purpose of sending agricultural information from agricultural advisories/institutions to farmers. Few of them have been shown to work efficiently and have resulted in helping the farmers. Some of the systems that were developed in order to facilitate the farmers are given below:

1.     SAPA MOBILE

SAPA Mobile is a mobile-based full functional supply chain and information management system. It integrates large numbers of smallholder farmers (small holder farmers are those farmers who own or cultivate less than 2.0 hectare of land) into commercial supply chains facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships between smallholder farmers and exporters/buyers. It also provides technical information, and recommends best practices to smallholder farmers in real time. This application was used in Sukabumi, West Java, Serdang Bedagai, and North Sumatera regions.

2.     NOKIA LIFE TOOLS (NOKIA, 2009)

Nokia life tools are the services developed for agriculture, education and entertainment which were available in local languages. These services were used in India and Indonesia and were only available on Nokia Phones.Nokia life tool give information on weather, agriculture tips &techniques and market prices to the farmers in order to help them to improve productivity and earnings.

 

Figure 2: Nokia Life Tool

 

3.     AGRIFONE

AgriFone is an application developed for agriculture sector by a third Party. It addresses the needs of farmers, agricultural workers, agribusinesses and input suppliers. It provides convenient and easy-to-use tools for farmers on cheap mobile phones. Unique feature of AgriFone is one-to-one, one-to-many and peer-to-peer exchange of text, voice and images amongst mobile subscribers. This application was used in Maharashtra/India. AgriFone is not used commercially.

4.     mKRISHI

mKrishi is a joint platform integrating different stakeholders in provisioning agriculture services in local language. Farmers can send queries to agriculture experts and receive replies in personalized or relevant form. It was used in India. This is a proprietary solution.

Figure 3:mKRISHI

How mKrishi works:

mKkrishi is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – based system. The farmers dial a published number (called the IVR Service number) to avail this service. They listen to it and select the appropriate audio prompts (in the local language of the region). They record their questions and get a question id for each question.

Experts analyze the queries and provide the appropriate audio advice. An SMS is sent to the each farmer indicating that his/her question has been replied to. When the advice is available, the farmers enter the query id on the phone to listen to the expert’s advice. Experts can also send out various alerts like the weather forecast, market prices etc. in either English or the local languages to the farmers.

5.     0700 INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE SERVICE (IVR)

0700 an Interactive Voice Response service (IVR) provides agriculture related information and was launched by Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone and Zong to target rural customers in Pakistan. This service is launched only to facilitate farmer community but was not able to generate sizeable revenue therefore this service is currently discontinued.

6.     ESOKO (ESOKO, 2011)

ESOKO is mobile based system developed for sending SMS to farmers to provide them agricultural information. This application was used in Afghanistan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo.

Esoko services

  • Live market Feeds: Real-time SMS alerts on market prices of agriculture commodities
  • Direct SMS marketing: This feature is used to target specific groups of users to send procurement or extension messages and reduces travel and communication costs
  • Scout polling: This feature is used to set up automatic SMS surveying for field activities to track inventories, crop activities etc. and also this feature monitor and report on crop cycles and yields online
  • Profiling and marketing: Customizable Web space that can advertise goods and services

Figure 4: Esoko

7.     E-ARIK

The E-Arik project established a ‘Village Knowledge Centre’ with computer, internet link, printer, scanner, phone and TV at Yagrung village. Project facilitators (agricultural professionals, a computer instructor and farmer facilitators) were appointed at the Centre to help farmers access ICT based agricultural information. E-Arik is made for the farmers of a village in India.

E-Arik services

  • Information about crop cultivation and other agricultural practices.
  • Baseline information from relevant agriculture and rural developmental departments of government.
  • Specific information on government schemes such as farmer welfare programmers.
  • Day to day market information and weather forecasts.

 

Figure 5: e-Arick

8.     M-FARM

M-Farm is a mobile application that helps Kenyan farmers to get market information and improve their agriculture productivity. Offering a simple, accessible, and affordable alternative to using the internet, small-scale farmers can text the number 3535 to request pricing information for a specific crop in a specific location.

M-Farm services:

  • Enabling farmers to inquire about current market prices of different crops from different regions and/or specific markets.
  • Aggregating farmers needs/orders and connecting them with farm input suppliers.
  • Enabling farmers to sell collectively and connecting them with a ready market.

 

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