This project is solving the Crop Alert – Learning From the Growers challenge. Description
Introduction/Background: The world is making progress against hunger; the number of people who lack access to quality food has dropped from one in five to one in ten since the 1990s (Stone, 2014). The prevalence of undernourishment has also seen a substantial decrease of about 7% compared to the 1990-92 levels globally (FAO, 2014). Yet despite all the efforts of local, national and international communities, undernourishment still exists in large concentrations, especially in Africa. The African continent is home to the highest rate of undernourishment in the world, where one in five people still have too little access to quality nutritious food (FAO, 2014). Agricultural extensions’ is the process by which farmers can get information about seeds, fertiliser application and crop rotation, etc. (ifpre.org, 2015). This is vital as the proper use of the right fertiliser can improve soil health and double or triple the yields (Zhao and Zhou, 2011), while crop rotation techniques can prevent soil degradation and ensure better productivity (Stengel, 1983). Unfortunately, Agricultural extensions can often be expensive and complicated but one way to solve this issue is to capitalise on the growing trend of mobile phone usage by farmers. Information regarding weather alerts or current market prices can all be easily received via text messages. Studies have shown positive results regarding improved agricultural productivity and the use of mobile phones as a platform for receiving information amongst farmers (Mittal, Gandhi and Tripathi, 2010). It is clear from literature about the importance of just the information regarding agricultural practices and the direct impact it has relating to productivity. Our project aims to utilise the growing mobile phone usage by farmers and to build an app for the agents that go out to improve agricultural productivity and yield.
CropOp -The app: The app aims to iron out current inefficiencies in agricultural extensions. The app will primarily work as a part of a three tier system. Tier 1 represents the agriculture and food authority of the region, usually a government organization; Tier 2 represents the agents sent by the tier one as a part of the agricultural extensions programs; Tier 3 represents the farmers. Our app works on a cyclic process between the three tiers to improve the transfer and effectiveness of information to and from the farmers. One complete cycle would be as follows: Tier 1/the government sends warning, alerts, graphical data and information regarding weather, best crops and fertilizers to use based on previous scientific knowledge and NASA satellites. The agents are notified according to the level of importance of the notification, with extreme weather of pest/disease outbreaks classified as the greatest alerts. The agents can now use our app to send mass text/sms to farmers according to their locations which is automatically identified by the app. Tier 3/the farmer now receives vital information, throughout the year almost instantly without delay and information specific to his/her area saving time on the transfer of valuable knowledge. This represents the top to bottom approach of our system. The bottom to top approach will now include weekly text messages from farmers to the agents regarding harvest, money earned, spotting of diseases etc. The app automatically collects and classifies the data according to the code used regarding the content of the message. Unknown or un-identifiable data is recognized by the app and the agent is notified. The app now collects valuable information regarding crop, pest and economic aspects with a timeline involved. At the end of the harvest season, the data is finally sent to tier 1, where the scientist can use this crowd sourced data to create better correlations on the data they produce helping to create better alerts and better recommendations for the following year. As each year completes, the data shall get more and more robust, leading to the possibilities of adding more variables to make beater predictions and recommendations.
Sustainability: We see the future of the app including mobile banking services, allowing the farmers to use the same mobile technology to make smaller transactions and purchase goods more specifically with fewer economic constraints. We also intend to be able to connect farmers to the market by introducing an sms based selling platform. Farmers would text message the agent about their daily harvest which would automatically get uploaded to a file where buyers could view and possibly contact farmers if they are interested in buying a portion of the harvest. This would give farmers an incentive to send messages more frequently and engage with the agents through the app and would lead to a more consistent crowd sourced data set. The app currently will be used by agents, as farmers now only possess basic mobile telephone technology, but as the smartphones become cheaper and more accessible, the opportunities are endless. Despite the population growth and some of its worst weather, we hope this app can be a vital to tool in helping Africa from being a net importer of food to being able to feed itself by 2030. We have already received interests from various parties who have seen the potential of our idea and wish to help us get to the next stages and eventually help thousands of people in the agricultural communities in developing nations.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, (2014). The State of Food Insecurity in the World. Rome: FAO.
Ifpri.org, (2015). Agricultural Extension | International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). [online] Available at: http://www.ifpri.org/book-770/ourwork/researcharea/agricultural-extension [Accessed 24 Feb. 2015].
Mittal S., Gandhi S., and Tripathi G., (2010). Soci-econmic impact of mobile phones on Indian Agriculture. Indian Council for research on International Economic Relations, 246.
Stone, D. (2014). World Making Progress Against Hunger, Report Finds, but Large Pockets of Undernourished Persist. National Geographic.
Stengel,P. (1983). influence of crop rotation, fertilizers and herbicide treatments on soil fertility. soil and tillage Research, 3(1), pp. 83-84.
Zhao, J. and Zhou, L. (2011). Combined application of Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers on Black soil Fertility and Maize Yield. Journal if Northeast Agricultural Universit (English edition), 182(2), pp.24-29
License: GNU General Public License version 2.0 (GPL-2.0)
Source Code/Project URL: https://github.com/Ezard/CropOp