FarmEd: improving agricultural productivity for subsistence farmers
FarmEd aims to provide technology-based consultancy and permaculture farm design, that brings agricultural expertise to small holder farmers
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Permaculture solutions enable farming without pesticides and increased productivity.
Development of permaculture test beds.
Water testing to build data for advice.
Understanding farmers daily tasks in Sigatoka Valley.
Sugi Jayakumar and Tanya Ponggun conduct pH and soil bolus test.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Agricultural expertise from research, corporations and current practice is not reaching small holder farmers in the developing world. Currently 380 million households in developing countries are considered small-holder farmers living subsistence lifestyles on less than 5 ha of land. Poor productivity of agriculture reinforces economic disadvantage and prevents families gaining access to external education and further opportunity. It also decreases food security and economic prosperity in the broader community.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
FarmEd exists to improve agricultural productivity for subsistence farmers in developing countries. The aim is to utilise advanced technologies, such as drones and cognitive computing to bring the most up to date information on agricultural practice to farmers in real time, in a tailored fashion.
Currently FarmEd provides a commercial consulting service to small folder farmers and charges a nominal amount to show that there is perceived value in this service. Through this collaboration with farmers we are able to ascertain the right kind of processes and information that is to be included in our web based consulting service. In the long run, it is envisioned that FarmEd will contain a text, photo and voice input for queries, a natural language processor and subsequent intelligent extraction of relevant information, recommendations and predictions in response to the query.
In this way agricultural productivity can be increased between 20-50% through access to the right advice.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
FarmEd seeks to provide a 20%+ uplift in agricultural output to prospective beneficiaries though the provision of timely expertise that is relevant and tailored. This is the direct social impact to farmers which has many flow on impacts for the farmers family and broader community. These impacts include consistency in income, higher income and subsequent financial stability. In the longer-term this impacts the community through re-investment in education and increased food security.
In the near term impact is increased agricultural production and consistency within the Sigatoka Valley through the 125 farmers targeted over the next 12 months. These farmers will provide a test bed for further expansion to the 2,000 farmers we have access to through our partners in country. Through our permaculture methods impact will be seen in less pesticide and fertiliser use in this region whilst simultaneously expanding crop types and yields for greater income and food security.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
FarmEd in its current form charges customers for paper based reports provided through traditional face to face consulting. Small holder farmers in Fiji currently pay $200 for the service. Given this proven value proposition for farmers FarmEd will charge $240 per year for its web based subscription service. Despite a very small base of customers conversion has been over 50% and with 9,000 farmers in the Sigatoka Valley, 6,000 of which we can directly access through our partners Ministry of Agriculture Fiji (6,000 farmers) and The Earthcare Agency (2,000 farmers) there is enough of a customer base to achieve beyond $1m in revenue from the test location.
We are currently negotiating external investment in Australia of AUD$30,000 to prove concept to the next round of funding.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Current solutions are designed for data collection and market pricing predominantly in Western countries. Of those solutions in developing countries they are either focused on farm based business owners, solely data driven without advice or unable to scale tailored advice to individual subsistence farmers.
Beyond the digitally enabled solution for low cost scale our permaculture solution provides an added advantage to produce multiple crops (20+) off one hectare of land.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Working within the Project Everest model it was university students from Australia who encountered farmers like Ajit and Vinod. Ajit uses the poisonous household insecticide Mortein on his crops at high expense and then on sells them to unsuspecting customers purely because he has no knowledge of the implications of this poison and he wants to protect his crops for his livelihood.
Vinod loses, on average, half his crops in a given year due to poor knowledge around drainage and irrigation. It was understanding these personal stories and seeing the commitment of the local farmers, villages and broader communities to improve their agricultural practices that built momentum in gaining a solution. In recounting the stories and experiences of these students many supporters came out including the USYD Faculty of Agriculture, the Fijian Ministry of Agriculture and private organic enterprise.
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