SmartFarming cotton app

Young farmers want tailored agricultural advise in the palm of their hands. But practical apps are still scarce in rural India.

Photo of Sven Drillenburg
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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.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water

Headquarters location: Country

  • Netherlands

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

India: Maharashtra and Gujarat


Facebook URL


Twitter URL


Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Indian cotton farmers live under poor circumstances. Their income is low with forthcoming social issues. Many problems find their origin in the production methods of farmers. The farmers rely for their agricultural information, on input suppliers of pesticides, fertilizers and seeds. Field staff of governments, not for profit organisations and companies that support farmers have limited capacity to timely deal with the millions of cotton farmers.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Operations in cotton production are time critical. It is thus important that farmers have immediate access to agricultural knowledge and advice when they need it. The advice should be: • valid for the farmer who needs it and • linked to the exact time (s)he has sown, soil conditions, resources available. In short: the advice given should be tailor made. SMS/phone based services or web-based services to farmers are not a good solutions because each farmer grows a different variety, has different soil, different plot history, different soil fertility, etc. Information should be in the hands of the farmers through a smartphone based application which, amongst others: • alerts farmers that certain tasks have to be performed, • warns them that conditions are favourable for development of pests, • tells them to irrigate or • to apply nutrients or chemicals • etc...

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

The SmartFarming cotton app improves yields (quality and quantity, an estimated 20% up) with less costly inputs. The preventive measures (=less chemicals) advised by the apps improve soil quality and other biodiversity parameters. Income of farmers will increase which leads to a more promising future for young farmers. Nowadays high suicide rate of cotton farmers, which disrupts entire communities, may be lowered by giving farmers more control over their agricultural activities. Because of climate change, soil area and freshwater resources will be even more under stress. The cotton app guides farmers to use their land and available inputs like nutrients and water more efficient, within the boundaries of the ecosystem they operate in.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

We put in our own time (lots!) and money (20% of 2017 budget), a social impact investor invested (80% of 2017 budget). Now we have launched the first version of a SmartFarming app, many farmers will use it hence showing our potential customers that an app like this can empower farmers against reasonable costs. Perhaps in the long rung, the data gathered can be sold to improve supply chains as whole.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

No other solutions reaches high numbers of farmers with tailored advice against low costs.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

The Netherlands is known for its innovative agricultural sector. Smartphone applications are widely developed there, but almost all of them are targeted on farmers who can afford them. We were astonished that in 2014 hardly no one spent time and money to export an agricultural app to less developed farmers in the global south: companies find it too still hard to make money out of it, NGOs find it too innovative and farmers are not familiar with paying for an app. So we decided to open up the market and develop the first practical cotton app for Indian farmers ever, just to see if we as smartphone lovers could succeed. We experienced that especially young cotton farmers embrace smartphone apps to improve their agricultural skills.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Marg Leijdens

Sven, this sounds as a great improvement for cotton farmers. How have you organized the support, training and dissemination of the app among the farmers? Maybe you can have a look at our project too, another option for an app? ( )

By Marg ;-)