E-Agriculture

Do you have any concrete examples of successful use of ICTs in sustainable intensification of horticulture crop based systems

Innocent Chamisa
Innocent ChamisaThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO) Italy

Dear   Colleagues, 

Once again, we would like to thank all participants who have already shared their input to this ongoing discussion.

From today you can follow the second question of the discussion that will run until Friday the 17th of March and we would like to invite you all to contribute.

Do you have any concrete examples of successful use of ICTs in sustainable intensification of horticulture crop based systems (mainly fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers), for both smallholder and commercial farmers in your respective localities?

For easier readability of your cases/stories,  may  we suggest that you succinctly describe the following when sharing your  case :

  • Have the ICT technologies / innovative practices you are sharing  proved to work well and produced good results, can they be recommended as models?
  • Are they successful experiences that has been tested and validated in the broad sense and deserves to be shared so that a greater number of people can adopt it?
  • Alternatively, have these ICT technologies / innovative practices demonstrated a high degree of success in a single setting and guarantee the possibility of replication in the same setting?

You may want to further include details on what has been done, where, how, who, when and the results/ impacts of the ICT technologies / practices.

We look forward to receiving your inputs.

On Behalf of the forum moderators. 

Keron Bascombe
Keron BascombeTech4AgriTrinidad and Tobago

From activities via Tech4agri I would like to share these case studies. 

Case Study 1
Signs of Unlimited Love (SOUL) Multi-purpose Cooperative
Location: Dominica 
Contact: Mr. Eber Ravariere - President
Interview 
 
SOUL Multi-purpose Cooperative is a youth based group that seeks to improve the lives of people living in rural communities by creating employment in the Agricultural & Agro-Processing industries. It started off as a social group that did community outreach - after schol programmes, community beautification and upkeep, beach clean ups and other church activities. They were advised to formalise the group to benefit members and so SOUL was born
 
The group focuses on primary production and added value processing as well as the subsequent marketing and sale of products. SOUL Enterprise is officially registered with a board of directors and is based in the North Eastern District of Dominica.
 
Eber states: "Part of our development strategy as social entrepreneurs, we want to use ICTs to scale. We are currently partnering with regional development agencies to create the infrastructure fr our projects"
 
The group is building a greenhouse as a nursey for vegetable production that will have a rainwater harvesting structure which in turn feeds an automated drip irrigation system. They would also like to include a supporting aquaponics system.
 
In relation to Horticulture based systems, the group has an ongoing sweet potato project, done with support from the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development institute (CARDI) SOUL hope to build a facility that is fitted with solar and wind power which will be used for agroprocessing towards a line of products which will create markets that farmers can access. Excess power generates is to be fed into the local grid.
 
It is clear that this group actively seeks out ICTs for use in their projects however they are in need of technical knowledge, seeking exposure and expertise in order to progress their projects at scale. They are fortunate to access regional support in the form of CARDI, however Eber explained that these increases in production capabilties are tied to the need for funding, of which there are very limited sources in the region.
 
As a multipurpose cooperative they seek to serve a multitude of members and as such the have also been looking for farming apps. 
 
"We want to give access to young farmers the necessary tools and equipment including ICTs in order to access knowledge resources.We aim to ensure youth are able to enter into the agri sector easily" - Eber
 
Eber and his team see mobile apps as an ICT they can adopt much faster than the aforementioned plans. He explained that the group has had interactions with an african developer to produce an app that the young farmers may use to assist with planting and harvesting schedules as well as to access international databases.
 
I explained this was not necessary as there are agri apps made right here in the Caribbean, ready and available for download use now.
 
Therein lies a major problem; that up to date information is not readily available. To clarify, the information which SOUL needs is accesible given the level of mobile and internet penetration that exists in today's world. However it becomes a matter of where exactly to find this information and is it right for use in the caribbean.
 
This is where enterprises such as Tech4agri comes in - to consolidate the information and present it in a form that appeals to youth while keeping them up to date and motivated to try new technologies. 
 
Lack of information is a chronic problem that faces the regional agri sector however it is becoming overturned through the increased uptake of ICTs through a variety of service providers 
 
To conclude, I passed on to Eber a link to the AGRINETT project which he was not aware of. These project resulted in a number of mobile apps for the agri sector details in the next study
 
Case Study 2
The AGRINETT project
Location: Trinidad and Tobago
 
The Department of Computer Science at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus. Embarked on a project to produce several apps and crowdsourced mapping tools for farmers and other stakeholders in the agri sector. 
 
Some apps include the Market Watcher (Agri price) app which provides market information and prices as well as the Agri Maps App which assists with pests, diseases and plath health.
 
 
The program was well received by the academic community winning several awards even at the international stage as part of the World Summit for International. However on the ground, the app was not initially well received. Many farmers did not use smart phones and were not interested in using the app at all.
 
As the video discussion above indicates these apps have great potential to assist local farmers in multiple ways however a simple barrier to this was the technology itself, it was not appropriate for the farmers or rather it was created with their limited input. Fortunately, the apps held the interests of children of these farmers who began using the apps making the entire project benficial to entire farming families. 
 
 
In this case the trial project has been success and the apps are free a available for download.

From these cases, lack of knowledge flow and technology suitability seem to some of the major problems preventing SCPI.Best Regards                                                       

Keron Bascombe
Agricultural Blogger and Writer
Blog: tech4agri.com                                               
------------------------------------------------------------

Country Representative (Trinidad and Tobago)
Young Professionals' for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD)
Email: ypardtrinidadtobago@gmail.com
Youth Representative - Local
Steering Committee 2017 - 2020
Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR)

Wilbert  Johnsson
Wilbert Johnsson Independant consultant South Africa

Repost-

When precision agriculture first erupted in the 1990s, it was targeted primarily to producers of Midwestern row crops, especially corn, soybean, sugar beets, and wheat. When someone said “precision,” most people heard “field mapping, variable rate application, yield monitoring” – solutions that were often big-iron and nearly always big-dollar, and were aimed at reducing input costs and farmers’ environmental footprint. Small-acre horticultural crops generally need not apply.
But the ongoing digitization of the farm is exploding long-held assumptions. When data scientists at companies like Climate Corporation jump into agriculture and begin talking about incredible variations detected by their technologies – like finding 40% variability within soil samples taken just three feet apart, or that 10 rain gauges right next to each other in a field could have as much as a quarter-inch difference among them – suddenly the phrase “site-specific farming,” the original moniker for precision, takes on renewed meaning. The promise of knowing exactly what is happening in any given field down to the foot or even inch, and being able to manipulate innumerable factors on the fly, becomes a near- to mid-term reality. And that’s ambrosia for all growers whether they’re managing one acre of wine grapes or 1,000 acres of commodity grains.
Enter “hort tech.” When growers of tree fruit, citrus, nuts, vine crops, and vegetables can use increasingly affordable digital tools and online platforms to keep detailed, year-over-year production data they can analyze and adapt for the following year’s crop and intensively manage variability across their operations … heck yeah, that’s “precision farming.” And because producers of horticultural crops generally are more reliant on hand labor and are closer in the food chain to processors and end-use consumers than are grain producers, horticulture technology offers them the additional promise of automation and track-and-trace in the field, in the packinghouse, and beyond.
So where specifically are the nearer-term opportunities in horticulture technology, especially in practical usage that growers are likeliest to embrace? Here are five areas to keep a particular eye on, as compiled by editors at Meister Media Worldwide.
1. Yield monitoring in fruits and nuts
Yield monitoring has been done in Midwestern grain crops for years, but look for the technology to move west to the large winegrape vineyards of the Pacific states. The reason is simple: All winegrowers can tell you there is significant yield variability within blocks, but now they will be able to measure it. The advantage is that growers can implement zonal vineyard management. Rather than being managed uniformly, as is now typical, individual blocks can be split into zones in which the management of both inputs to, and outputs from, the production system can be applied differentially. And there’s no reason such yield monitors need be limited to wine grapes. While it would be difficult with current technology to adapt a system for hand-harvested crops, it would seem to be quite a boon to other mechanized crops. California’s big three nut crops – almonds, walnuts, and pistachios – seem to be excellent candidates. Zonal management with the use of yield monitors would enable nut growers to boost per-acre yields – a significant advantage with the cost of suitable land for tree nut crops soaring. The market is huge, as the bearing acreage of the big three nut crops in the Golden State now tops 1.5 million acres.
2. Precision irrigation
A good current example of the potential for this technology is (Fagerberg Produce) http://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/how-to-maximize-water-efficiency-on-your-vegetable-farm/.  A grower/packer/shipper of about 1,300 acres of yellow, red, and white onions in Eaton, CO, that has figured out how to produce a high-yielding onion crop and save water at the same time. The farm is noted as the first to purchase autopilot GPS to install drip tape within sub-centimeter accuracy. Today, with the help of his smartphone, Rod Weimer, Fagerberg’s farm manager, can check rates, start and stop fertilizer, and water from virtually anywhere thanks to a fully automated drip irrigation system. Since installing drip irrigation, the farm has reduced its water usage by 40% and gone from using 3.5 acre feet of water when flood-irrigating to only 1.6 acre feet using drip.
3. Robotics
Availability and affordability of labor is a perpetual pain point in agriculture, but (Grimmway Farms) http://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/robots-container-production-and-the-future-of-vegetable-growing/.   in Bakersfield, CA, hopes to be on track to a solution. The company has been testing a concept from the world of ornamental flowers and plants – growing plants in pots – to see if it can work in the broad expanses of vegetable fields. Rather than have teams of field workers handle those pots, Grimmway is piloting the ability of robots to move the plants out into the field to grow then bring them back in at the end of the season for early harvest.
4. Internet of Things wireless connectivity
Systems like Climate’s FieldView Pro http://www.precisionag.com/systems-management/climates-fieldview-platform-is-poised-for-serious-inroads/. already use Bluetooth to digitally display real-time field data on an iPad as equipment passes through the field, then store it in the cloud. But as reported  https://www.ca.com/us/rewrite/articles/application-economy/will-the-internet-of-things-uncork-a-better-bottle-of-wine.html. early this year, small-scale but high-value horticulture operations like Hahn Family Wines in Soledad, CA, can take an Internet of Things approach to monitor a host of environmental and growing conditions in real time. Using 4G cell service provided by Verizon AgTech, Hahn last fall installed sensors every six acres in its vineyards to measure soil moisture, humidity, and temperature. The resulting analytics enable the operation to make better decisions about when to water, how to spot irrigation leaks, when to apply crop protection materials, and when to harvest.
5. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS)
Interest in use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is moving from novelty to practical applications in agriculture. With the Federal Aviation Administration providing guidance on the legal use of small commercial UAS, the technology is set to take off in Florida specialty crop production. Researchers have been seeking applications for the aircraft, including identification of greening – a devastating disease in citrus – and the ability to estimate the fruit production on trees. A scientist at the University of Central Florida is developing systems that utilize UAS to scout strawberry fields. When the imagery collected by the UAS identifies a potential problem, it signals a ground robot to autonomously drive to the spot in the field to more closely inspect the area with higher-resolution imagery. Private companies are forming to offer the technology to growers as well. Highlands Precision Ag, http://www.growingproduce.com/farm-management/gennext-growers/more-growers-going-high-tech-down-on-the-farm/. for example, will deploy its UAS on behalf of growers. “UAS is simply a vehicle to collect data on crops,” says Steve Maxwell, CEO of the company. “As cameras become more precise and big data becomes more accessible, the imagery will fundamentally change the agriculture industry both environmentally and even in the marketing of crops.”
Adopted from James Sulecki  who is corporate content director of Meister Media Worldwide. in Phoenix, hope we will be able to get him on the forum.

Regards.

Raymond Erick  Zvavanyange
Raymond Erick Zvavanyange Young Professionals for Agricultural Development Zimbabwe

1.0   The local network 

YPARD Zimbabwe was established in July 2011 with the nomination of a local Country representative by the global unit.  YPARD stands for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, a global network of young professionals in agricultural research and development. The local network, an independent and autonomous unit, comprises about 250 members who are active online and offline, with some members in the Diaspora. The primary target group of the local network is young men and women who are passionate about agriculture, and under forty years of age.   

A core team of five members met regularly to design the structure, methods of engagement, and to inspire each other during the early years after establishment.  The team members continue to keep in touch through various means such as e-mail communications and Skype calls.  For many of the registered members, there is freedom to contribute to local agricultural development in any way deemed suitable and of value to the mission of YPARD.  

The modus operandi of YPARD Zimbabwe is to conduct as minimum programmes and activities as can be executed because of the rise of complexity and uncertainty in the country.  It primarily assumes the role of a “think tank” organisation.  We promote “knowledge creation" and "critical thinking" in orthodox ways across multiple domains, and sometimes in uncharted territories in agricultural research and development.  One of the reasons for this approach is to promote the use of the change leader’s imagination, creativity, and experimentation in building better futures in agriculture.   

Since its establishment, the local network has partnered with various local organisations and individuals in agriculture in direct and indirect ways.  In one instance, the local network signed a memorandum of understanding with a local network of an international organisation focused on young people and agriculture.   

2.0   The process 

This case study sought to analyse the possible areas of application for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in horticulture in Zimbabwe.  The areas are:   

• Production (food and environment)
• Business (incomes and wealth)
• Aesthetic (creativity and lifestyle)

Visually, ICTs can be found at the intersection of the three areas. The research questions in the case study were: How can ICTs be applied in horticulture in Zimbabwe?  What is the envisioned future with ICTs being used in horticulture systems in Zimbabwe?

3.0   Applying the Analysis

3.1   Sustainable intensification

“Sustainable intensification” including that of horticulture crop based systems as one of the suggested solution to meeting needs related to Production (food and environment), Business (incomes and wealth), and Aesthetic (creativity and lifestyle), needs to be addressed within the broader framework of ICTs as an enabling tool/mechanism for horticulture.    

3.2   Multiple uses of ICTs in horticulture in Zimbabwe
 
ICTs constitute the new digital economy where humans and machines/tools are inseparable, and depend on each other for mutual “survival” and “exploitation” purposes.  Each of these purposes brings merits and demerits to horticulture farmers.  In any analysis of ICTs’ applied use, taking into consideration the human species concerns (such as inspiration and courage) and business concerns such as convenience and returns on investment) should be borne in mind. 

One school of thought suggests that farmers will use a particular technology, service, or product if it addresses the problems they encounter as well as suits their needs.  You cannot depend on the excitement concerning ICTs to hoodwink farmers into ICTs adoption and application in their enterprises.  For example, unmanned aerial vehicles and robots use when proven to be practical importance and value farming ventures are most likely to have takers.      

ICTs have been used in the horticulture industry in Zimbabwe includes: setting up of websites for emerging farmers; marketing of horticultural produce using social media (e.g. Face book pages); publication purposes especially for events (meetings and workshops), and dissent.  

Another school of thought suggests that ICTs now epitomize the extent of modern civilization.  ICTs extend the idea that man is able to master his environment under certain conditions.  They have also brought together production and consumer in much more intimate ways.  Adaptable farmers and entrepreneurs must capitalize on this research and development competitive advantages as they relate to horticulture crop based systems. 

4.0  Reflections

In this case study, we convey the "concrete" idea that ICTs have been used in many areas in agricultural research and development, with varying levels of success.  In particular, for horticulture in Zimbabwe, this is seem largely as a domain of knowledge, and thus the issue becomes whether ICTs are perceived to serve the much needed functions, amongst other issues.  

In addition, each area of ICTs application in horticulture – production, business, and aesthetic – needs to be assessed on a case by case basis.  The local context should be considered as well when doing such an assessment. 

We believe as YPARD Zimbabwe that ICTs can serve as a sueful connector in horticulture in Zimbabwe.  All interested individuals and organisations in horticulture and associated enterprises should evaluate in a pragmatic way the use and perceived benefits of using ICTs in production, business, and aesthetic areas.  

The YPARD Zimbabwe Case Study Prepared by Raymond Erick Zvavanyange Email: zvavanyanger3@gmail.com ; ypard.zimbabwe@gmail.com Date: 13.03.2017

Hasib Ahsan
Hasib AhsanmPower Social Enterprises LtdBangladesh

mPower Social Enterprises Limited is an ICT4D organization based in Bangladesh which works with ICT solutions for end level beneficiaries based on the approach of Human Centrered Design (HCD). e-Agriculture Unit is one of the biggest domain of mPower which implement different projects with public and private partners. Currently e-Agriculture unit is implementing three large scale projects and multiple small scale projects to reach six hundred thousands farmers and extension agents through technology. These projects has taken different crops into their contribution where horticulture and tuber crops has a majority portion as contents. Smartphone applications, web applications, satellite and remote sensing data driven precision agriculture, IVR/SMS/Voice Dial are some of the key tools developed by mPower for different projects. Today I am going to talk on a specific large scale project which is implementing 'Digital Extension' solutions in Bangladesh.  

Case Study Project: USAID funded Agriculture Extension Project in Bangladesh

This project is implemented by three organizations namely Dhaka Ahsania Mission, CARE Bangladesh and mPower. mPower designed, developed and deployed the ICT solutions here. The objective is to implement capacity building and support creation of a farmer’s demand-driven agricultural extension system, synergized by the use of information communication technology (ICT). After starting the 5 years long project in 2012, the team started to work on solving three specific challenges in Bangladesh extension through digital intervention.

  1. First is the absence or limited presence of expert consultation in rural parts of the country. A total of 16,500 public extension agents named Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer or SAAO are employed all over the country to provide extension services to around 15 million farming households.
  2. Another challenge is to keep the knowledge base of extension agents up-to-date. With the improving technology and continuous research, nowadays agricultural knowledge gets updated quite often. But there is no specific mechanism in place to regularly train extension agents after a certain interval in a proper learning environment.
  3. Thirdly, there is limited availability of tools for decision-makers to collect real time information from the field while taking decisions or making policies.  

To address these above mentioned challenges in the agricultural sector, project has taken an integrated ICT approach which involves mobile, web apps and multimedia contents for mobile phones. There were plenty of different interventions (Total 8) but I am going to talk on some Key Interventions.

Agriculture Knowledge Bank (AKB)

Agriculture Knowledge Bank (AKB) is an interactive web knowledge portal managed by Agriculture Information Service (AIS) of Government of Bangladesh, containing information on agricultural content and recommendations of multiple crops. it will be live for public very soon.  Its a Web based portal where there are some features such as 

  • ICT based web platform for centralizing agro knowledge in one portal; Now there are more than 30 crops including HORTICULTURE. Another 20 crops content will be included within some time. 
  • Access to this platform can provide interactive agricultural extension message;
  • Intelligent search function and filtering option require less effort to access information;
  • Easily updatable through admin module by non-ICT Expert;
  • Field level farmers and extension agents can access content through mobile;

Logic behind developing AKB

A lot of information on agricultural content is available on websites of various government and agricultural research organizations of Bangladesh. Attaining these scattered information seems quite difficult for general people let alone farmers. Most importantly farmers and other relevant stakeholders are not even aware about the available agricultural information and ways of accessing them. To reduce this information gap, Agriculture Knowledge Bank was developed with the support of AIS under Ag. Extension project to ensure farmers and relevant agricultural stakeholders can access crop related information in one single web platform.

Sustainibility

It will be managed by the Govt.'s Agriculture Information Service Department (AIS) as public portal, so it is accessible by anyone.

Farmer Query System (FQS) - Remote Agro Advosory Service

Farmer query system is a smartphone application based technology solution that allows quality and timely provision of remote agro consultations and solutions for farmers in Bangladesh. It is a mobile app used by infomediary who collect queries and send the collected data to the agriculture experts who then reviews all the information on a web dashboard and send the recommendations and solutions to the local intermediary through SMS, Voice Message or Phone call which is then passed on to the farmers. Thois application is being used by more than 4000 users as infomediaries which serves more than one hundred thousands farmers in Bangladesh. So far 55000 queries have been solved through this application. The users are farmers, extension officers (Both public and private), input sellers and tele centre agents.

Benefits of FQS

  • Deliver quality agro recommendations to farmers’ on-demand by linking them to remote agro consultation services;
  • Ensuring agriculture experts provide proper recommendations since FQS Smartphone application captures farmers’ need systematically;
  • Ensure timely and effective digital extension service where there is scarcity of extension agents in the field;
  • Real-time data of farmers’ need, provide avenue of decision making to policymakers, researchers and extension workers. 

Logic behind developing FQS

It is quite impossible for the small number of public extension agents to serve this large number of farmers. As the country’s mobile network penetration is almost 99% and smart phone penetration is also on the increase, mPower Social Enterprises Ltd. came up with the idea of providing agro consultation to the farmers in remote areas by taking advantage of this advanced technology. Basically FQS application was developed to reduce the existing gap between limited public extension workers and large number of farm households in providing agro consultation.

Sustainibility

  • As a public partner of the project - Govt's Agriculture Information Service (AIS) will host the service.
  • mPower will try a business model where farmers will be able to get agricultural solution by paying a certain amount of monthly subscription. Another model is to charge input selling companies so that they can have that as an added extension service to sell their products.  

Public Extension Agents (SAAO) Digital Diary Application

SAAO Digital Diary is a smartphone application which is developed to help Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officers (SAAO) to log in their daily visits or services provided to the farmers digitally. Through SAAO Diary application, Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officers can put their daily activity information which can be viewed by their supervisors for monitoring purpose. To ensure accountability and transparency, a web dashboard was developed to be used at supervisors (Sub District Agriculture Officer/UAO) end through which UAOs will be able to monitor daily activities of the SAAOs working under their supervision. This whole process was initiated to reduce the lengthy administrative process that takes place between UAO and SAAO usually over paper based documents. Total 130 SAAOs  got smartphones along with this application from the project and are serving thousands of farmers from their extension centres and field.

Logic behind developing SAAO Digital Diary

Before initiating ICT interventions in USAID funded Ag. Extension Project, mPower Social Enterprises Ltd. conducted a need assessment on project stakeholders (Farmers, extension agents) at the project locations. The findings derived from the assessment revealed that the daily paperwork for conducting field visits consume a significant amount of time of SAAOs. This activity reduces their time to provide agricultural extension service to the farmers. In order to save more time and to ensure smooth extension service delivery, SAAO digital diary is developed which takes very less time to record daily activities and saves them digitally to be monitored by their supervisors.

Sustainibility

At the end of Ag. Extension project, SAAO digital diary will be handed over to Department of Agricultural Extension’s (DAE) ICT department to maintain the service beyond project cycle because SAAOs are the direct employees of DAE who manages them at the field level to provide extension service to the farmers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjHqyM-EfkQ&t=109s
 

Greetings from Jerusalem and many thanks for keeping us in the loop. It is definitely a great opportunity to participate in the e-Agriculture platform on this important topic.

A short answer to question No 2, comments are welcome:

Sustainable intensification of strawberry production in the West Bank and Gaza Strip using computerized control system (WBGS)

In the WBGS, farmers are achieving a threefold increase in yields with only 70 percent of the water use compared to traditional greenhouse production by growing hanging strawberries. The strawberries are grown in soil-less media using a computerized system controlling the quantity and frequency of irrigation and application of fertilizers.

FAO has facilitated knowledge transfer between farmers in the West Bank already applying this technique, and Gazan farmers. As a result, small-scale farmers in the Gaza Strip have now established 10 dunums of hanging strawberry production. A comparison of production data for strawberries grown in open fields, traditional greenhouses and hanging:

Strawberry Production Open Field Traditional Greenhouse Hanging Strawberries
#seedlings/dunum 8,000 8,000 18,000
Production (tons/dunum) 3 4 12
Water use (m3/dunum) 900 1,000 700
Season Mid-Sept-Mid April (yield after 60 days) 1 Sep -1May (yield after 65 days) Mid-Sep -1 June (yield after 50 days)

Below is a picture of the Strawberry Production

Dr. Azzama Saleh │ Head of Programme

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) │ West Bank and Gaza Strip

Mount of Olives St. 26, Sheikh Jarrah │ P.O. Box 22246, Jerusalem 91513

Mobile: +972 (0)54 802 6712 │ Tel: +972 (0)2 5339 402│ Fax: +972 (0)2 540 0027

Email: azzam.saleh@fao.org │ Skype: azzam271 │ Website : www.fao.org

Wilbert  Johnsson
Wilbert Johnsson Independant consultant South Africa

Thank you Dr Azzama for sharing this interesting  and intriguing case -ICTs- for Hort  production system. The comparison in terms of inputs and outputs gained is self-explanatory and justifies further the significant role of ICTs tools and innovative farming practices in intensifying crop production. I would like to kindly ask if you have tried this with other horticultural crops, if yes can you specify and will appreciate if you can share the production-productivity comparison as above, is this being done under small scale or its entirely commercial. Besides decreased water use , are there any other ecosystem based approaches/ environmentally friendly aspects which are included in such a localised farming system- thinking more on the sustainability   part of  running such a system. Can you comment on the use of  chemicals – is it organic - cost of operation ? Etc . Are the technical aspects of running such a soilless greenhouses public, i.e. can they be accessed and recommended to be practised  in other regions. We would really want to try it here in Africa. Thanks again Azzama.

Innocent Chamisa
Innocent ChamisaThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO) Italy

On Behalf of Mukesh Pandey et al  Research Paper -ICT System for Increasing Efficiency of Apple-Value Chain.

Abstract.

Horticultural crops being high value crops are important in raising the incomes of the farmers besides creating employment opportunities. Apple is one of the most widely grown temperate fruit crops grown in Himalayas of Northern India. Almost all the apples grown in India come from its three mountainous states i.e. Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Uttarakhand. The supply chain of apples, which is one of the main temperate fruit crops of the Himachal Pradesh, is laden with inefficiencies across the entire value chain leading to poor price realization of growers on one hand  and exorbitant prices paid by consumers on the other. A major share of this consumer rupee goes to a miniscule number of market intermediaries who exploit the farmers due to poor marketing linkages, virtually non-existent cold chain infrastructure and processing facilities. The growers still follow the age old cultivation practices and have noidea of consumer needs and preferences, market prices,various government schemes, scientific agronomical practices especially agri-inputs, sources of timely and adequate credit availability and market linkages. The apple farmers of Himachal Pradesh suffer due to inadequate infrastructure especially cold chains, absence of demandforecasting and meagre value-addition. They also lack information on scientific cultivation practices, market prices, consumer preferences and market linkages.

The purpose of this research paper, as such, is to integrate the information platform for various stakeholders and design an ICT enabled apple supply chain that will benefit millions of apple growers, processors, distributors, dealers, exporters of fresh & processed apple products and above all consumers. The study will also provide an action plan to the policy makers and private players like HPMC and Adani thus creating spin-offs which will stimulate social, economical and sustainable development of India.

Full paper available here:

 

Bashir Sani
Bashir SaniNational Agricultural Extension & Research Liaison Services, based in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

Thank you very much for the informative debate and also for the detailed case studies above. I have no specific examples of case studies, but l read recently on the Success Stories on Information Communication for Rural Development case studies, http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6733e.pdf .

Specifically l was intrigued by the Nano Ganesh Case study no 7 which is intto irrigation. This can be applied in horticultural settings especially in green houses which are under irrigation. There are more than 60,000 units installed in India, Nanp Ganesh equipment allow farmers to control and monitor water pumps by accessing them through a mobile phone.

Looking forward to learn more

Santosh Ostwal
Santosh OstwalOssian Agro Automation Private LimitedIndia

In many countries, the heart of the economy is the agriculture income......the heart of the agriculture is appropriate inputs in which water is the crucial element. So, the water machinery is of prime importance to be connected to the farmers and the governing platforms. Here, ICT like Nano Ganesh plays an important role as an intelligent end device connected to the water machinery like pumps, water tanks, and sensors for control and monitoring purpose. It saves water, electricity, time, labor, fuel and prevents the soil minerals from diluting due to overwatering.

Please refer to the following presentation:

The use of Nano Ganesh ICT has two main purposes - 

1. A farmer can control and monitor the irrigation with the help of a mobile phone and free from the headache of frequent visits to the water machinery saving huge expenses on fuel and energy resources. His comfort level is increased and he can focus on to important farm activities

2. Data of irrigation made available to Cloud for analytics e.g. power consumed, pump on-off schedule, daily-monthly reports of the quantity of water, savings in electricity etc. This can be made available to farmers as well as government bodies and research organizations.

In a broader sense, Nano Ganesh ICT has been useful as a daily Agro tool for the farmers as well as a crucial device for Data analytics.

Worldwide there are so many intelligent software platforms available to provide different services to the farmers. The task of BIG data analytics, intelligent automation, reports etc. can be well done by these platforms provided they receive proper inputs from the field deployed ICTs. So, the successful and scalable deployment of ICT end devices connected to the farm machinery in the hazardous fields is a crucial factor in the overall success of ICT for the horticulture intensification.

There may be any type of crop or fruit production, the precise use of a single drop of water is a must. So, ICT role in Irrigation proves to be an essential factor and needs to be paid much importance in the agriculture policies.