Digital Farmer Profiles: Reimagining Smallholder Agriculture


Digital Farmer Profiles: Reimagining Smallholder Agriculture

The Digital Development for Feed the Future a project within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with their partners published a paper on Digital Farmer Profiles paper.

The paper seeks to explain how technologies can be used to include smallholder farmers into the broader agri-food systems; this includes how smallholder farmers can be profiled; how farmers’ data can be shared and how the impact of agricultural services can be measured.

Meanwhile, there are 500 million smallholder farmers and it has been a challenge to obtain information to or from these farmers. The paper advocates for the use of mobile technology, remote-sensing data, and distributed computing to open up new opportunities to integrate smallholder farmers.

Findings from the assessments

Grameen Foundation, USAID and partners collected data to better understand the needs of smallholder farmer data management needs.

‘Understanding smallholder farmer data management requires defining from who data is captured and how it is captured, analyzed, used and shared'  

Their findings revealed that :-

  • Defining a smallholder farmer is not easy; farmers are not homogeneous. The definition of a smallholder farmer must be flexible to include particularly vulnerable people.
  • Given there can be several farmers per plot of land, when aggregating data for either open data efforts or for sophisticated analytics, it is the farm itself that “pulls” data together. The farm is the common denominator, not the farmer, for aggregating data.
  • Service providers who capture data from, about, and for farmers are a diverse group. The type of service provider involved does not necessarily determine what data is collected or how it is used, but it is an important starting point.
  • New ways of collecting and aggregating data and applying analytics—such as predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive analytics—can reduce the amount of direct input needed from the farmer. Data analytics is a game-changer and is being used to create “new data” from existing data.
  • Digital technology is now facilitating the sharing and management of farmer profile data in real time.
  • Marrying plant science data with real-time farmer data is a new frontier for improving farm productivity.
  • Service providers win or lose depending on how they use their data. Service providers and farmers should not treat data as just a resource but as an asset and should consider opportunities to monetize data. Smallholder farmer data is giving rise to new configurations within service provider business models.
  • There is no single pathway to sophisticated use of farmer profile data. How service providers use and manage data in combination with the data capture methods and data analytics determines how innovative their model may be.
  • When service providers consider new farmer profile approaches, they should start small and take manageable steps.

Download and read the full paper here 

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