Does data mean power for smallholder farmers?

Data-driven agriculture can make growers visible on the global food chain.

Sustainability is not just a trend but a way of life for those in the agricultural world. This is especially true for a smallholder farmer. The hands that grow our food and feed the whole are often not the corporate companies but small landowners with less than 2 hectares of land.

If the population forecasts are accurate, the world will have to house and feed 8.5 billion people by 2030. As climate change and agriculture techniques change, the yield on the existing farmlands is only reducing.

In such cases, the livelihood of these farmers is under threat, and the technology world is taking notice.

A series of technological advancements in the agricultural field is now coming to these farmers’ rescue to solve food shortage, climate change, and farmer poverty at once.

Data lies at the center of all these advancements.

So, what exactly is the relationship between data and the life of smallholder farmers? Can it give them the power they need?

Let’s find out.

Smallholder Farmers and Data

When you think of coffee, cocoa, and other export-related food items from your favorite brand, do you imagine them being grown in a large farm or small pockets of farmland?

If you said the former, then, sadly, it is not the case. Most of our favorite food items come from the hard work of smallholder farmers. These items have stringent regulations across the world for quality checks, standardization, and traceability. Often any mismatch or non-compliance falls on these smallholder farmers.

When we digitise the farmer and his farm, and use data to understand and trace the crop cycle we are looking for a change in the traditional farming system.

The concept of data-driven agriculture and agricultural analytics is being passed on to these farmers for better output by large corporations and governments.

Does data mean power for smallholder farmers?

Source: FAO UN

The world of Agri-Analytics

Given that the need for precise data and information interpretation is flourishing, the agricultural analytics market is also seeing tremendous growth. Experts expect the market to reach 2.72 billion dollars by 2027 and at a CAGR of 17.5%.

Some factors aiding the growth of data science and analytics in Agri market include:

1. Increase in demand for high-quality food products with provenance

2. The popularity of technological advancements to bring in precision agriculture, including the deployment of AI and machine learning in crop monitoring

3. Farmers’ growing affinity to improve yields and adhere to international food safety and traceability standards

4. Growing pressure on livestock farmers to improve output to handle global demand

Many countries in the developed part of the world where agri-tech has penetrated are witnessing a greater demand for agricultural analytics for better and more informed decision making, predictive analytics and more. Factors like developing economies, rising disposable incomes, growing penetration of cloud computing, smartphones, and infrastructure development are aiding the growth of this sector in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically.

Does data mean power for smallholder farmers?

Source: CGSpace Whitepaper on Data-driven Agriculture

How can agri-data empower Smallholder Farmers?

While BigData initiatives definitely translate into better quality control, easier planning, and smoother administrative models for corporate companies, there is a lot to gain for smallholder farmers as well.

Digitising Farm Data can help small farmers with:

1. Accurate knowledge of their ecosystem and plug the leaks in the supply chain.

2. Precision Farming techniques to improve yields, maintain fields sustainably

3. Track and prevent spoilage and food-borne illnesses. This is a boon for smallholder farmers to avoid losing the expected yield.

4. Use predictive modelling for crop and weather forecasting

5. Geo-referencing capability also aids monitoring crop growth and management.

6. Extensive modules from farmer profiling to training to certification

7. Compliance with global food traceability standards with ease

Blockchain Technology and Smallholder farmers

Yes, data can help improve productivity and maintain crop and farm digital records for smallholder farmers. But, unfortunately, the bulk of the benefits from data do not even reach these farmers on the ground level.

Leaving the complex details of data ownership and data manipulation by large corporations, accessibility issues still loom above these farmers.

For smallholder farmers to truly benefit from digitizing farms and tap into data -driven agriculture, they require access to the internet and innovative technology. Since most fields and farm lands are remote, most technologies do not reach them. SourceTrace offers offline mode to both farmers and extension workers to input data at farm and which then later connects with the server when the mobile device is in network of internet connection.

Another complication may arise for local languages and intensive advisory support for crop, pest, disease, soil and weather management. DATAGREEN is available in as many 18 local languages on the mobile version, which makes it easy to access by the farmer and make available resources and timely advisories.

The truth is innovative technology is not as overly complicated as it sounds. With the internet, a few sensors, and an app, Blockchain can now ensure a 100% coverage of all essential data points with analytics with a tap. Blockchain technology has grabbed the attention of those in the agricultural business for sustainability, traceability, and production management systems. Data aggregation and input is essential to maintain safe, secure records of crop handling and blockchain makes it tamper proof for global compliance agencies to get accurate data.

With Blockchain, smallholder farmers can:

1. Capitalize on the data provided by the sensors to monitor soil moisture, temperature, calculate pesticide quantity, and monitor yields at different conditions.

2. Manage the flow of finance across the value chain

3. Provide traceability solutions to the customers and build trust in the market

4. Improve the export-ability of their products by being recall-friendly

Challenges for Smallholder Farmers from BigData

Data can be power for these smallholder farmers growing in-demand crops and exotic produce in the corners of the world. But, while the concept is brilliant on paper, the execution still has a long way to go, mainly because of lack of data.

The government agencies, farmer cooperatives and agri- business mandate the requirement of data at each point of agri-inputs and crop handling nowadays. Hence,technologies like Blockchain must reach the ground-level small farms to stop their reliance on corporations and intermediaries to aid their technological upgrade.

Government initiatives such as internet infrastructure development, stringent data ownership laws, and empowering smallholder farmers to become global-market ready are imperative to get the movement going.

Smart farm and crop analytics combined with data management on a single dashboard is the future of farming.

Are you a smallholder farmer looking to upgrade the way you do business? Do you want to see how data can teach you more about your land? The technology is here, and SourceTrace is available to support you in your endeavors.

The DATAGREEN solution suite has modules for all your requirements:

● Farmer Advisory Services

● Monitoring and Evaluation

● Certification

● Financial Services

● Market Linkage

Contact SourceTrace today to leverage the power of data and Blockchain technology for your farms.

Be ready to compete on a global level with our solutions.

SourceTrace's software solutions have been deployed across 37 countries and 4 continents already. We are on a mission to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable. Get in touch and we will extend our expertise and commitment to you.


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About SourceTrace

SourceTrace is a SaaS (Software As A Service) company that focuses on sustainable agriculture and empowerment of farmers.

SourceTrace's advanced technology platform DATAGREEN provides comprehensive solutions to manage all aspects of the agricultural value chain.

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