WEBINAR SUMMARY – Big data & COVID-19: Bridging gaps & building resiliency with digital agriculture platforms – Part 2 (Eps. 5)

The fifth episode of our Discussion Series: Big data solutions to COVID-19 & food security, brought together four panelists to discuss bridging gaps and building resiliency with digital agriculture platforms.

In times of crisis, big data tools can help us make sense of and respond to crises with agility and accuracy.

From using satellite remote sensing to monitor crop harvests to leveraging social media data to track population dynamics that may influence the spread of disease, big data tools and approaches have been instrumental in sensing and responding to the pandemic’s impacts on global food security and supply chains.

As we begin recovering and (re)building resilient food systems, we must leverage the power of big data to examine concepts of resilience and inform our understanding of how digital dynamism enables adaptive food systems in the face of shocks, and, in the longer term, addresses systemic issues in agriculture that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

The fifth panel, held 28 July, brought together four panelists to discuss bridging gaps & building resiliency with digital agriculture platforms.


Here are the main take-aways from each of the speakers:

Stephanie Dizon

Head of Implementation, FarmForce

Stephanie Dizon is the Head of Implementation for Farmforce AS, a digital solutions provider for digitizing the agricultural first mile. She has previously managed implementations for Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone) and Asia-Pacific (Myanmar, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea). She also leverages extensive experience in supply chain management, having worked with herbs and spices, import/export of fresh produce and retail. She has an in-depth understanding of operational requirements and challenges in the agricultural and FMCG industry.

Key takeaways from Stephanie Dizon

  • Farmforce is a cloud-hosted web and mobile solution that syncs and aggregates data collected on the ground, and provides an overview of farmers, crops and monitoring and evaluation work;
  • One Farmforce project in Cote d’Ivoire entailed using a survey module to increase people’s sensitivity around COVID-19 sanitation practices, by sharing information through field officers and cooperatives;
  • The Clinton Foundation in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Malawi has used Farmforce to reach small farmers during the pandemic, bulking large amount of information via SMS to share and raise awareness on COVID-19, collecting survey responses via voice calls and using that information to rapidly roll out plans and programmes;
  • Success factors for implementing digital solutions: familiarity with virtual meeting spaces; conducting sessions in short, interactive ways; addressing internet and connectivity issues, by providing clients/users with customised offline manuals; empowering individual users through one-on-one sessions; ensuring global support teams can help clients in different time zones; flexibility and adaptation.
  • Technology is a great tool, but not an end solution; there is a need for programmes that support end outcomes; solutions are possible only with a collaborative approach where you reach out for solutions and find the problems on the ground;
  • Shifting work patterns in uncertain times needs to also focus on more interactive ways to reach clients remotely;
  • Information collected by Farmforce is disseminated to cooperatives on the ground (e.g. working with Cargill), to ensure that practices in the field were respected, while limiting contact.

Aashna Singh

Co-Founder, MoooFarm

Aashna Singh is the Co-Founder & COO of MoooFarm, a dairy technology start-up building connected commerce for 100 million dairy farmers in India. Aashna is a strong promoter of inclusive growth and is passionate about creating sustainable rural livelihood for farmers. She is a recipient of multiple awards including from the Agriculture Innovation Congress and the World Bank.

Key takeaways from Aashna Singh

  • India’s dairy industry (the world’s largest by production) is still undermined by inefficiencies: inputs and services are in short supply, veterinary care is insufficient, gaps in knowledge persist, cattle health history is limited, breeding is low-quality and farmers have limited access to credit and insurance (only 9% of cattle in India is insured);
  • Mooofarm has created its own app, which creates a digitised breeding cycle for every registered cattle; farmers then receive guidance on the timing of insemination, vaccination, on health issues and on other milestones in the animal’s life;
  • Information from Mooofarm allows government authorities to take real-time decisions, based on the size of production, or on the location of milking or gestative cattle;
  • One key focus area is cattle health, especially threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic; as veterinarians could not reach farmers, Mooofarm provided a toll free number they could be called at; in the three months of lockdowns, farmers made more than 5,000 calls, 75% of them related to cattle health; the platform connecting farmers to vets allows the latter to send voice messages and SMS; about 70-80% of problems can be solved virtually, and the data collected can inform authorities about particular areas or problems they need to address;
  • Mooofarm created a community platform with e-learning videos, expert interviews with government officials, and with influential farmers demonstrating best practices – the platform aims to bridge gaps in knowledge that used to be provided through face-to-face meeting with other farmers, officials and agents on the ground;
  • Mooofarm is also empowering women, by working with women agents on the ground, who visit households to make sure that the women learn best practices for dairy making.

Shahid Akbar

CEO, Bangladesh Institute of ICT Development

Shahid is the Founder and CEO of the Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) fostering ICT integration in development initiatives and mainstreaming ICT4D. He leads various e-Agriculture projects under the umbrella of e-Krishok, on nutrition and entrepreneurship development programs for micro & small and micro business with a focus on women and youth. BIID initiatives envision and align to achieve SDGs and national development goals.

Key takeaways from Shahid Akbar

  • eKrishok provides farmers with extension information (e.g. on prices, weather, etc.);
  • As farmers do not tend to run their farms as businesses, eKrishok provides a business plan canvass that allows farmers to calculate profits, check agronomic information and adapt crops based on climate conditions;
  • The government can use the farmers’ digital profiles and location information in the app to support farmers when they suffer losses;
  • The app also maps land use, and during the pandemic it has tracked farmers’ production losses;
  • eKrishok aims to extend to further services, including training, marketing, and mentoring small businesses.

Zeituna Mustafa

Market Engagement Manager, GSMA

Zeituna Mustafa is the market engagement Manager for the GSMA AgriTech programme. Within GSMA, she advises mobile operators on development and implementation of mobile money strategy, robust business plans and operational plans to digitize agricultural value chains. Her expertise is digital financial services with experience in digital finance strategic and operational aspects for mobile money providers and financial institutions.

Key takeaways from Zeituna Mustafa

  • The pandemic has provided an opportunity to develop digital tools as we adapt to the new normal;
  • Four challenges have emerged from the pandemic: movement restrictions, social distancing, curfews, and business closures;
  • AgriTech is filling a gap caused by shifts in movements of food, inputs, and people;
  • Extension services are now provided virtually;
  • There has been a 3 to 5 fold demand on online commerce platforms;
  • Farmers are using their spare time to invest in other businesses or to learn new skills;
  • Businesses have switched from B2B to B2C, as demand from public services, hospitality, and other sectors has dropped;
  • Jala, an epidemiology app in Indonesia focused on water quality for shrimp health, build a new feature to help farmers sell their shrimp stock directly to consumers, instead of underselling them on the market as they lacked storage facilities;
  • m-Omulimisa, a mobile-based agritech in Uganda for smallholder farmers, has switched to providing people with WHO health advisories in local languages, free of charge;
  • In Ghana, Farmerline provides information on the pandemic to about 18,000 small farmers, in seven local languages; initially, the app provided weather and agronomic weather advisories.

July 28, 2020


CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture


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