Select Page

2018 Winner

Revealing informal food flows through free WiFi

The Inspire Challenge is an initiative to challenge partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale. We look for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.

This proposal was selected as a 2018 winner, with the team receiving 100,000 USD to put their ideas into practice. 

Revealing informal food flows through free WiFi

Despite of being the main source of food for the poor and also of food safety hazard, food flows at traditional and informal markets are largely invisible. This means that informal flows are mostly ignored in urban food planning and programming.

This project proposes to characterize and monitor food flows between traders, retailers and consumers in Hanoi, Vietnam by providing free Internet to a series of wholesale and markets around the city. Project partners CIAT and the General Statistics Office (GSO) of Vietnam will survey actors and track in space and time all the devices (connected or not) in the range of the router and signal amplifiers. By crossing the data gathered the initiative aims to model food flows and linked actors at key markets.

Unraveling informal food flows will contribute to identify better policy and planning options to upgrade distribution channels in a way that benefits the poor.


Nguyen Cong Thang | Email
Agriculture Department Vice-Director, General Statistics Office (GSO) of Vietnam

Stef De Haan | Email
Senior Scientist at CIAT

Louis Reymondin | Email
Scientist at CIAT

Dharani Burra | Email
Data Scientist at CIAT

Huong Pham Thi | Email
Research Assistant at CIAT


Step by step

Oct 2018

US$100K grant

The project was one of five winners of the Inspire Challenge 2018 and was awarded US$100K at the second annual convention of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, during 3-5 October 2018.

Nov 2018 - Jan 2019

Scoping study for markets

The traditional market system in Vietnam is quite diverse, divided in 3 types (type 1: more than 400 stores, type 2: more than 200 stores, and type 3: less than 200 stores). A quick scoping study on markets has been done in two districts in order to better understand market types and their management structure.

Feb - Mar 2019

Kick-off meeting

A kick-off meeting involves local partners, local authority and market management boards. The purpose of the meeting is to get feedback of research using Wi-Fi, which is considered quite new. Selection of five specific markets are discussed based on a set of criteria. Constraints during the implementation are also indicated and solutions are discussed in the meeting.

Apr – Sep 2019

Router setup and Wi-Fi installation

Data collection is carried out during this time.

Oct 2019

Data analysis

The analysis expects to provide detailed network analysis of food flows at different scales for different markets as well as recommendations to policy makers related to market development.

Nov 2019


A meeting is organized in order to get direct feedback from policy makers.

Nov 2019

Application for scale up

Stay tuned for more updates!