Private multinational agricultural input companies continuously conduct various data collection efforts and employ agents and agronomists. The goals of these data collection efforts are to communicate the value of company products, increase company sales, understand individual farmer needs, and provide farmers with better services. Achieving these goals will greatly help companies increase their market share. However, the data collected by a company under these efforts are often used for a specific business purpose and then “shelved” without further use. This frequently results in poor data quality and availability that could otherwise be used to understand market size, demand for products or the availability of agricultural inputs in markets with many low-income farmers. There is also a lack of ‘last mile’ transparency for input providers and agronomists, which greatly reduces the ability of governments, research institutions and companies to invest appropriately and position agriculture inputs where they are needed.
NASA Harvest partner 6th Grain have the long-term goal of increasing yields and income for all farmers in Africa. To achieve this, we need to greatly expand the agronomy advice and input availability information for growers in East and Southern Africa. We also need to increase these growers’ ability to determine if seeds purchased and other inputs used have resulted in increased productivity. The grower needs to 1) have a detailed record on what they have done over the past few years, 2) know the area upon which they have planted, and 3) have an ability to directly calculate their yields and the profit made on each field. In the past year, 6th Grain has developed FieldFocus Light, a mobile tool that is easy-to-learn, user-friendly and lets the grower calculate field size, farming profitability, and design a farming strategy. This project will provide incentives for private sector input companies and this project allows 6th Grain to engage with Smallholder Farmers to create a sustainable business model for agents, all while supporting the input providers, agronomists, agents, retailers and distributors who serve the agents. The focus is to digitize farmer recruitment, training, monitoring and payment for high quality agronomists, and for growers to know whether the inputs and investments on their farm are paying off. Using digital tools, we will focus on developing a last-mile commission-based system that will provide world-class agronomic advice, engagement, and decision support across this dynamic agricultural value chain.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Enabling Crop Analytics at Scale, this project kicked off in August 2021 and begins by collecting and sharing data in East and Southern Africa with partners of the Syngenta Corporation and the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP).