Arun picking up the award on behalf of CABI

CABI and partners the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have landed a prestigious $250,000 Inspire 2018 Scale Up award for their ground-breaking Seeing is Believing project which uses farmers’ own smartphone photographs to help them optimize their agronomic decision-making.

The prize, which was won as part of CGIAR’s Platform for Big Data in Agriculture 2018 Inspire Challenge awards, was presented during the Platform’s second annual congress  ‘Decoding the Data Ecosystem’ which was recently held in Nairobi, Kenya. It follows an original Inspire Challenge award of $100,000 given in 2017 to develop the latest prize-winning concept further.

The Inspire Challenge encourages the use of big data approaches to advance agricultural research and development. CABI and IFPR’s innovative entry impressed judges (which included representatives from USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) for showing real potential for developmental impact – having mobilized underused or misused data as well as showing the potential to develop meaningful partnerships with CGIAR and other sector members.

CABI and IFPRI’s winning entry whereby the use of farmers’ self-collected camera data to provide agricultural services is unprecedented. The aim of the service is to provide personalised agricultural advice not only based on localized information but also on visible crop characteristics derived from a stream of farmers’ own smartphone pictures.

Arun Jadhav, CABI’s Project Manager – Mobile, said, ‘We’re delighted to have won this award together with our partners IFPRI. Many smallholder farmers rely on inefficient agricultural practices that are insufficiently adaptive to climate change.

‘Customized agricultural advice for specific crops grown by a farmer, based on localized weather and soil data, pests and diseases, as well as input availability can improve management practices, productivity and profitability.

‘But personalized message services do not incorporate potentially very useful information on what farmers observe for themselves, for instance, crop colour, texture and how the crop is growing over time.

‘The ‘Seeing is Believing’ project’s use of real-time data from smartphone pictures will strengthen advice in four ways. This includes the fact that visible crop characteristics provide more information as well as the tangibility of a picture-based approach being more likely to increase ownership and take-up of the advice.’

Mr Jadhav also says the collected camera data can be stored and organized in a systematic way for different types of plots, weather conditions and practices – thereby empowering both farmers and experts in detecting patterns on how these variables relate to crop growth. He says the project also demonstrates a clear business case as insurers have started using camera data for damage assessment, and are interested in bundling insurance with advisories.

As part of the 2018 convention, co-hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in close collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), more than 400 participants came together to tackle how the data ‘ecosystem’ for food security can integrate more effectively with real global agricultural systems.

Additional information

Read more about how the ‘Seeing is Believing’ project has been helping farmers in the northern Indian states of Haryana and Punjab improve their management practices, productivity and profitability.

Find out more about how CABI works with farmers, mobile operators, content providers, extension services and industry bodies to provide mobile services across the whole agricultural supply chain here.

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