Take the Ag-Tech Developer Challenge

Calling all remote-sensing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and UAV drone companies!

Smallholder farmers produce the vast majority of the world’s cocoa, the basic ingredient for chocolate. Cocoa farmers face daunting challenges: declining yields, mounting threats from pests and disease, and persistent poverty. Unfortunately, farmers rarely get the timely training, advice, and financial means they need to change their circumstances.

To help farmers overcome those challenges, the Rainforest Alliance, Grameen Foundation, Touton, Satelligence, University of Ghana, and Waterwatch Projects set up the SAT4Farming program, an initiative to reach thousands of small-scale cocoa producers with information and services to improve their productivity and sustainability. It is designed to use digital technology and satellite imagery to create digital individual Farm Development Plans (FDPs) that guide farmers over a seven-year period with the aim of increasing their productivity to up to 1500 kgs per hectare (a 300 percent increase).

Remote sensing data used directly to support decision-making of farmers.

Remote sensing data used directly to support decision-making of farmers.

Now we are calling on remote-sensing, high-tech, and Earth-observation companies to tackle our Ag-Tech Developer Challenge, a competition to build a remote-sensing data product that links to and adds value to the mobile-enabled FDPs. Through this competition we hope to stimulate participants to create innovative ideas. Two prizes, one of €100,000 ($115,000) and one of €75,000 ($86,000) will be awarded for the best ideas to be implemented, but all entries may be considered for future engagement with the Rainforest Alliance.

The submissions will be evaluated by a high-profile panel that includes Ed Parsons, Geospatial Technologist of Google; Kim Frankovich, Vice President Cocoa Sustainability of Mars Inc.; Farouk Nyame, Technical Manager of the Cartography Unit in the Ghana Cocoa Board; and Daan de Vries, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer of the Rainforest Alliance. Winning this competition presents a potential avenue for future business engagement, as we aim to make the SAT4Farming services widely available through a social enterprise long after the program ends.

Submission criteria

To participate, submit a proposal that includes:

  • A remote sensing element
  • A clear link to the Adoption Observations and ability to answer FDP API request (see complementary information)
  • The title of the innovation
  • The (technical) requirements to make the innovation run
  • A high level implementation plan for the innovation
  • A business case for the innovation (including pricing and costing)
  • A short description of how you envision the future business relationship with the enterprise
  • A budget and budget allocation
  • Name and contact details
  • Maximum 5 pages
  • All material submitted must be in English
  • Send submissions to Tsmorenburg@ra.org before the 15th of March
  • Optional: Video pitch (maximum 2 minutes)

The judging criteria for the panel will be:

  • The added value of the innovation to the FDP process.
  • Scalability of the innovation
  • Development time required for launching the innovation

The Farm Development Plan

The Farm Development Plan (FDP) is a decision making and planning tool for smallholder cocoa farmers, and includes agronomic practices that they need to adopt as well as the financial investment needed to do so to increase their productivity to up to 1500 kg/hectare. In addition, it is a tool for field officers to assist cocoa farmers with increasing their productivity through monitoring, coaching, training and financial planning. The data required for the FDP is collected by field agents from large cocoa traders such as Touton and a process for doing is already in place.

The Farm Development Plan application consists of two modules; a diagnostics module and a monitoring module. In the diagnostics module, data from the farmer is collected by the field agent. This is socio-economic data about the farmer and the household, and farm production/economic data. In addition, observations are done on 14 key indicators, the so-called adoption observations (see complementary information). These are indicators related to Plant material, Farm condition, Good Agricultural Practices and Soil and can be scored as Good/Medium/Bad. These adoption observations need to be done for each cocoa plot of every farmer willing to engage in the FDP.

Based on this data, the FDP application comes up with specific recommendations per plot and a Profit & Loss (P&L) analysis is provided indicating the costs for implementing the recommendations on a monthly basis. The P&L and the recommended interventions can be adjusted, based on the specific situation of a farmer and the household. Then, the FDP is agreed upon between the farmer and the field agent and a coaching and monitoring plan will be developed.

The monitoring module is meant specifically for field agents. This enables the field agents to input farmer information and to go through the adoption observations again during the quarterly or half-yearly monitoring visits and assess farm and plot compliance to the FDP. This is done by scoring the adoption observations with Good/Medium/Bad again.

SAT4Farming program

The Rainforest Alliance, working together with the Grameen Foundation, Touton, Satelligence, Waterwatch Projects and the University of Ghana, were awarded a grant from the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) to integrate geo-data into the process of developing, implementing and monitoring multi-year Farm Development Plans and make them more accurate, impactful and affordable. The aim of the plans is to increase smallholder cocoa farm yields to up to 1.5 tons per hectare.

The program will run until the end of 2020, by which the FDP with integrated geo-data will have spun off in an enterprise.

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