Presentation by Christine Gould to the World Bank Digital Development Team
The next generations of digital natives are adept at creating and adopting digital solutions for agriculture, which is especially important in the wake of COVID-19. The global TFF Community is stepping up to build and share breakthrough digital solutions that help to solve the urgent issues facing our food systems, such as: linking growers to consumers, ensuring stable, safe, sustainable agricultural production, and ensuring vulnerable populations are nourished. They are leveraging mobile technologies and devices, GIS and data analytics, artificial intelligence, IoT, remote sensing, and other digitally-delivered services.
Here are some inspirational examples of how TFF Challenge Teams around the world are spearheading agriculture’s digital revolution during these challenging times:
This Indonesian team that connects farmers with food truck owners, contracted COVID-19 themselves and were hospitalized – but that didn’t stop them from taking their startup forward. When their food truck customers were unable to procure goods due to quarantine, they quickly pivoted to sell directly to consumers promoting the products on WhatsApp. Demand was high, and so, for some time, they carried out deliveries themselves with the help of friends before finding a local NGO they could partner with on the delivery side. Now, to reduce time and materials used for repackaging, they are giving a discount to people who buy staples in bulk. Many Indonesian people are celebrating Lebaran or Ramadhan at the moment, so demand for bulk staples is increasing. When there are food leftovers, Aglonera supports customers in making donations to poor people.
This Mexican team makes a healthy sugar substitute, xylitol, from crop waste. Due to quarantine, they moved their research lab into their home. A few days in, the lab exploded, but that didn’t stop them. After rebuilding, they got straight back to work, and pivoted to sell their products online B2C at reduced rates. They are not making a profit at the moment, but are instead focused in building a new customer base and business model which will give them an edge when the market turns upward. They are also tapping into open-source satellite data to understand where and when to source the agricultural waste they use, and to calculate more accurately the benefits their solution has on the environment.
This Indonesian precision agriculture team provides a chatbot-based, AI-powered mobile app that lets farmers easily diagnose plant disease and receive instant recommendations to treat the crops. Due to COVID-19, they have had to stop their in-person outreach to farmers, and have thus shifted towards leveraging Facebook to access online farmer groups and obtain new customers. They are also organising topical webinars to share knowledge and build their brand. Given the fact that supply chains are collapsing, they have come up with a B2C initiative that allows people to donate to Neurafarm so they can buy fresh produce from farmers and deliver it quickly and directly to the end-consumer.
This team from Indonesia has created a microbubble generator which increases the oxygen levels in ponds used for aquafarming, increasing their capacity for and improving the living conditions of the fish. This group of students was originally working with a local village, piloting their device and increasing their fish production. However, since Covid-19 hit, a new opportunity presented itself. The Badung regency of Bali usually flourishes with the tourism trade, but since the lockdown, many of its inhabitants are out of work and incomes in the region have reduced. The government, in a bid to find revenue elsewhere, has focused on the aquaculture sector. Banoo has sent in a proposal to partner with the region and support the local aquafarming activities with their microbubble generator. Furthermore, the team has, with the additional time available, designed a new version of their device which can also be used in salt water. This will allow them to respond to the many requests they have received from shrimp farmers who want to use the bubble generator.
In the Philippines, food production locations do not necessarily coincide with the areas where food is most needed. This leads to bumper harvests in some areas and people going hungry in others. WTH Foods has decided to do something about this. They use the surplus food that would otherwise not be sold to create delicious, nutritious meals from them. Usually, these meals would be sold in a restaurant and show kitchen, but since Covid-19 and the lockdown, they have pivoted to sell the food online. As a small business, they managed to pivot before many others and saw their competition decrease. Having perfected their recipes, the team is now increasing their efforts of making plant-based, long-lasting food that can be an alternative to the unhealthy tinned foods currently available to people in regions with food shortages.
When Josh, founder of Agricycle Global, went traveling in Uganda, he saw that a lot of delicious fruit like mangoes and pineapples were going to waste and he decided to do something about it. He used his engineering background to design a passive solar dehydrator and made snacks from the dried fruit that he sold back in his home country, the USA. Since then, Agricycle Global has grown to work with more than 15,000 farmers and is now producing dried fruit snacks, flours and briquettes made from coconut shells. Since the lockdown and border closures, they cannot run their operations the way they did before. So now, the team is looking into ways of reaching their farmers without actually meeting. Since many do not have access to the internet, they are looking into SMS systems for this.
The Australian team has created a circular solution for coffee: they are working with farmers in Uganda and selling their coffee as a premium in their home country Australia, and then repurposing the coffee grounds in community gardens. Normally, Kua Coffee sells their coffee in bulk, delivered in reusable drums, to corporates and offices. However, since the lockdown, everyone is working from home and so sales have dramatically gone down. Not discouraged, the team has simply changed their strategy and is now selling their coffee directly to consumers in their homes. True to their effort of creating a circular solution with minimal waste, the coffee is delivered to households in paper packaging. This way, they are continuing to have an income and spreading their thought-provoking questions to consumers: Where is your coffee coming from? Where does your coffee end up?
Covid collaboration collective
More from the Covid Collaboration Collective
Our recently-launched Covid Collaboration Collective (Co3) collects and shares the solutions that TFFers around the world are developing, so that they can be deployed more quickly in other places.