Planning Colombia’s bread online

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Rice is a vital crop for Colombia's agriculture and food security. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)
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Dec 18, 2017

by

Alexandra Popescu (CCAFS)

Regions

Game changer app for planning Colombia’s rice crops goes live.

From today, Colombian rice growers can grow their crop by first checking their phones. The "Plan your crop" application was launched today during Colombia’s National Rice Growers Association (FEDEARROZCongress , with support from the CGIAR Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The tool was created by five colombians, the GeoMelódicos, during COP 20 in Lima, and further developed by a team from Sofytek with support from FEDEARROZ,  CCAFS, CGIAR and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Born about three years ago, the "Plan your crop" app is finally ready to go into the world. Created by a small Colombian team, nurtured and supported by CCAFS and FEDEARROZ, it appeared first as a response to a challenge that CCAFS raised at the Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru in 2014: so much data, so many climate challenges – what can we make useful out of that?

And so a hackathon was set up to find some answers. It started from recognizing the problem: farmers need to manage climate better as they increasingly confront the consequences of climate change. And then there’s a load of data lying around that should become useful information for producers that can help answer the natural questions a famer might have:

How do I keep my crop? How do I improve it and create jobs? How can I be more competitive on the international market? How can my crop be more sustainable, more nutritious?

And the same time, national and local authorities and organizations also need information to guide them in managing climate, agriculture and food security issues.

Technology that brings information to those who need it most

Ten teams (36 people) representing Peru, Colombia and Jamaica took on the challenge that end of November. They explored several databases with relevant agricultural data, including AgTrials, AMKN, CCAFS-Climate, CSA Compendium and Terra-I to come up with a technological solution that would support decision-makers in agriculture to secure food, income and life quality. On their mission, they were guided by four mentors from CIAT, experts in climate change science and information services.


Plan your Crop allows Colombian rice growers to be active users. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)

Five Colombians won the first prize with their "Plan your crop" app. The team, going by the name GeoMelodicos, sought to help farmers predict more accurately when to plant their crops throughout the year by putting together a tool that compiles and analyzes real time climate and crop information, and indicates the best time for planting.    

But the deal was that the app was not just for show. 

GeoMelódicos, CCAFS and FEDEARROZ teamed up to make it reality.

In the beginning the app was focused on crops and analisis, and FEDEARROZ played a key role in supplying climate data through its weather stations across the country, which can fuel the app to bring information to farmers," said Natalia Niño, who led the technological development of "Plan your crop" after the hackathon.

At the moment, FEDEARROZ has 35 weather stations in ten of the country's departments and great capacity to supply the app with real-time, territory specific data, making it relevant for each farmer.

CCAFS and FEDEARROZ worked on the functionality of the app after the competition, says Nino, and the tool went through some major adjustments. The entire process took about six months and was finalized earlier in spring 2017.

Who is it for?

Both producers as well as technical experts.

How would you sum up the app for a rice grower?

“This will offer you all the climate data to help you develop your crop. At the same time, you will be able to monitor rice yields and weather conditions in different seasons and know how your crop will behave. And based on that, you will be able to consult recommendations from the Rice Growers' Association. – Natalia Niño.

How does it work?

The farmer is provided with climate information in real time from the closest FEDEARROZ weather station to him (info on temperature, rainfall, relative humidity, etc). Rice producers can play an active role and also put in information such as the variety of rice they are growing, their yield, planted area and obtain recommendations on what to do next. Keeping track of their rice outputs and overlapping it with the corresponding climate variables gives them a good picture on how to plan their next crop. 

The app requires a smart phone and GPS and provides:

  • Production maps

  • Climate information: temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and solar radiation as fresh as the last hour in the closest weather station

  • Minimum, maximum and average rainfall predictions for 3 months

  • Climographs, pairing temperature and rainfall, humidity and solar radiation

  • Crops information: name, planting date, variety, production system and cultivated surface

  • The crop's phenological phase – based on date of planting and variety

What makes it different?

While there are other apps available for agriculture across Latin America, Niño explains, none so far, of what we know, provides information tailored to a certain country or region. The team wanted something that can be applied in the country with specific, not generic information.

How much did it cost?

Approximately 10,000 USD (30 mil. de pesos) through the CGIAR.

Why does it matter?

  • Rice is a key crop for Colombia's agriculture (in 2016, data from the National Statistics Department - DANE - shows that 570,802 ha of rice were cultivated and the yield reached about 3 million tonnes).
  • Rice is a staple food, especially for Colombia's rural population, contributing to food security and supporting livelihoods.
  • Information supplied by the app through FEDEARROZ weather stations is provided in real time and is relevant for decision-making in the field, as well as for improving sustainability of crop management. 
  • Monitoring of climate variables can indicate patterns that inform authorities in adopting public policies which help farmers adapt their monoculture to climate change.

Acknowledgements to: the Technical Center for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Potato Center (CIP) which supported the creation of "Plan your crop" app during the hackathon.