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NODE: Remote Data Monitoring for Agricultural Storage and Processing

With low cost, GSM based technology, we can affordably monitor stored crops in real time, ensuring quality for both farmer and consumer.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The NODE is a low cost, GSM/GPRS enabled, Arduino based, ruggedly designed, universal data monitoring unit. The NODE works by combining the basics of an Arduino and a cell phone along with other maker level sensors attachments to create low cost custom monitoring solutions. The NODE is ready to tackle a whole host of issue areas, from vaccine shipment tracking to monitoring remote solar arrays. With the NODE, we have been working with Zimbabwean farmers to help improve monitoring during the storing and processing phase of the agricultural cycle. While many observers think of fields as the most critical space for agriculture, our work with farmers in Chinhoyi has shown us that the storage and processing phase is perhaps the most perilous, with variation in storage practices leading to swings of thousands of dollars in ultimate crop sale price, and theft as a constant threat. Our concept is that by connecting the NODE to various sensors, for example for humidity, temperature, and occupancy, we can create a low cost system to allow farmers to quickly respond to threats to their stored crops. While a technical tool, a NODE end user could see an alert SMS requiring his or her response. Further, this NODE system will hopefully allow us to tackle a secondary challenge for farmers in market uncertainty. With a crop history dataset, we hope the NODE will allow farmers to better communicate quality to purchasers, allowing greater certainty and transparency for all involved.

WHO BENEFITS?

We view our beneficiaries as small scale farmers, SMEs, and end consumers. First, a NODE based monitoring system for barns and silos would help reduce spoilage and theft. Second, we have noted a complete lack of transparency in the agricultural space during our time in Zimbabwe. By creating a dataset and history for a particular crop, farmers and purchasers will be better able to mutually assure quality, helping farmers predict financial outcomes and recognize and reward best practices.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

We are based in Zimbabwe. Specifically, we have been fortunate to work with the EcoFarmer division of Econet Wireless, as well as farmers in the Chinhoyi area as initial pilot and feedback partners. We look forward to continuing our work in Zimbabwe.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

My name is Gordon - I'm interested in the intersection of making, engineering, development, and social enterprise. I'm spending this year as a Gordon Grand Fellow developing the NODE. I have been so fortunate to work with Econet Wireless, Higgs Hub, and Yale SEAS in this process. Harare based!

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

The NODE is the core focus of our venture, Pivot Technologies. However, while we have been working on this project for 18 months, we are still discovering new pieces to this project every day, particularly on the application and use case end. As we are all by definition relatively new to this project, we hope to have the opportunity to continue down this path in both the short and long term.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

With the growing concept of the Internet of Things, we are certainly not the first people to suggest the use of remote monitoring in the developing world. However, were we do think our approach is unique is in the realization that many developing world challenges, from solar panel voltages to soil moisture readings, require similar technical solutions. By creating one product able to serve across many issue areas, we hope to break the low volume/ high margin model that we have so frequently encountered for highly specialized monitoring products; we can offer one device for under $100 to all fields, replacing existing units at operating costs of $400/unit/year in select fields, and perhaps more importantly serving causes not currently provided monitoring solutions by the market. In terms of execution, we feel we have a unique mix of technical expertise and developing world experience. The extensive experience with electronics in our team will be very helpful for bringing the NODE to market. But our year operating in Zimbabwe has also given us many valuable connections in terms of piloting and collecting user feedback.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

With our internal electronic hardware and software competencies, as well as our connection in Shenzhen, China, we would look forward to ultimately producing and assisting in the configuration of NODE units for the market, from the technical end. For moving into the field, we would look forward to reuniting with our partners EcoFarmer, Energize the Chain, and ZTA, all based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

In working with our partners for the last few months, perhaps the most critical piece of feedback we have received around the NODE, both explicitly and through observation, is that the current version of the device is still too complicated for our largely non-technical users. We have realized that not only the coding, but the basic application of the NODE in terms of wiring and sensor selection may prove challenging. From a more positive perspective, after months of discussing potential use cases for the NODE (with folks in real life and over the internet as part of OpenIDEO) we have realized that a few key measurements continue to come up as the most critical - temperature, humidity, voltage, light level, open/closed, to name a few. Simiarly, from a software perspective, a fairly common set up for logging and alerts will likely suffice for most clients. Now our key consideration is whether we pivot toward a more user friendly device, designed for plug and play functionality with our most common sensors, or whether we persevere with the current version of the NODE, modifying our business model to include required set up and configuration assistance to clients.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

Ultimately, what is the right balance between ability to customize and raw power of the device, versus ease and simplicity of use for our end users? What are the specific challenges where a unit such as the NODE makes economic sense to implement? Who are those clients?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The challenge in remote monitoring is not the core technology, but rather the effort required to tailor, market, and deliver that technology to many different sectors. With this mindset, the only way for companies to profitably deliver these types of monitoring products is with a high margin/low volume model, appropriate when dealing with developed world enterprise but untenable when working with cash-strapped governments and NGOs. For this reason, large sectors, from medical transportation to remote power, remain unmonitored. It is also for this reason that we believe we can cut through this business model challenge, by leveraging commonalities through a system such as the NODE.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Our ultimate goal is to develop and deploy one product or suite of products able to solve many developing world remote monitoring challenges simply and at a drastically reduced cost. We believe our next step is to develop our beachhead market in which to launch with our limited team and resources. Having moved into one market - perhaps agriculture - we would then hope to alter our offering over time to include more potential use cases.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work
  • More than 500 km from where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

The NODE is a low cost, GSM/GPRS enabled, Arduino based, ruggedly designed, universal data monitoring unit. Inspired by a research trip through Southern Africa working with organizations engaged with the “last mile” of vaccine cold chain delivery, a key realization for our team was that lack of real time field data was not just an issue for the vaccine space or even the health space more broadly, but rather a challenge that was and is affecting organizations in all fields.

However, with our engineering hats on, we realized that a solution to all these challenges could be achieved by combining a few “maker” level technologies – an Arduino, and a cell phone. We further realized that this one device could be tailored to many different fields through the addition of different sensors and attachments: a rain gauge and soil moisture sensor for the farming collective, a GPS unit and set of temperature probes for the blood bank shipment. This would simultaneously present one low cost and rapidly scalable solution to many fields, in place of the previous standard of highly specialized devices.

With that concept, a year of effort, and a trip around the world, the NODE was born. We have now piloted our device in Zimbabwe and prepared for manufacturing in Shenzhen, China. Specifically, we have been fortunately to work with the EcoFarmer division of Econet Wireless, in addition to local farmers in the Chinhoyi area on how to adapt the NODE to help with storage and processing of agricultural products. After receiving direct feedback from farmers in February, we look forward to making our first installations of the NODE in the agricultural space in May. While working on further piloting and an initial rollout of the NODE, we also look forward to refining our device and use case through the OpenIDEO process, and hopefully with IDEO in the future. Thank you for your consideration.

For more information on the NODE, in addition to live NODE data streams from around the globe, please check out our webpage here.

Collaboration updates:

April 18, 2016 - Conversation with Ashley @ Markit Opportunity. Clear opportunity for initial NODE pilot with MO team in storage phase for red onions when moving to market. Would want to track temp/humidity along with weight of onions to measure water absorbtion rates and onion quality. Would also want to consider moving NODEs into market setting to measure loss of quality in that phase.

April 18, 2016 - Conversation with Eric Hager about ISABEL. Realized facing many similar challenges in really nailing down key use cases for our technologies. Clear room for collaboration between the Data Vis/Analytics focused ISABEL team and hardware focused NODE team.

June 13, 2016 - Example Sensors for use with the NODE: https://www.adafruit.com/category/35

37 comments

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Gordon,

Below are some feedback from our experts and Amplify team. Looking forward to your responses!

-What are the actions farmers need to act on with the data?

-At $100 the price point may still be expensive for some small-holder farmers. How might we get multiple people actionable on the device in a way that helps all parties? 

-How will the Node device cater to the different post-harvest monitoring needs of specific crops? Which crop market are you targeting right now?

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hi Chioma - thanks to you and the experts for your questions. Below are my responses:

- (Wrapping questions 1 & 2 together) to be perfectly frank, I don’t think technology such as the NODE makes sense on the scale of absolute smallest scale farmers. I think your questions hit at the two key challenges for this sort of technology at this level 1. That even as cheap as we can possibly make it, it will still likely be overpriced 2. That even if we can detect failures, local farmers will likely not have a method of response. However, that is not to say I don’t think the NODE has role with these farmers, but more likely further up the chain as excess crop moves from field to market. In these situations, whether the crop be in a community storage facility or in shipment, technology such as the NODE can be key to providing not only feedback to those performing the operations, but also transparency for all stakeholders involved. I can also see the NODE being key to researchers attempting studies of different methodologies in small-scale farming. So while I don’t think the NODE makes sense to install on every small family farm, I do think this sort of technology could have a large impact in developing world agriculture, especially with a focus on getting small holder crops to international markets.

 - with the flexibility of the NODE, we would hope to be able to match a given crop to a specific set of sensors and software configuration based on the needs of the crop and client. For example, in the agriculture space, we have been fortunate to partner with Zimbabwean tobacco farmers. For tobacco, the key parameters during the curing process are humidity and temperature, and as such we have configured the NODE hardware to incorporate these sensors for the pilot. We’ve also learned from our partners the key thresholds for which they’ll need to generate alerts, which is handled by the software. Our hope would be to replicate this process for many different crops and storage and curing situations.



Let me know if any additional information would be specifically helpful. Have a nice day.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Gordon, thanks for your thoughtful response! It sounds as though you are narrowing in on your target market... you mention partnerships with tobacco farmers, are those the ones that you're hoping to continue to explore? If not, who are you considering working with if you were to get Amplify support? What is the nature of your past work with them? And, are you still based in Harare? 
Lastly, are you familiar with Proximity Design? You might find their work interesting: http://www.proximitydesigns.org/ They've been continuously evolving their technologies and price points to provide data to farmers.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Chioma, yes, understand the concern with tobacco farmers. They are only one of are partners - we are also fortunate to be working with EcoFarmer of Econet Wireless, more explicitly BOP and subsistence crop focused. This organization might make a little more sense in terms of partnership between Amplify, us, and them.

In Harare as much as I can be. In China right now after some time in the US. But hoping to be back sooner rather than later.

Thank you for that link - I had not heard of them. Will get in touch. Do you have any names specifically I could reach out to?

Thanks Chioma - have very much enjoyed the OpenIDEO process. Hoping to hear about next steps, but anyway have very much enjoyed the experience.

Best,

Gordon

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Gordon,

So glad that you've enjoyed the challenge experience! I'm curious, what specifically have you liked?

As for Proximity, once you take a look at their site, if you find some things that you'd like to follow up on, please let me know? I can then check with my contacts at IDEO.org to see who would be best to put you in touch with. Sound good? 

Lastly, you mention all of your partners are in Harare, would they be the ones spearheading the implementation of this idea, or would that lie with you and your team?

Thanks so much!
c

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Chioma - sorry for my slow response.

It's been a great way to re-examine our core ideas in a more formal context. Also the encouragement to reach out and talk to new folks has been great.

Proximity looks like a smart match for a partner - would you have a contact there you would be willing to pass on? Sounds like their focus on general monitoring would pair well with our more hi-tech approach. Their feedback would also be super useful. If you want to send that over off the site, that would be great too: gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com.

I think the spearheading in Harare would be blended - a lot of our team taking advantage of our partners' resources, locations, and networks. We would almost certainly lead on the technical front during piloting, keying into our partners for continued feedback.

Thanks Chioma!

Photo of Bahenda Joseph
Team

Hello Gordon McCambridge,
In this world that resolutely turns around technology, I think that your equipment will soon find its place. This is a unique idea that comes to solve a specific problem. What you might want to add in his description that is the percentage of reliability (accuracy). In addition, people may need to know if the device is universal (suitable for all kinds of plants and  their condition). Thank you for your innovative idea.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hi Bahenda - appreciate the positive words and feedback. Interestingly, both of those points would be more determined by sensor selection, rather than by the NODE itself. However, I'll go ahead and post some sample sensors that can be used with the NODE for reference. Thanks again - have a nice day.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Here are the sample sensors: https://www.adafruit.com/category/35

Photo of Bahenda Joseph
Team

Most welcome Gordon McCambridge.
I will take time and visit the website, as per tomorrow.
Best regards,
Joseph

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

This is exactly what we want to do with our biogas systems and biogas milk chillers: to monitor and analyse data remotely to know how our biogas systems and biogas milk chillers are performing, to enable proactive customer support, and even to monitor carbon credits. Way to go!

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Thanks Dorine - yes, I think we are all finding there are certainly many uses for IoT tech in the developing world. If you'd like to discuss more offline, you can message me at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com. Would love to dive into your specific use case more.

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Thanks! I'll ask our product designer to get in contact with you!

Photo of Sophie Aigner
Team

Hi Gordon,

Just wondering what type of farmers you have piloted this with - both in terms of what type of crops they grow and the size of their business (small, medium or large scale).  I'm interested especially in the use of the NODE with horticulture crops, so would love to hear more about that if you have any tests done there.  I am on a team working on an energy free cool storage facility for smallholder farmers and this could be an interesting and valuable add-on product that works well with cool storage.  The price point of $100 is especially attractive for small farmers - just wondering what the product life is predicted to be?

Thanks,
Sophie Aigner
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/agricultural-innovation/ideas/energy-free-cool-storage

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hi Sophie, thanks for your post and apologies for my slow response.

We've been exploring using the NODE at many different scales in agriculture, from ultra small scale farmers to commercial farms. In these conversations, we've gotten the most buy in from the medium scale commercial farmers (think hundreds of hectares and employees, multiple crops, imported equipment, etc.) From our perspective, these farmers have organizations at a scale they require a monitoring system (multiple NODE units), the budgets to pay for them, but also a degree of price sensitivity, keying into our low cost model and design.

In terms of life span, we're aiming long. The only component of the NODE with any sort of defined lifespan would be the SLA battery, which should last 10+ years in the field. 

Looks like the NODE would have a lot of overlap with your proposal. Beyond the work we've done in agriculture, we've spent a lot of time in the last mile cold chain space, specifically for vaccines. If you'd like to discuss further, feel free to email me at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com.

Thanks Sophie - have a great day.

Gordon

Photo of Lawrence Hoba
Team

Interesting idea Gordon. Will inbox your gmail for connection request, but just to let you know this is inspiring.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Thanks Lawrence - got your message. Will reply on that end ASAP.

Photo of Cj Kruse
Team

Would you be able to automate the NODE to lets say turn on a pump? I heard you talk about reading the water level in a tank and I would imagine it would be fairly easy to wire the NODE up with a pump to be able to turn on and off with the system. Also, you talk about checking the output of a solar panel, would you be able to sync the NODE with the panels so that the panels are getting the maximum amount of sunlight possible? I know this isn't the intended purpose of the NODE but I feel like it could have the potential to go much further in the automation world!

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey CJ, thanks for your comment. Yes, both of the use cases you described would be possible (and pretty cool), really getting into the control aspects of the NODE. Assuming that your pump just runs off standard AC wall power, activating/deactivating based on a measured water level (maybe via ultrasonic sensor) would be very simple using a relay based system. Similarly, some sort of servo could be controlled by the NODE to adjust solar panel angle. I hadn't thought of these use cases, but they make perfect sense for use with the NODE.

If you have other ideas or thoughts, feel free to send me a message at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com. Thanks CJ

Photo of Lunyiliko Komba
Team

Sure thing Gordon,
I will definetely check you aout after this as there are sync issues i will need to get to share experience of them right from you end
Thanks a lot n b good.
Rgds,
LK

Photo of Lunyiliko Komba
Team

Hi Gordon,
Brilliant idea, just wanted to know what range of data set does the gadget provide i.e. does it provide details of data like door position and the like so that it can be prompting third party on each and every access into it?
And has it incorporated a bio element so as to restrict un-authorised access?
rgds,

LK

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Lunyiliko, thanks for your interest. Also, very glad that our project was able to help you formulate what might be possible for your own contribution.

For your specific questions - doors are easy. What we've done in our work with vaccine fridges is use Reed switches to get an easy door open/door closed signal. They're also very cheap ($1 USD/sensor). here's an example. https://world.taobao.com/item/527030285638.htm?spm=a312a.7700714.0.0.KKOMRc#detail And yes, through software it's not hard to then turn these signals into alerts - again, that was exactly what we were doing with the vaccine fridges, which could certainly be applied to any setting, such as a barn or other processing unit.

Fingerprint scanning is possible with the NODE (https://world.taobao.com/item/521074729164.htm?spm=a312a.7700714.0.0.S4Rvh0#detail), though at $20 usd per scanners (and likely more with a whole host of other apparatuses needed to fully implement this sort of security), I'm not sure that level of security quite makes sense. However, there are a couple simple tricks we can do on the software side (password protection on websites, SMS responses to only certain phone numbers) to improve data security at no added cost.

Thanks LK, hope that's getting you thinking about what might be possible with the NODE. If you want to chat more, you can send me an email at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com. Thanks again LK - have a good one.

Photo of Roy
Team

Hi Gordon, great idea. Given the amount of data that will be collected over time I'm curious to know if there a plan to use data analytics for studying trends and performing predictive forecasting using some of the machine learning techniques for identifying risks and opportunities. For example by monitoring the factors the affects humidity and temperature it can predict the outcome and provide early warning.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Roy - thanks for your post. In terms of bringing analytics to the NODEs data, it is certainly a goal we are working. But as I think you are hitting on, there are actually two levels we'll need to think about being able to perform those calculations. On one level, we'll want to make local determinations within the NODE to generate alerts and potentially affect the surrounding environment in real time. But second, we'll also want to be able to produce general datasets that can then be post-processed for meaningful results (i.e. populate a SQL database with data points which can then be viewed in Excel). We are already thoroughly exploring both avenues. In terms of application, we'll want to think about which of these two paths for analytics (local and immediate vs. remote and subsequent) will make most sense for a given use case and scenario and the technical capabilities of the NODE. 

Photo of Roy
Team

I think it will be good to apply analytics to both local and remote. For local it doesn't need to do all the processing on the device, given the technical limitation of NODE. The heavy analysis can be done on the server side and then send back the result to the device. So it can also factor in the weather patterns in predicting the temperature and humidity. For remote, I was thinking it will be good to capture data for the whole agricultural cycle, e.g. from quality of seeds, weather patterns, soil moisture, etc throughout the cycle to predict the quality and longevity in storage of the crops.

Photo of Mark Laing
Team

Gordon, great concept and implementation. The flexibility is impressive.
You mentioned working on a problem and solution approach: " working on solutions to specific challenges".
One challenge is that a sensor measures how BIG a environmental problem is, but it does not solve the problem in the first place. Another technology is needed for that. For example, a high temperature x high humidity storage environment will result in postharvest crop loss to moulds in tobacco and most grain crops. What is needed is a technology to drive air flow over the crop, and to dehumidify the air concurrently.
So, as I see it,  in order to deliver "solutions to specific challenges", your sensor system needs to be linked to affordable, viable technologies to manage the environmental conditions of crops, post-harvest, in order to reduce losses in storage.  The combination would be brilliant: the environmental management technology + the monitoring system.
This may be what the red onions  need to stop postharvest rots:
1. a drying, low humidity, constant air flow over and through the stored onions;
2. an affordable monitoring system to track the environmental conditions in the onion storage facility.

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Mark, thanks for your thoughtful post. And sorry for my delay in responding, been having some passport challenges here in Hong Kong (if you call leaving your passport in a van headed back to Mainland China a problem). But now sitting past security - keep your fingers crossed for me. Also, to anyone reading this, the Hong Kong airport folks would like to remind you to not pet any camels during your travels.

Beyond your solution to the specific red onion problem (not a space I know the most about, but your solution makes total sense) I think your post hits at a key piece of feedback we've been receiving during the development process for the NODE - develop solutions, don't just provide datasets that don't necessarily drive action. So I think your idea larger idea of automation makes a lot of sense in terms of quite literally activating action. Not so technically challenging too - we could connect the output of the NODE to a relay driven system to activate any given attached appliance as needed (i.e. for your onion example, too humid, fan on, etc.). Therefore, automation with this type of system would not be so technically challenging or insanely expensive and could be very cool. However, just playing devil's advocate, on the medium scale commercial farms we've seen in Zim (with 200+ employees), someone could just be told to go turn the fan on after receiving an alert. So I think automation would really depend on what a particular organization would be looking for, their resources, and the criticality of response. And, with the flexibility of the NODE, we will hopefully be in a position to provide more and less suped up monitoring solutions as required.

Thanks again Mark - if you want to reach me directly, you can email me at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com. Also, I see from your profile that you're from KZN. I have some good friends in Durban. Have some Bunny Chow for me, and if I'm in town I'll be sure to let you know.

Gordon

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Exciting to read about what you and your team have achieved with Gordon! What's next for Node? Are there any new or untested elements to this idea that you would like to tackle next? How might you build on some of the lessons learnt from the initial pilot for the next stage of development?

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hi Shane – thanks for your reply (and today’s feature!). After a year of effort, the core tech for the NODE exists (PCB w/ GSM connection and all the other bells and whistles, flexible enclosure, etc – he says from the upstairs of a McDonalds in Shenzhen). With the platform available, the challenge now remains to really nail down our use cases in the developing world. In terms of our immediate next step, we’re excited to be returning to Zimbabwe in the next few weeks to begin piloting the NODE with farmers in Chinhoyi. Hopefully, in the next few months, we are able to technically demonstrate the NODEs application in these use cases and establish the key contacts we’ll need to move the NODE into these new fields. Agriculture is definitely a current focus, with ideas to improve monitoring in solar and health (specifically vaccine transport) as well. So in terms of untested spaces, it really revolves for us around these ideas of use cases, and what will be the non-technical barriers for us to get buy-in. Key feedback so far has been to move from working on a product for the developing world to working on solutions to specific challenges - feedback we are now trying to implement in our use case focused approach. Hopefully, by solving these challenges, we can move the NODE from its current stage as product and concept to scaled social enterprise.

Thank you again for you comment Shane – it’s always helpful for us to get thoughts and feedback on our direction (a key reason we’re excited to participate in the OpenIDEO process). Please keep sending your thoughts. Also, with our fairly extensive technical experience in developing this system, if any other teams would like to discuss from a pricing and application perspective bringing this sort of GSM based system online, we would definitely be glad to share.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Thanks for the followup Gordon! This is very helpful to know. We've just added one more question, "Tell us more about you," to your idea form. To update your post, hit Edit Contribution at the top of your idea. Then scroll down to find the "Tell us more about you entry field" at the bottom of this post. This will help us understand a bit more about you and your organization.

Photo of Ashley King-Bischof
Team

Hi Gordon McCambridge - what an incredible idea. At Markit Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers , we have access to many famers who we want to help improve their quality of production. Sometimes it just takes a slightly better seed or a tiny amount of fertilizer to do so.

Could NODE help us track red onion crop quality? Either during or at the end of the farming process?

Also, please do share your pricing information! 

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hi Ashley - thanks for reaching out and your interest in using the NODE. I will admit I don't know too much about red onions, but I would imagine the answer is yes. In terms of in the field operations, we can configure the NODE to work as a low-cost weather station, tracking basic environmental stats (temp, humidity, sunlight) and also values like soil moisture and soil temp. In the storage phase, we can use the NODE similarly to check light levels, temps, humidities - and perhaps even use occupancy sensors as basic security. All of this info can be logged to a webserver, or be used to generate SMS alerts. This could be interesting on the level of both providing farmers with real time info, but also allowing Markit to do some more refined A:B testing.

We haven't yet been able to do a scaled production run, but I do have units on the order of 10s. We're also looking for pilot partners. If it would suit you, I would be interested in coming to your site to work on a small pilot for the NODE. I'd probably look for some nominal price-unit-per-unit ($50) to show buy-in from your organization. Maybe a 5 site pilot - $250?

Thanks again Ashley. If that sounds interesting  you want to talk further, feel free to reach out at gordon.mccambridge@gmail.com. Hope to hear from you soon.

Photo of Ashley King-Bischof
Team

Hi Gordon, sounds great. We are interested in providing products to our farmers that make sense for them. They probably won't be able to afford a $250 unit at once. Would you consider financing the first 10? With AgriCoin we could use a new structure to pilot financing these units, allowing farmers to pay pack after they sell their crops. This may take multiple seasons to pay off. 

I imagine with such a high price point, a pay-as-you go or rental option would be more appropriate for smallholder farmers. 

The other option we could consider is rotating the sensor to multiple farms throughout the season, a sort of sharing platform. Our next season will have certified agents. If it's possible to move sensors around, we could leverage the value they bring and be able to pay it off sooner. 

Let's definitely have a chat later this week ( I will be without internet for a few days). Will email. 

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

ello Gordon..
am wekesa, certainly exciting to see you diving in context and delivering this tool. Am interested in your customer journeys . In context the pricing points for small scale farmers might be a major pain point and even a barrier for access to your offering . What are the possible stakeholder configurations around your offering to ensure barriers to lowered? To interest you in a solution that you might learn from : 

http://redcrosschat.org/2015/10/22/fire-sensors-making-difference-kenyan-south-african-communities/ … 

Photo of Gordon McCambridge
Team

Hey Wekesa – thanks for your post. What I think you’re hinting at is a fair point. For reference, our BOM cost on the NODE is $20 USD here in China - a few bucks more with sensors and other attachments. While I assure you this is way lower than what we see for competing monitoring products (think $400 USD/year/site, when factoring in hardware + software service), I see your point that, even if we could pass along a product like the NODE at cost, it would still not be a logical investment for the smallest scale farmers – both for the cost involved for the investment, and due to the fact that these farmers likely never have stocks large enough or remote enough that they cannot be monitored from the homestead. So yes, I would agree that the NODE and products like it are best targeted at slightly larger scale operations with significant storage capability and necessity. However, in our time in Zimbabwe, we have seen these worlds intersect - larger scale operations with small farmers - in that the way most farmers take their grain to a larger market is through government controlled silos. From first hand accounts, these silos are not particularly safe or well maintained. So perhaps a system like the NODE could provide significantly improved transparency at this level. And hopefully as agricultural outputs increase, more formerly too-small scale farmers would have need for a product at the level of the NODE.

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And thanks for the article - interesting read. Fortunately/unfortunatley (depending on if I need more my plate) some combination of  your comments and the gave me a new idea as I was walking across Shenzhen today. Let me stew on it for a few days and see if it makes the site. Thanks again Wekesa.

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