Farmz2U - Digitizing farm operations with software and swarm robotics to increase production
Our vision is to increase the value of production among smallholder farmers through tailored agricultural expertise and access to market.
A member of the team speaking to one of the farmers we are working with.
A team member in the Amuludun community Ikorodu Lagos who we are working with.
Login page of our digital solution accesible via smartphones and feature phones.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Farmz2U Startup Ltd
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
We are collaborating with BespokeDC, a Nigerian manufacturer of agricultural hardware like award winning Tryctor, and University of Uyo Nigeria which has a strong agricultural department, to implement the use of swarm robotics to improve the quality of data collected from the farm and thus the quality of the expertise and automated workflow provided to farmers.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
South West Nigeria, a geo-political zone, covers 76,852 km^2. This zone has 6 states and 4 members of the team are natives from the region.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Our vision focuses on Sub Saharan Africa because despite the region having half of the world’s fertile and as-yet-unused land it spends US$25 billion annually on food imports (World Economic Forum, 2015). And even with years of aid projects our target users, smallholder farmers, who represent 80% of farmers in the region (NEPAD, 2012) struggle to achieve commercial scale. Apart from poor access to resources like machinery and pest and disease outbreaks, poor access to market and unfair prices driven by powerful middleman contribute to farmers’ challenges. For instance, while West African farmers contributed two thirds of the world’s cocoa bean supply, they earned less than 1% from the $50 billion-dollar cocoa industry in 2018 (MarketWatch). Furthermore, average produce yields in the region are less than 1/3 of global averages.
We selected the South West region of Nigeria because our team is familiar with this region. This will enable us to implement the solution and scale to other regions in a timely manner. Apart from the main source of employment in the region being agriculture, with an estimate of 70% employment across the population, our vision will address youth unemployment with increased opportunities. The states in this region have ample resources like; fertile soil and good weather, which will further aid success. The selected Place is important to the team because a significant number of farmers we have worked with are from this region and we have a deep understanding of the challenges they face. Thus we feel equipped to address the society’s needs.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
South West Nigeria is made up of 6 states; Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states. The main tribe in the region is the Yoruba tribe who represent the indigenous tribe with Oduduwa considered the father and ancestor of the tribe. Nonetheless, there is a diversity of tribes in the region including; the Igbo, Hausa and Edo tribes among others. The increased level of economic activity in the region encourage migration to the South West region. Some notable sites across the region include; Ipole-Iloro Waterfalls (Ekiti), Badagry Black Heritage Museum (Lagos), Omo Forest Reserve (Ogun), Igbokoda Waterfront (Ondo), Erin-Ijesha Waterfalls (Osun) and IITA forest (Oyo). Some unique things in the region is cocoa farming and Abula which is the local food made up of; cassava, beans, jute leaves and pepper.
The region is known for agriculture with agriculture accounting for 75% of employment in Ekiti alone. Dominant crops in the region include; rice, maize, cassava and cowpea and cash crops like; cocoa, kola nut, cashew, oil palm and timber. Favorable weather conditions and soil also contribute to the prominence of agriculture. There are two distinct seasons in the year; the rainy season (March-November) and the dry season (November-February). Different agricultural produce thrive better in certain seasons. For instance, maize has higher yields in the rainy season.
With increased urbanization and rural emigration, this region has fewer members of the population participating in agriculture which further contributes to food insecurity. However, with a policies and financial support aimed at increasing agricultural activity, there is a positive agenda to empower smallholder farmers in the region. This agenda also increases awareness among residents of food sustainability and the importance of nutrition.
Our vision’s objective is to ensure responsible production by smallholder farmers through sustainable farming methods with the aim of increasing produce yield. By providing tailored agricultural expertise the project will support cash crop and grain farmers increase the value of production while minimising the threat of crop pests, weeds and diseases through drone-enabled automated monitoring. The project will work with across the value chains; cassava, cocoa, maize and rice.
While the region is one of the most educated across the country with the University situated in Oyo State, there is evidence to provide training to farmers who still employ legacy methods. Through fundamental research conducted with agricultural cooperatives and extension services we identified that with digital solutions disseminated with mobile phones, farmers can receive tailored expertise and access the market. We are working informally with farmers on the FADAMA World Bank project to provide software and hardware enabled solutions.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Through our work with programs like the FADAMA World Bank Sponsored project, based in South West Nigeria, we conducted surveys of farmers to better understand the demographic and socio-economic factors. We collected data on; cassava, rice and fish farmers in Lagos State. We recorded more female farmers than male farmers with the former representing 57%, 70% and 67% of the sample size across the value chains. However, despite a higher number of female farmers, male farmers had access to more capital and earned higher profits. This is consistent with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s report which stated that “women supply 70% of agricultural labor, 50% of animal husbandry related activities and 60% of food processing yet have access to only 20% of available agricultural resources”. Some of the key challenges in agriculture include; gender inequality, lack of technological know-how, inadequate finances, lack of land ownership rights, high rate of illiteracy, religious and cultural beliefs, and inadequate resources (Guardian Data Desk, 2017). In managing these challenges, in particular ensuring gender equality and social inclusion, we have women and youth empowerment groups dedicated to increasing participation in agriculture. Within these groups, we aim to deliver training programs aimed at increasing technical expertise, soft skills development and access to resources for women and youth farmers. In addition, our recent agreement with the University of Uyo to run a 12-month internship program as part of their students’ 4-year degree provides access to 8,500 potential beneficiaries of whom 60% are women. Our rationale to increase product adoption through private public partnerships with local universities is the opportunity to increase youth involvement in agriculture thus providing employment opportunities and enabling economic empowerment.
Our survey also indicated that a notable percentage of farmers did not attend tertiary education (University or Polytechnic). And the income level and access to basic amenities were below average. In addition to gender inequality, there is tribal inequality among farmers. However, this is mainly a reflection of the population demographics rather than an unfair access to resources. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of this factor and monitor it adequately. For instance, while our team will focus on one of the six regions of Nigeria, we will ensure a fair representation of all tribes by providing project benefits based on; merit, impact and need.
Increasing the value of production in agriculture through; higher produce yields, improved access to market for sales and tailored agricultural expertise, is essential to manage food insecurity challenges. With 25% of the global population estimated to be in Africa by 2050, it is important to increase local production.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision of digitizing farm operations using software and swarm robotics is a commercial and technical innovative approach in increasing the value of production in agriculture.
Swarm robotics is a technology concept that took off in the early 2000s (World Economic Forum, 2019) with the “s-bot” being an example of the technology. While not widely used in agriculture with no notable application in Africa, our vision aims to push the boundaries against current laborious practices among Sub Saharan African farmers and apply the use of small and affordable machines on. This is particularly important given evidence of the detrimental impact that industrial size machinery has on farms in advanced agricultural economies like; the United States.
Furthermore, we will use Hyperledger enabled blockchain to assess farmers’ credit rating and provide capital options with agencies like NISARL and microfinance institutions. This will provide a transparent and easy means of distributing financial support to. Similarly, Bespoke DC (a member of the project team) designed and manufactured a unique design of a three wheeled tractor for farmers in Nigeria. It gained traction among local farmers because of its affordability and its’ suitability to the structure of Nigerian farms.
Evidence of the potential success of swarm robotics application in agriculture has been predicted by researchers, academics and business. For instance, the Robotic Business Review, 2016; Shamshiri et al., 2018; Duckett et al., 2018, explored the impact of swarm robotics on arable farms. Similarly, the impact of the digitization of farm operations in increasing the value of production for Sub Saharan African farmers was highlighted in the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation’s Digitalisation report (2018-2019).
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
A better quality of life is an expected socio-economic benefit of our proposal. For instance, through automated monitoring of farm fields to control pests and diseases, farm waste can be reduced thus increasing income generation for farmers. Furthermore, through tailored fertilizer application based on accurate soil nutrient levels on the farm, produce yield can be increased.
In addition, increased value of production in agriculture will increase job opportunities and economic activities. Apart from increased income for farmers through higher sales, other player in the value chain like; processors and marketers, will benefit from economic activity. The region will be less dependent on revenue from oil, an unsustainable resource, and increase revenue from agriculture. Furthermore, the policy objectives will be met. For instance, import bans have been placed on some of the produce value chains we will be supporting, thus in achieving our Vision we will be supporting macroeconomic objectives.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Our vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for our Place and People for 2050 leverages the use of digital solutions to provide farmers with tailored agricultural expertise and access to market. The product; a software as a service (SaaS) platform, captures data on key variables using hardware and converts this into useful solution. For instance, a farmer may be instructed to apply 2lbs of sulfur on soil due to high alkaline levels on a maize farm. In addition, to support our vision of implementation across Sub Saharan Africa, a key output will be the completion of case studies and white paper reports that explain the value of ‘digitizing farm operations with swarm robotics and software’ sharing this across the region
The platform will be developed with an offline-first mobile-first experience to manage farmers’ access to infrastructure. Furthermore, with an 87% mobile phone penetration rate in Nigeria (Jumia Nigeria, 2018), enabling access via feature or non-feature phones (e.g. smartphones) will increase the number of farmers that can access the solution.
While the platform seeks to support the core operational processes across the farmer’s entire value chain, from insights that optimize what the farmer grows (Grow stage) to the distribution of harvested produce from the farm to a buyer or storage facility (Distribute stage), the project scope will only focus on the Grow and Harvest stages.
The product’s route to market will use direct channels including; agricultural cooperatives, extension services and University agricultural departments who have significant pool of potential users. A digitization of a farmer’s operations creates an opportunity to increase sustainability in agriculture and thus fairness for farmers. For instance, data feeds can enable a product audit trail from ‘farm to fork’ thus creating a more transparent value system that ensures profitable and equitable benefits across all players, especially the smallholder farmer.
Success for this vision is the ability to; increase the value of production for smallholder farmers while minimizing the threat of crop pests, weeds and diseases. With the former, our target is to increase cassava, cocoa, maize and rice produce yields by 150-200%. With the latter, a target has not been set due to a lack of historic data, nonetheless the team will collect data to monitor improvements. Our impact will be measured internally using quantitative and qualitative measures across; economic, environmental and social targets. In addition, 5% of the project budget has been apportioned for external impact audit and measurement. Weekly, monthly and quarterly KPIs will be monitored to ensure upward progress.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?