Our dynamic Nairobi and London-based team works with a network of 1 million+ smallholder farmers and their families across Africa and Latin America. Local agricultural practices are key to watershed health and building more resilient ecosystems.
Smallholder farmers are key to improving watershed health, but without the right tools and information farmers can also have a detrimental impact on local ecosystems and water system health. Smallholders are facing a myriad of challenges linked to extreme weather events and increased population density, preventing them from working to protect local watersheds.
Key challenges identified in recent surveys with farmers include: drought, flood, degraded soils, erosion, and crop failure which are negatively impacting food production, farmers’ livelihoods and the health of local watersheds.
Inspired to seek a solution to lift this cohort out of poverty, enable them to produce sufficient food to feed the world’s expanding population (70% of the world’s food is provided by the 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide) and safeguard watersheds and fragile ecosystems, we are developing IOT kits and remote sensors to mitigate climate change impacts and to improve on-farm water management.
We are working directly with smallholders to develop: 1) soil moisture sensors and 2) smart water irrigation buckets to improve local watershed health by improving water management for smallholders engaged in rainfed agriculture (>95% of agricultural land in Sub-Saharan Africa is rainfed). A dependence on rainfed agriculture is risky business in an era of changing climates, erratic weather events and unpredictable rainfall. Our solutions will improve watershed health by: improving on-farm water management, decreasing chemical pollutant runoff from harmful fertilizers and improving soil quality.
- Soil moisture sensors: On farm soil moisture sensing alongside accurate and timely weather data will catalyse improved and sustainable water management and on-farm decision making, working to improve watershed health. Soil moisture sensors paired with crop models for determining water requirements at any given time will ensure farmers preserve water and provide the accurate amount of water for crops. Further, our system will use prediction methods to forecast drought for farmers.
- Smart irrigation buckets: Our smart irrigation system will utilise fixed timers drawing data from sensors and smart valves, weather forecasts and plantcare databases to determine specific water needs and deliver accurate amounts of moisture at the right time to crops.
Our IOT kits will simplify and improve sustainable water management for farmers and enable them to check on crops and monitor, analyse and manage water usage using basic (nonsmart) mobiles.
We will gather user-feedback from farmers at all stages of development, which is critical for success and long-term sustainability. Human centered testing will provide opportunities to test, learn and check our prototypes are addressing and responding to challenges outlined by farmers. We will also check that our prototypes and overall approach is easily understood, accessible and adaptable by smallholders in rural communities. Far too often seemingly sound tech-based solutions are not adapted or used because consultations/testing were not undertaken with key users at all stages.
Our tech is unique in that although it is inspired by IOT and collects accurate and timely data from farming tools and relays information to farmers’ mobile phones, it does not rely on the internet, which is not accessible to the majority of the world’s smallholders, instead we are relying on mobile networks and basic mobiles. Further, although soil moisture tech and smart irrigation systems are not new ideas, few systems exist that are accessible and affordable to rural farmers in low power areas without access to the internet or smartphones. In order to have impact at scale, our solution must be accessible and affordable to the most remote farmers.