It is finally here! The boost in ICTs for regional agricultural that is much needed; app development and coding. One of the major trends in agriculture of today is the surge towards an increased use of ICTs. Such a factor has proven to be a great benefit to value chain development, family farming, support for production and processing, including a pathway to encourage youth involvement in the sector.
In the past few months, leading up to this year’s Caribbean Week of Agriculture the CTA (ARDYIS), IICA, CARDI, together with a number of sponsors and partners across the Caribbean such as Microsoft, Google, Connectimass, TMIL, and Telesur among several others, hosted regional competitions to find the next AgriHack Talent! The competition seeks to discover, support and develop, young ICT developers in support of a number of areas that have been identified as beneficial to the structure of regional agriculture.
Hubs and developers: linking key players
Competitions took place at the national level via the coordination efforts of technology hubs across the Caribbean. In Trinidad and Tobago the Community Hub Foundation and Noviate Creative Solutions respectively held open coding events. Both events were well attended with youth of various educational backgrounds putting forward their ideas. These hubs along with experienced persons in agriculture evaluated the level of sustainability, feasibility and innovation of these ideas as participants were expected to complete a rough prototype of their intended apps and present their purpose and functionality.
Ingenuity and talent could be found at both hubs. For example at Noviate Creative Solutions one team attempted to creating a platform in which farmers can input how much produce they have available for sale while buyers can access this information fostering the traction of goods.
Another team of the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) sought to foster a type of “facebook for agriculture” as described by team members themselves, which includes live chat, active provision of information (i.e. when a user “likes” a business or page all information on that item comes directly to the user) and other features for linking professionals and practitioners in the field.
Both of these apps centered on direct marketing and market access for all stakeholders using Java and XHTML, common computer coding language.
The winning team at Noviate, Team Big Things created the app Agri-direct which seeks to connect farmers and consumers by providing a system where they can communicate the items they have for sale and they items they wish to purchase respectively.The premise is that information is sent direct to stakeholders as soon as producers have produce. Farmers and producers provide the commodity, amount available and price. Additionally this data is stored for future use such as average number of tomatoes produced, average price per area/region. The team, which hailed from the UWI St. Augustine campus was commended as the product is viable at national level with the ability of upscaling and expanding the app at the regional level.
Over at the Community Hub foundation, the youngest team, between 14 – 16 years, were the winners creating the app Agri-Info. This app will facilitate access to crop selection, soil management, weather, fertilizer, and pest management and harvesting information. Such a feat is quite impressive given the complexities of coding and computer programming, a time consuming and hands on profession. Despite this, these youth should be commended as they are both creating local mobile content which has a growing demand and fostering the development of the regional agri sector in a much needed direction.
Winning teams and representatives hail from Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Suriname and Barbados.The finals of the Agrihack competition are ongoing (5 – 8 Oct) at the TMIL Training Centre and the Chamber of Commerce in, Parmaribo, Suriname.
What’s the key to successful app creation?
“Key for any app developer apart from ensuring there is a demand for the product, is the need to ensure that their outputs are scale-able,” says Luke Smith, ICT for agriculture advocate and member of the judging panel for the Noviate coding event. “Scaling up is important as ensures that the application can used more widely at the regional level bringing development to more of the Caribbean. They should aim for repeat buyers and different consumer segments once the app is available on the mobile content market.
The AgriHack initiative is currently shaping up to be a very interesting competition which will have sustainability impacts on regional agriculture. All the best the teams.