How can farmers be helped to produce better yields and reduce wastage?

Posted by Vivek Mehta on 29 May, 2018

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6 Solutions

Freight Farms - Farms inside Portable Shipping Container

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 22 Aug, 2018

Freight farms, a shipping container farm company, specialises in sustainable farm systems built inside portable shipping containers. The so-called Leafy Green Machines (LGMs) are outfitted with LED lighting that replicates sunlight, a drip irrigation system that uses just ten gallons of water a day, and sensors that balance temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. 

Crops such as lettuce and kale are grown in vertical towers to avoid wasted space and ensure the maximum possible yield. Freight Farms is a much more efficient use of land, growing vertically in a very condensed footprint. The farms can yield the equivalent of two acres of conventional farmland. The farms also don't require a great deal of expertise or in-depth training to run. 

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3D-printed weather stations bringing accurate forecasts to Zambia

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 20 Aug, 2018

Farmers in rural Zambia often don't have access to accurate weather forecasts, and weather stations are a rarity in these locations. But knowing the expected weather is crucial for any farmer, especially those in developing regions. Their crops — and ultimately their livelihoods — depend on it.

Researchers at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research have spent the past three years developing a cheaper alternative to costly weather stations, using 3D printing to install weather stations in previously uncovered parts of the region. The 3-D printed stations cost a mere $300 — far less than the $10,000 to $20,000 a traditional setup runs. And maintenance costs are low as well, because replacement parts are easily printed.

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Using phones and satellites to predict drought

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 20 Aug, 2018

In multiple regions of the world, food supplies are impeded by drought, none more than the Horn of Africa, which has seen droughts occur almost annually for the past 12 years, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The consequences of drought are numerous, including reduced food and water availability, increased fire risk, insect infestation, disease infection and wind erosion, all further reducing the volumes of food that can be produced. In most of the countries in the area, more than 25% of the population suffers from hunger and chronic undernourishment.

But researchers at Columbia University are combining satellite data with knowledge on the ground to help at-risk populations and farmers predict -- and prepare -- ahead of time. They have been using findings from a study known as SATIDA (Satellite Technologies for Improved Drought Assessment), led by the Vienna University of Technology. This study used satellite data to identify regional drought patterns and trends in partnership with people using smart phones on the ground to explore local knowledge on droughts and activities that may further fuel food insecurity, such as war.

"The goal is to know whether a drought is going on," said lead researcher Markus Enenkel of Columbia's International Research Institute for Climate and Society. "But it's also not always drought that leads to food insecurity; it can be due to volatility," he said of civil unrest or undernutrition.

Though smartphones are still a luxury for many small-hold farmers, community health workers used apps to collect information from the farmers and families at risk to inform the teams at Columbia how best to move forward. The team has two projects stemming from the initial use of satellites and smartphones: one confirming the occurrence of drought so farmers can get insurance payouts when their crops fail and the other enabling biweekly, or monthly, forecasts of climates to help pre-empt changes in food production. "We can give a seasonal summary to help people prepare," Enenkel said.

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Mbegu Choice - Helping farmers choose what plants to grow

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 20 Aug, 2018

Mbegu Choice (Swahili for "seed choice"), is opening the eyes of small-hold farmers to a new world of seeds, and therefore plants, that produce food year-round and whenever they need it.

"It's a database of all crops available in Kenya," said Aline O'Connor, director of the consultancy firm Agri Experience, which developed the program now passed on to the Seed Trade Association. "There is a lot of food insecurity in Kenya, approximately 42% of Kenyans ... and the diversity of their diet is not good," O'Connor said. "You want to grow a variety of crops."

The goal of Mbegu Choice is to therefore help farmers choose what plants to grow after describing the conditions of their farmland and their region to get a list of seed varieties that could flourish there. Their use could mean farmers have maize, beans and other varieties growing throughout the year to get their families -- and eventual customers -- eating a more varied diet.

The process is simple: state your county, the ecology and the crop you want. Then choose whether you want an early-growing crop and whether you need it to be drought- or disease-tolerant. Out comes a tailored selection of seeds in either English or Swahili.

The site has seen more than 26,000 users in Kenya -- 34,000 globally -- and includes all seed varieties available in Kenya, listed at the click of a button. The limit for now is the need for a computer or smartphone.

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WeFarm - Timely Information via Text Messages for small-hold Farmers

Posted by Earthr.org Content Team on 20 Aug, 2018

Though small-hold farmers produce the majority of the food we eat, they are also more vulnerable to factors beyond their control: climate change, failing seeds, volatile markets and infectious crop diseases. But a new peer-to-peer service, known as WeFarm, is using a simple form of social networking to help them stay informed with crucial information in a timely fashion.

The approach is simple: When a farmer sees something strange (like a disease) about his crops, he sends a text message to the local WeFarm number. The question is then processed and sent out to select members of the messaging community. A useful answer could be returned within minutes.

According to WeFarm, 90% of small-hold farmers are now able to access a cell phone, meaning many could be connected globally.

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Olio: A neighbour-to-neighbour food sharing app

Posted by Stuti Parekh on 29 May, 2018

OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from the baker, or the groceries in one’s fridge when they go away.

OLIO is easy to use. To make an item available, a user simply opens the app, adds a photo, description, and when and where the item is available for pick-up. On the other hand, to access items, one simply browses the listings available near them, requests whatever takes their fancy and arranges a pick-up via private messaging.

OLIO’s co-founder Tessa Cook says that since launch in 2016, the app has picked up 400,000 users, and helped redistribute 500,000 meals. OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes (FWH) programme matches volunteers with their local street food market, farmers’ market, shop, café, bakery, deli, green grocer, hotel or restaurant. Once matched, they would collect any unsold surplus food at the end of their designated day(s) and would then use OLIO to share the rescued food within their local community. The FWH programme has over 1,500 volunteers actively rescuing unsold food at the end of the day from over 150 businesses, with more joining every single week.

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