Global agriculture development currently struggles with the significant gaps between the information and technology utilized by its most sophisticated practitioners, and the information and technology utilized by the overwhelming majority of smallholder farmers practicing worldwide. These information and technology gaps are undermining the full potential of global agriculture production, but there is huge potential to address these gaps via new innovations designed by local technologists, entrepreneurs and agriculture stakeholders, based on local conditions. Fostering these new innovations and partnerships is exactly what aWhere, in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Microsoft – India and T-Hub, is trying to do for Indian agriculture as part of its ongoing Hack4Farming series. Hack4Farming events team agriculture experts with local technical talent in an intensive and collaborative event where teams brainstorm ideas, business plans and technology solutions to an agriculture challenge. This month’s event brought together around 100 participants split into eleven teams to brainstorm a technical solution to the information gap in Indian agriculture. The event was held at the ICRISAT headquarters near Hyderabad, India, and took place over two days from May 12 – May 13, 2016.
Heading off the event, Mr. Jayesh Ranjuan, Secretary of IT for the Government of Telangana, spoke to participants about the importance of agricultural innovation for future generations, and the opportunity for young minds to foster solutions and to be innovative. David Bergvinson, Director General at ICRISAT, Prashant Gupta, Director of the Cloud Division at Microsoft – India, Shruti Murugan, Director of Marketing and Community at T-Hub, and Stewart Collis, CTO at aWhere, also provided opening remarks.
The event kicked off as the eleven teams undertook two days of brainstorming solutions to Indian agriculture challenges, while also considering the impact, innovation, technical achievement and sustainability of their proposed solution. aWhere team members Hanna Camp, Leila Al-Hamoodah and Stewart Collis were on hand, along with ICRISAT team members, to assist the teams. At the conclusion of the event, teams presented their solutions to a panel of esteemed judges, including Mr. David Bergvinson, Mr. Rama Iyer, a startup evangelist and Senior Vice President at T-Hub, and Mr. Anil Bhansali, Managing Director of Microsoft – India.
The teams presented outstanding proposals covering a wide variety of topics. These proposals included phone apps to provide farmers with information about price, storage locations, and crop growth stages, web-based applications to be used by agriculture stations to support local farmers in their crop selection based on expected weather conditions, physical hardware to monitor soil conditions, and even a multi-player simulation game of farming systems, among others.
After careful deliberations, the judges announced their selection for the winning team: DARe – Digital Agri. Rural e-Marketing. DAR-e’s proposal included a cloud-based application to connect smallholder farmers, buyers and transportation providers, and to use e-mandi prices, weather data and other information to empower farmers to make informed selling decisions and to reduce middleman’s margins. The winning team received a $2,000 cash prize for their efforts, as well as a commitment for ongoing startup business and sector-specific mentorship from T-Hub, a startup incubator, to continue to develop their solution.
Overall, the event was a successful addition to aWhere’s ongoing Hack4Farming hackathon series. aWhere’s next Hack4Farming event will take place this July in Nairobi, in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, with a focus on common challenges to seed company businesses in East Africa. If you would like to act as an event partner, or to participate in the event, please contact us via our websiteat http://hack4farming.github.io/.
aWhere continues to seek more partners to co-host Hack4Farming events worldwide. If you are interested in co-hosting a hackathon, or are interested in using our weather data or any other services, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants and mentors gather outside during the Hack4Farming event
Hack4Farming Hyderbad judges and event partners discuss the event outcome alongside the winning team
aWhere's Stewart Collis and ICRISAT's David Bergvison present the prize to the winning team
aWhere's Stewart Collis and ICRISAT's Ram Dhulipala discuss a proposed solution with a Hack4Farming team