Short Solution Description:
Cropfix by eAgro is a WhatsApp and text-based chatbot that assists in identifying plant damage from pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiency with the help of machine learning.
There is a severe lack of real-time pest/disease agricultural advisories when they are needed the most. This can result in a rapid spreading crop epidemic. In effect, farmers lose their yields due to late diagnosis or misdiagnosis of crop problems.
Extension officers are workers who support agricultural operations and support farmers during crop epidemics. In Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, the ratio of extension officers to farmers can be as high as 1:2000. The lack of extension officers makes it difficult for farmers to manage their crops during unideal circumstances. After summoning an extension officer, farmers have to wait multiple days for a farm visit and diagnosis. Then, farmers have to purchase the pesticides recommended, which adds more time to the process and it can be costly too. Taking this time allows the pests/disease to spread and further damage crops, which contributes to the low to average yield. This has been worsened by the Covid pandemic which is limiting human movement across the farms leaving most smallholder farmers exposed.
In some instances, farmers can’t access extension officers at all and rely on colleagues or local shopkeepers to describe their problem by mouth, which leads to misdiagnosis, further damage to crops, and reduced harvests. This problem is common among smallholder farmers who don’t have access to extension officers.
Pests, diseases, weeds, and nutrient deficiency problems pose an even significant risk to farmers' yield size and quality when they are not monitored and managed correctly. Smallholder farmers lose up to 40% of yield due to pests and crop diseases late or misdiagnosis.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?
The main barrier is cultural adoption. Farmers are accustomed to receiving help from physical extension officers and not an app on the phone. Additionally, Covid lockdowns and limitations might slow down farmer onboarding, training, and product awareness campaigns which Cropfix plans to deploy as well.