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With an estimated combined investment of around R21 million over three years, the Connected Farmer platform, a cloud-based web and mobile software solution recently launched by Vodacom, will link thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain, enabling access to information, services and markets.
Food security in South Africa remains a challenge, with just 30 000 commercial farmers producing most of the country’s food. Over 200 000 smallholder farmers and an estimated two million subsistence farmers have an important role to play in food security and poverty reduction, yet their access to markets, information and finance is limited or non-existent.
There is also a lack of available data on smallholder farmers and their supply chains, which is a barrier to informed decision-making by agribusinesses and policy makers.
How Connected Farmer works
Vodacom’s Connected Farmer aims to assist in providing farmers with the services they need through the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, enhanced productivity and, most importantly, risk reduction.
Sourcing from smallholder farmers as a result becomes more realistic and executable for food manufacturers and retail businesses, increasing the number of smallholders and subsistence farmers in commercial agricultural value chains. This has been proven in the deployment of the Connected Farmer platform in East Africa.
The Connected Farmer platform is aimed at connecting enterprises, small and commercial agribusinesses, NGOs and farmer associations. Vodacom’s partnership with GIZ will provide commercial and operational support to link thousands of farmers to this platform, enhancing the sustainability and longevity of the initial deployment of the service in the South African agriculture sector. The launch of this platform further complements the current Internet of Things platforms that Vodacom has launched into the various markets and segments.
A farmer can use any mobile device on any network to access the Connected Farmer’s platform and, through SMS, receive valuable information, including weather forecasts and market prices. Farmers with smartphones can access the same platform with increased capability to access additional content.
Through the partnership with Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions, a local developer of Agricultural Decision Support Systems for the past 25 years, Vodacom will provide farmers and enterprise users with access to a broad and deep reservoir of relevant and expert content.
Agribusinesses pay a monthly service fee per farmer and per mobile enterprise user, who are provided with the requisite hardware, software, training and support as a managed service.