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Mirror, mirror, who’s the best agri-apps developer?

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Applications that help farmers raise their productivity are changing the development arena. Photo/Illustration/Fotosearch

Applications that help farmers raise their productivity are changing the development arena. Photo/Illustration/Fotosearch  

By HERBLING DAVID

Posted  Wednesday, May 2  2012 at  17:13

In Summary

Agriculture-related apps in this year’s Pivot East competition

  • Dairy Sacco App: A mobile based credit tool modeled on agricultural cooperatives that provide inputs and merchandise to their members on credit against produce deliveries — by Joram Kinuthia (Kenya).
  • M-poultry: Brooder poultry monitoring using a mobile phone —by Mwanje Musa (Uganda).
  • Sarura: An application which aims at providing weather updates and agricultural advice to farmers — by Esther Kunda (Rwanda).

In last year’s Pivot 25

  • M-Farm: A market transparency tool for farmers where Kenyan farmers simply SMS the number 3535 to get real-time crop prices and market information via SMS, connecting them directly with food exporters — by Jamila Abbas and Susan Oguya (Kenya).
  • Mobile Crop Disease Surveillance: A highly automated smartphone-based survey system for crop disease, which uses camera images to diagnose viral damage and puts survey information online in real time, helping to track incidents of outbreaks — by Makerere University Students, (Uganda).

Mobile application developers are increasingly pegging their startups on agribusiness, if the rising number of farming-related solutions shortlisted for this year’s Pivot East developer competition is anything to go by.

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The number of agricultural apps in the finals rose from two last year to three this year, with six more having made it to the semi-final stage.

Each of the three finalist farmer-targeted solutions is from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda respectively.

Two agripreneur-focused solutions: M-Farm and Mobile Crop Disease Surveillance; made it to the finals in the government, agriculture and education category in the inaugural Pivot 25 competition held last year. However, none of them emerged winner in the group.

Nevertheless, the two apps – developed by Kenyan and Ugandan mobile developers respectively – broke ground for mobile tech developers to begin thinking about agriculture in a field that has hitherto been mainly driven by mobile payments and commerce, entertainment, gaming, and utilities.

Of the initial six solutions that made it to the top 50, only three went ahead to the final list of 25 apps whose developers will pitch their innovations at this year’s Pivot East conference scheduled for June 5 and 6 in Nairobi.

The apps were entered in the business and resource services and mobile society categories of the contest.

The objectives of the East African-wide mobile applications and content developer competition are to help in identifying, nurturing and launching budding techpreneurs in the mobile apps industry in the region.

This year’s agriculturally inspired mobile solutions target various subfields of farming such as dairy, poultry and integrated information services.

One of the finalist apps in the semi-final shortlist is Dairy Sacco App, a mobile based credit tool created by Joram Kinuthia –modelled along the agricultural co-operatives model which provides inputs and merchandise to member farmers on credit against produce deliveries.

Another farmer-targeted finalist is a tool dubbed M-poultry that is capable of monitoring a chicken brooder by use of a mobile phone. Ugandan Techpreneur Mwanje Musa is the brain behind the innovation.

The other finalist with an agribusiness application is by Rwandan tech developer Esther Kunda, the creator of Sarura, an application which aims at providing weather updates and agricultural advice to farmers.

The SMS-based application helps farmers decide the type of crop to grow in the region the farmer is located in, and gives advice on other agricultural information.

Another agri-based app that made it to the semi-finals but did not proceed to the top 25 is FarmPal, a tool developed by Thomas Kioko, which connects farmers to agricultural extension officers, veterinary doctors and agrovet dealers to access information necessary to help them increase their productivity.

The mobile app also allows farmers to access information on farming trends, best practices like soil erosion, water harvesting; handling chemicals and fertilizers, pest and diseases and a farmers calendar among other features.

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