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Jamaican app to be launched after hackathon on climate-smart agriculture

March 9, 2015
  • Caribbean

A Jamaican-designed app that connects farmers to markets and helps them to plan their planting season has won funding from an investor after being shortlisted for the finals of the CTA Hackathon on Climate Smart Agriculture.

revof copyCalled RevoFarm, the app was developed by a team of three young Jamaicans and was one of eight finalists in the contest, jointly organised by CTA, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the International Potato Center (CIP). The hackathon was open to young people from Latin America and the Caribbean and was timed to coincide with the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru, December 2014.

Teams were asked to develop an app that would provide practical help to small-scale farmers facing climate change. The challenge posed to contestants was to develop ways of turning existing data on climate-smart agriculture into an easy-to-use product that would enable farmers to manage climate variability, reducing the risk of crop failure and obtaining better yields.

"We should be looking at ICT opportunities to address climate change challenges for farmers," said Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Programme Coordinator, Agriculture and Rural Development Policy at CTA. "A great deal of information on climate-smart agriculture is available, but it needs to be converted into a simple format that can be used by farmers."

Caribbean finalists

RevoFarm was the only app from the Caribbean shortlisted for the hackathon. CTA facilitated the developers' participation by paying their flights to Lima and accommodation during their stay.

Athough the Jamaican team did not win the hackathon – first prize went to a Colombian team, Geomelodicos – RevoFarm team members say the experience has proved invaluable in helping them to refine their product and attract funding to take it forward to production. All the finalists received extensive mentoring during their stay in Lima.

"This experience did a lot of things for our team. First, we were introduced to some data sources that we did not know existed and these made a huge difference to our app," said RevoFarm team leader Ricardo Gowdie, a web developer who is also a small-scale producer, growing peanuts and running a small chicken farm. Fellow team members were 25-year-old Oshane Gooden, a software engineer and web developer, and Warren Robinson, 24, who owns his own web development company in Jamaica.

"Before the hackathon, we were trying to develop an app that was too ambitious, so we were happy for the mentoring we received, which resulted in our scaling down our app to become a more realistic project," added Gowdie. "The benefits of the hackathon go way beyond the borders of Lima. Because of this experience, in Jamaica people take us more seriously and it is very much easier to get appointments with stakeholders in the agribusiness sector here."

AgriHackTalent Pict300Local farmers and beyond

After successfully pitching their product to a seed investment company, the RevoFarm team members will soon be leaving their jobs to work full-time on developing their app. They will test it with local farmers before launching the product at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority Denbigh show in August. The seed investment company is also offering the Jamaican trio entrepreneurship training, mentorship guidance and business incubation. In the early stages, the app will be made available to Jamaican farmers, but the plan is to scale it out to the Caribbean and later to the Latin American region.

Even farmers without smart phones will be able to use RevoFarm, by sending a simple SMS message to a server with information on products for sale. These details will be made available to potential buyers via a mobile app and a website. Such buyers include supermarkets and hotels wanting to source local produce direct from farmers.

The app will also supply farmers with a tool to plan their planting season, based on projected weather patterns, crop marketability and soil type. Best climate-smart farm practices will be accessible from a CCAFS data source, with an option for farmers to try, rate and comment on their efficacy, a feature that is expected to speed up the currently slow pace of adoption.

RevoFarm will be linked to the CTA AgriHack Talent Programme which supports ICT4Ag entrepreneurship by youth through hackathons, incubation and promotional activities.