Data driven insights are critical to the future of the agro-food industry. And there is a collaborative team leading the charge in South Africa. Together, the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) and Integrated Value Information System (IVIS) are working on a variety of research projects aimed at generating intelligence and actionable insights to help create a more sustainable agro-food industry. As you can imagine, utilizing industry-leading data collection technology is crucial to the success of their programs.
In recent years, the demand for farm surveying projects started to grow. BFAP was tasked with collecting field information and surveying farmers to discover correlations between environmental variables and crop yields. They had the team of experts in place, but the data collection app they were using was not sophisticated enough to handle the project demands.
The Need for a Flexible Surveying Tool
As a wholly-owned subsidiary, IVIS is responsible for deploying various technology for system based tools that BFAP uses to conduct their research. When the new surveying projects presented, Albert van Niekerk, systems specialist at IVIS, and Marion Delport, data science manager at BFAP, teamed up to find a data collection solution to replace the rigid application they were using at the time. Niekerk and Delport knew the tool’s poor user experience and limited customization, workflows and calculations would prohibit their ability to handle the new projects.
Delivering Real Time Insights from the Field
Once the team onboarded Device Magic, the first order of business was a soybean farming survey project. The aim of the project was to link soybean quality to specific fields, farmers and variables surrounding those fields, such as agronomic, geographic and resources variables. Neikerk and Delport created a custom survey form with Device Magic that was used by their field agents to record data before and after harvest season. With the new tool in place, the team was able to build up a database and draw actionable insights on crop quality and the measured variables.
The soybean program was such a success, the team decided to deploy Device Magic on another survey project. The second application was aimed at understanding canola seed yield losses during harvest season on the Western Cape of South Africa. This time, IVIS needed to implement a specific methodology developed to estimate yield losses into the form calculations. And to their delight, it was all possible through Device Magic’s mobile form builder and support team. Once they customized the app with the yield loss calculations, Neikerk and Delport quickly trained and deployed 15 agents with Device Magic subscriptions out into the field to begin surveying farmers as they harvested canola seeds.
“Device Magic played a critical role in extending the agents’ hands,” said Delport. “The mobile app allowed them to record multiple samples and provide immediate feedback to the farmers out in the field. Show them right then and there what’s impacting their bottom line.”
The real time results quickly became invaluable to the overall goals of the program. The ability to show the farmers the average kilogram per hectare canola seed loss and the associated financial impact while the agents were there with them was huge. This enabled the farmers to take corrective action before completing the harvest.
Offline Capabilities and a User-Friendly Interface
Along with the need for customization flexibility, offline capability was imperative. Delivering the real time insights that became the centerpiece of the canola seed project would have been impossible without it.
As a matter of fact, the team recently embarked on a third survey project using Device Magic. Now they’re estimating and understanding soybean yield losses. However, this time, the farmers are the ones using the app to conduct the surveys. The mobile app’s user-friendly interface has become a big advantage for the latest project. “We’re working with farmers with varying levels of tech-savviness. The app is so easy to use and so far, it’s been very well received,” said Delport.
BFAP and IVIS have been extremely pleased with Device Magic’s ability to support the highly sophisticated and diverse needs of their projects. The team looks forward to implementing the tool in future work. On the horizon: a monitoring program for potato farmers.