Project 3

An online platform and its smartphone application to enhance bi-directional communication between farmers and breeders: Select-A-Seed

Project objective

To develop an online platform and its associated smartphone application to provide the means of a bi-directional communication channel between farmers and breeders, for better market-oriented variety design, broader adoption of new varieties and better feedback from farmers to breeders.

Project leader

BecA-ILRI Hub

Dr Jean-Baka Domelevo Entfellner

BecA-ILRI Hub

Co-leader

John Innes Centre

Dr Oluwaseyi Shorinola

John Innes Centre

Researchers

KALRO Food Crops Research Institute

Bernice Ngina Waweru

KALRO Food Crops Research Institute
Jomo Kenyatta University

Isaac Njaci

Jomo Kenyatta University
Artificial Intelligence Research Group – Makerere University

Pius K.B. Mugagga

Artificial Intelligence Research Group – Makerere University
Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi)

Ermias Assefa

Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi)
Jomo Kenyatta University

Mukani Moyo Okoba

Jomo Kenyatta University

Project overview 

Crop varieties are routinely developed by breeders working in National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), but they too often suffer from poor adoption levels in the field. For instance, the overall adoption rates in Sub-Saharan Africa for newly developed hybrids and Open Pollinated Varieties (OPV) maize varieties are around 37% and 21%, respectively (Tsedeke et al., 2017). The reasons for such low adoption rates are multiple: lack of information from breeders to farmers, the lack of trust farmers place in breeders, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that new varieties are sometimes ill-designed, when the breeding objectives are not aligned with the consumer preferences.

To help lift some of these blockages, we have embarked in the development of an online platform and its associated smartphone application that will allow farmers to communicate about their own consumer market preferences, to give their feedback on their experience with the seeds they planted. The platform will also allow breeders to share valuable information about the varieties they release: the agro-ecological zones they target, the proper agronomy practices and schedule of farm activities, the expected yield and disease resistance traits, etc.

Project outputs

  1. An online platform where breeders can upload datasheets about the varieties they develop as well as relay important information or events (field days, training, disease outbreaks) relevant to farmer (in a format comprehensible to lay farmers,
  2. A smartphone application through which farmers can access the variety information, give their feedback (rating varieties), and ask questions.
  3. An online database of variety fact sheets together with the corresponding agronomy recommendations to optimise crop productivity, dynamically augmented with the feedback from the farmers.

Project activities

  1. Development of the database schema (MySQL)
  2. Development of the online app (Android studio)
  3. Development of the web interface (Django)
  4. Communication efforts with the regional NARS and private seed companies to facilitate adoption of the platform on a country-per-country basis throughout eastern and central Africa.