Did you miss me? I hope so! My last column is already more than a month ago. The reason: I was travelling in South East Asia. As a tourist, but agriculture is never far away on such trips. And neither is ICT.
First thing that even travelling pensioners in my tour group asked, when entering a hotel deep in the countryside of Laos: what is the wifi-code. Not even taken into consideration that in those backwaters wifi might not yet have arrived. But it has, and local farmers use it. Smart phones everywhere. And in Cambodia I read an interesting article in the Phnom Penh Post on a Japanese immigrant who had started a large farm (another sign of globalisation in agriculture), and was so upset by the lack of sharing market information and best farming practices that he launched a Facebook-like app for Cambodian farmers.
That development is nicely in line with what we try to achieve in the FarmDigital project in which we want to exchange data between farmers, auditors and food businesses in The Netherlands and also in South Africa and Costa Rica, in an efficient and reliable way.
Growers of grapes in South Africa as well as farmers that produce melons in Costa Rica who want access to European markets have to comply with food safety standards like GlobalGap and they are often in fair trade or organic certification schemes. Such schemes are sometimes seen as a trade barrier but in reality they facilitate access to Western markets with demanding costumers. Such certification schemes can also be interpreted as a method to transfer know how on consumer trends and production practices to farmers in developing countries.
Software like that developed in the FarmDigital project can most likely facilitate such trade between developing countries and Dutch importers. That is a win-win situation: importers (and their clients like retailers) will have easier access to the data of their producers. In principle they will be able to inform you as a consumer on where and how your table grapes were produced. And the farmers in the developing countries will have less administrative burden. And perhaps that in future we can add additional services based on the data collected, such as benchmarking.
Next months we will test these assumptions together with our software partner AgriPlace. This is also a test for the software and the standards used, as tests will run in English and Spanish. If the tests are successful and the business partners involved are happy with the results, we have to think on next steps like adding services. Starting in Costa Rica and South Africa, and who knows, sooner or later also in Laos and Cambodia. The wifi infrastructure is already there.
Voorzitter Stuurgroep Farm Digital
(LEI Wageningen UR)