Intern Elena Paiuc wrote the following blog:
No need to be a nerd to learn about technology. In this post, I will present three main AgriTech technology categories that you need to know about to be able to support smallholder agricultural cooperatives to upgrade their internal management and stay connected to their members, even during the COVID-19.
EMMS systems are often one of the first internal processes within Farmer Organisation (FOs) to be digitalised. In the research Ruth Amoako-Adusei and I conducted for Agriterra in Kenya, Rwanda, Peru, and Vietnam, 26 out of 30 FOs did collect data about their member on an excel sheet (7/8 in Kenya, 5/5 Peru, 7/10 Rwanda, 7/7 Vietnam). The others were only using paper forms (3/10 Rwanda, 1/8 in Kenya).
When looking at the service providers offer, EMMS services are often provided as a module and integrated in a more complete software. EMMS can be part of a product focusing either on farmer profiling for financial advantages (FinTech like crop insurance or microloans), for Farm Management Information System (FMIS, Husemann & Novković, 2014) to enable extensionists or field officer to have all the data about the farmer in one place -often an app accessed by smartphones or tablets-, or for Enterprises Resource Planning software (ERP), to facilitate payments to farmers and keeping track of the certification and number of members. Therefore, not one company offers solely EMMS services, but it can often be purchased as one of the modules of a more complete offer.
Finally, what is an EMMS? It is simply a list, more or less complex, containing information about the contact data of the farmer such as location, phone number, payment information such as M-Pesa number (for mobile payment in Kenya mainly) or bank account, demographic data such as; the sex, the year of birth, the level of education or productivity data like; the yield, the crop produced, the GPS location of plots or certification information.
It can be as simple or as complex as needed. Of course, Excel is a good tool to start, when the EMMS becomes the base of the Internal Management System, for automatic payments, digital certification audit, or productivity assessment, it needs to be more robust, complete, and regularly updated. That’s when FMIS or ERP systems become handy and help FOs to keep their EMMS updated and connected to other internal services.
FMIS is one of the most common technologies offered to cooperatives. It can focus on the management of the farm at the producer level (Smartfarming) or can extend to the management of the farmer organisation. Most FMIS contains Field operations management, advice about best agricultural practices (agronomic advice), Finance and Inventory functions, and some include a Traceability component (Fountas et al. 2015). Some FMIS are integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or extended to the whole supply chain. Some FMIS (in the coffee value chain) allow farmer, cooperative, dryers, roaster, packaging, and final buyers to all interact into one system and to share valuable information about traceability (Ecroporigin). Others are not specific to a certain crop and support information transfer within any types of supply chains (AgUnity). Those systems also support communication between the FO and the field agents or directly to the producer by means of email, SMS, or smartphone applications.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a process used by companies to manage and integrate the important parts of their businesses. In the case of FOs it complies the financial aspect (member payment, inventory management), the productivity aspect, the management of internal loan to members, certification processes, traceability modules and more. ERP system are typically focussed on the internal processes within the FO but can also be extend to the communication with members and extensionist services (like in eprod). Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are multi-module off the shelf software suites that seek to integrate and optimize a FO’s information flow, business processes, and functions to provide data in real-time (Mbungu, 2014).
Finally, I hope that those three categories provide you a better understand the form of AgriTech that can be offered to FOs and will empower you to be the link between those technologies and the need of FOs in this challenging time.