Previously, there was no tool specifically designed for credit providers to track crop performance and actively engage with their investment.
As a result, many farmers found it difficult to acquire upfront investment at the start of a growing season as most lenders were not willing to take the risk on a blind investment. Agricultural credit providers, contract farming companies and insurers required transparency and confidence that the farmers can grow and sell enough produce to offset their debt.
Credit providers want to see how well crops are performing and have the ability to intervene with agronomic advice to secure their return on investment. This project aimed to address investors’ requirements directly by harnessing satellite imagery and data analysis.
The front-facing response of the GroWise project was to deliver AgSpace Agriculture’s digital platform (GRID) that gives farmers access to data and insights from satellite imagery about their land and crop quality, backed by independent agronomic advice.
The platform also gives the credit lenders and banks transparent access to the data and information, and a separate aggregated portal for each individual smallholder farm client.
Once the GroWise project was launched, over 140,000 hectares of land were entered into the pilot phase which ran from October 2018 to March 2019. Since the pilot started, several new iterations of the crop growth model have been released and are now in commercial use.
For example, wheat, maize and sunflower models are now live on accounts in Africa, and a soya model was due to be released post-project completion. A crop growth model for sugarcane has also been started and will continue once the project ends.
The GroWise project was successful in partnering with the largest bank in Africa – Standard Bank – who are now confidently using the precision agriculture technology, satellite imagery and aggregate access to the GRID platform to lend financial support to smallholder farmers across Africa.
For smallholder farmers, GroWise and subsequently GRID offer more sustainable financing options compared to other exploitative, unofficial lenders. This has successfully brought and established smallholder farmers in a commercial finance model. It gives confidence and financial insurance to both the farmer and credit lenders and banks.
A major insurer in Zimbabwe has recently employed the use of GRID to monitor their investments. The Final Review meeting of the demonstration project was successfully held on 6th February 2020.
The 3-year GroWise project duration started in December 2017 and concluded in November 2019. Today, the GRID product is commercially available across southern Africa.