Kenya’s Farm.ink brings home $150,000 after winning USAID’s Future Fall Armyworm Tech Grand Prize

Nairobi-based Farm.ink has won the grand prize of $150,000 after it emerged top in the Feed the Future Fall Armyworm Tech Prize to help farmers manage the recent spread of fall armyworm — a voracious agricultural pest — in Africa.

Fall armyworm has the potential to cause an estimated $2-6 billion (USD) in maize losses alone over three years. Therefore, USAID and its partners identified digital innovations that could help solve the menace.

The U.S. Agency for International Development was working with Land O’Lakes International Development, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Farm.ink, a Nairobi-based start-up that has integrated a Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor into its Africa Farmers Club mobile service is an online group and chatbot providing more than 150,000 farmers across Africa with farming information. The new virtual advisory feature will provide specific information on how to identify and treat fall armyworm.

The second winners were AfriFARM and Akorion, a Ugandan agricultural technology company, which took home $75,000 each. Akorion has an enhanced fall armyworm diagnostic in its EzyAgric app; and to AfriFARM, an app by Project Concern International and Dimagi, a social enterprise based in Massachusetts.

$50,000 each to Farmerline and Henson Geodata Technologies, both Ghana-based, and the Nigerian-based eHealth Africa, to further develop early-stage mobile applications that will provide tailored information for combatting fall armyworm.

The Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor is an interactive solution that provides knowledge on how to identify, scout, and treat fall armyworm to its users. The tool is integrated into Farm.ink’s award-winning mobile service, Africa Farmers Club, an online group and chatbot that enables more than 150,000 farmers across Africa to find information about farming. Through the Facebook Messenger platform, the solution gamifies learning and after completing trainings, allows farmers to access the FAW Scouter, a progressive web app that guides farmers through the scouting process. It then provides farmers with personalized recommendations for how to treat fall armyworm on their farms.

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The EzyArmyWorm (EAW), an enhancement of the pest and disease diagnostic in the EzyAgric app, aims to assist farmers, extension workers, and agribusinesses in Uganda with early detection and accurate diagnosis of FAW. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow farmers to easily detect the pest across possible affected crops at any stage of the production cycle. With SMS and smart alert notifications, EAW provides farmers with constant reminders and real-time information on how to detect, manage, and address fall armyworm.

AfriFARM (Africa Fall Armyworm Response Mechanism) operating in Malawi and Tanzania was built on CommCare, an existing digital platform designed for low-resource settings, AfriFARM provides accessible and actionable information about FAW to smallholders, lead farmers, and agricultural extension agents in Africa. The app provides learning modules tailored to user needs and capabilities on topics including management; identification; scouting; treatment options and safety considerations; and incidence reporting. AfriFARM was developed by Project Concern International and Dimagi.

Crop Disease Prediction & Advisory Services (CdPAS) by Farmerline is a digital solution that allows end-users to access information on fall armyworm, engage experts on the pest, make incidence reports, and request inputs/services. CdPAS will leverage the audio-visual learning capabilities of local farmers by providing the simplified information via two channels: 1) An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which allows users to access content in their preferred local language and on any mobile phone; and 2) an android application that has media-rich content (photos, videos, infographics) on the pest.

Igeza, a cloud-based mobile application that enables early detection and instant interaction with a control center integrates location and audio-visual services used by the smallholder maize farmer to scout, scan and identify fall armyworm as well as map their farms. The call center connects all notifications to a pool of experts including entomologists, plant pathologists, agronomists, and extension workers who can analyze the evidence presented and recommend appropriate management responses, where needed. Igeza was developed by Henson Geodata Technologies.

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Nigeria’s CornBot, is an audio-visual mobile application that interacts with farmers in their local language, talking them through a process that helps them identify, control, and manage fall armyworm uses an image-based Q&A mechanism to engage farmers and empower them with information needed to combat fall armyworm.

CornBot also aggregates data on the prevalence of fall armyworm, providing stakeholders with real-time data necessary for formulating evidence-based policies and intervention on the pest. 

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