Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) is adapting precision agriculture technologies for developing countries. We are developing an intelligent platform that provides smallholder farmers with individualized agricultural recommendations through their mobile phones. Through environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, satellite imagery, remote sensing, and  machine learning, PAD’s platform makes personalized recommendations that improve production and increase profit for farmers.

PAD’s technology is always evolving. In addition to dispensing advice, the platform also gathers and incorporates information from farmer inputs, ensuring its recommendations continuously improve.

Our mission is to sustainably improve the livelihoods of 100 million smallholder farmers and their families through providing highly customized, practical and affordable information and advice on how to improve farm productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability.


PURPOSE

Smallholder farms support more than two billion people worldwide, but many rely on inefficient and environmentally unsustainable agricultural practices. Localized information can greatly improve production, reduce unnecessary fertilizer and pesticide and increase profit, yet smallholder farmers often face barriers to accessing that information such as:  

High Costs: Localized quality information can be prohibitively expensive.

Ineffective Providers: Private sector actors often stand to profit from providing inaccurate information, while public sector agricultural extension efforts tend to be dysfunctional.

Lack of Personalization: Increased access to mobile phones has led to a number of successful agricultural initiatives, but few focus on delivering context-relevant, localized, and customized information.

PAD’s platform presents a scalable solution that seeks to solve these problems. Using two-way communication and information aggregation, PAD’s platform provides targeted predictions of optimal local farming practices given a participant’s crops, local soil and weather conditions, socioeconomic characteristics, labor supply, access to inputs, and other variables.  

These inputs, combined with direct communication and experimentation with farmers, will help build a data set of unprecedented richness that allows for not only an improvement of the information available to farmers, but also our understanding of information-finding systems.  

Several studies have found that small changes in agricultural practices can substantially improve their farming productivity and profitability, dramatically improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest populations. In India, mobile-based IVR agriculture advisory service with 1,200 cotton Gujurat showed a 26% increase in yield, a 30% reduction in pesticide/fertilizer usage, and an estimated return of $10 per $1 USD invested. In Kenya, an SMS messaging system with agricultural advice for smallholder sugarcane farmers increased yields by 11.5% and supported two-way communication to reduce delivery delays for fertilizer by 22%.

Team

Behind PAD is a team of innovators, entrepreneurs, and data-driven thinkers who have extensive experience finding creative solutions to problems around the globe.

Michael Kremer

Michael Kremer is the Gates Professor of Developing Societies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Presidential Faculty Fellowship, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Kremer’s recent research examines education and health in developing countries, immigration, and globalization.  He and Rachel Glennerster have recently published Strong Medicine: Creating Incentives for Pharmaceutical Research on Neglected Diseases.

Shawn A. Cole

Shawn Cole is the John G. McLean Professor of Business Administration in the Finance Unit at Harvard Business School, where he teaches and conducts research on financial services and social enterprise topics. Much of his research examines corporate and household finance in emerging markets, with a focus on insurance, credit, and savings. He has also done extensive work on financial education in the US and emerging markets. His recent research focuses on designing and delivering advice and education over mobile phones, with an emphasis on agricultural and financial management. He has worked in China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam. He is an affiliate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development. He is on the board of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, as the co-chair for research.

Heiner Baumann

Over the past twenty years, he has helped design, build, and manage outcome-oriented philanthropic and social-change organizations, including: The Barr Foundation (Global Programs), The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and New Profit Inc. These focused primarily on sustainable agriculture, community health, education, and climate/environment with programs in Africa, India and North America. Prior to this work, he spent five years with McKinsey & Company, where he supported a range of corporate clients. Heiner’s writings on the topics of innovation and capacity building in the nonprofit sector have appeared in the Harvard Business Review and Alliance magazine, and he has been a speaker in multiple countries on venture philanthropy. He has served on the boards of directors of several international and local nonprofit organizations.

Dan Bjorkegren

Dan Bjorkegren is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Brown University. He has worked extensively on mobile phone systems and individual behavior. Recent work includes working with a telecom to analyze the factors that lead to successful diffusion of network goods in developing countries. He has worked in Rwanda and Kenya.

Robert On

Robert has a background in EECS and Statistics and is a PhD student at the School of Information, Berkeley. His areas of research cover ICTD and Development Economics. Robert is interested in the procurement, implementation, use, and evaluation of information systems for social and economic development with the motto: Try a lot, fail a lot, but measure everything. In a previous life he was working at Google as a software engineer doing data-driven economics research.

Raissa Fabregas

Raissa Fabregas is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. She has experience working on impact evaluation of agricultural interventions in Africa and has engaged with donors, governments, and researchers to design and implement randomized control trials. She is currently investigating how much farmers learn from different extension approaches in Kenya.

Nilesh Fernando

Nilesh Fernando is a Post-Doctoral Research Scholar at Harvard University. He received a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University in 2015 and previously worked and as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School and the Centre for Microfinance in Gujarat, India for two years working on field experiments related to agriculture. His dissertation research includes understanding the effects of providing mobile phone-based agricultural extension to farmers in Gujarat.

Tarun Pokiya

Tarun Pokiya is a post-graduate in agriculture science with 8+ years of experience in agricultural research projects. He previously worked as a Agronomist at the Centre for Microfinance, IFMR LEAD in Gujarat, India. He also led field management for the “Avaaj Otalo” project; a mobile based agriculture extension impact evaluation study and has experience in studying ICT based interventions for agriculture in India with Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

Niriksha Shetty

Niriksha is a Senior Research Associate at IFMR-Lead. She graduated with a double major in Economics and Mathematics from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Niriksha was previously involved in the  implementation of the "Avaaj Otalo" system in Madhya Pradesh and subsequent analysis of data collected in this research project.

Olga Rostapshova

Olga Rostapshova is a Technical Director at Social Impact and has led a range of impact evaluations in Africa and Asia. She holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University, where she was the recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and named a Kauffmann Fellow. Olga earned her BS in Engineering and BA in Economics, with minors in Environmental Studies and Public Policy, from Swarthmore College. She previously worked at Ernst & Young’s Quantitative Economics and Statistics group, and consulted for the World Bank, MIT, Harvard and the Weiss Family Program Fund in Development Economics.

CONTACT

To learn more about PAD, contact us.