How frustrating would it be if the success of your business was dependent on the forces of nature? Well, for millions of farmers worldwide – that is the absolute truth.
The AgriTask app was developed by the Israeli company ScanTask to act as a crowdsourcing platform for farmers in order to reduce, as much as possible, the role nature plays in the success of agribusiness.
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“What we are doing with this app is to transform this industry into a manageable business,” says ScanTask founder Israel Fraier, who calls AgriTask the “Waze of agriculture.”
According to Fraier, farming is pretty much like gambling on the field, and for that reason he and his company created an application that allows farmers, big and small, to cut out the guesswork, by using crowd-sourced data on weather, pesticides, crop diseases and harvests.
Gathering data from neighbors
When a farmer opens the app, the first thing that pops up is a map displaying which crops grow where and what chemicals the crop is currently protected with. The app and the web platform create a table listing the crop data, disease and pest risks, letting the farmer know if the crop needs spraying or what kind of chemicals it should be treated with. It also allows farmers to plan out their harvests, displaying when the last harvest was carried out and when the next one is due.
Much like an Instagram for agriculturalists, farmers can also post pictures of their crops to warn other farmers of crop diseases inflicting the soil in their area. AgriTask also provides important reminders in the form of alerts on the farmer’s mobile phone or computer, including plant pathology and biological data like weather conditions, geographic information, soil and seed type generated by the farmers themselves or collected using special field sensors.
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Fraier states that many farmers are generally uninformed regarding all of the biological parameters that influence their harvest. He says that they apply pesticides “blindly” without knowledge of more efficient and healthy ways to protect their crops. The role of AgriTask, according to Fraier, is to assist the farmer in picking out a pesticide or method of plant protection that has beneficial chemical ingredients for the crop and soil, “they have all kinds of adaptive systems responding to the environment and you [as a farmer] have to take into account those adaptations,” says Fraier.
Since Fraier’s company Scantask developed the software in 2008, farmers in Israel, Brazil, Peru, one Arab country (that the company cannot disclose) and Columbia have already put it to good use. But Fraier is ambitious and states that he seeks to expand AgriTask’s reach to Russia and more agriculture-dependent countries in South America and Africa.
Another important feature that AgriTask provides allows governments to monitor farms in their country and directly subsidize a specific project or to address issues impeding farmers’ rate of production. “If a government sees that the region’s parameters are excellent to produce an export crop, but it has no means of irrigation, the government can directly subsidize the construction of an irrigation system,” says Fraier.
Tackling world hunger
Scantask, the company responsible for AgriTask’s technology, has functioned well as a self-funded company since its founding in 2008, winning a $640,000 Galileo program grant from the European Union in 2010.
While speculation has been a part of the agricultural business since neolithic times, AgriTask’s new technology seeks to dramatically improve the industry’s odds by creating an actively cooperative network of farmers around the world.
Photo: Lars Plougmann