New app gives grain farmers access to data to increase productivity and mitigate threats in Mexico

October 10, 2020

AgroTutor provides farmers with tailored information and recommendations based on sophisticated data analysis systems right from their mobile phones.

New tools developed by CGIAR centers are narrowing the digital divide for smallholder farmers — equipping them with insight to be more productive and risk-tolerant.

Maize and wheat growers in Mexico can receive the results of agronomic analyses and site-specific recommendations on how to increase productivity and adopt more sustainable farming practices directly from their mobile phones.

Arming farmers with personalized recommendations and insights enables them to make informed decisions on sustainably increasing their productivity, which in turn buffers farmers from risk. A more productive farmer is better equipped to manage uncertain seasons of fluctuating business cycles and climate change.

This is possible thanks to a new Android and iOS application called AgroTutor, developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

AgroTutor delivers tailored information to farmers, such as historic yield potential, local productivity benchmarks, windows of opportunity to perform specific agronomic tasks, recommended agricultural practices, and commodity price forecasting.

The recommendations are based on the analysis of more than 500 variables describing different agricultural and management practices performed by field technicians and more than 150,000 farmers working with CIMMYT and Mexico’s Agriculture Department (SADER, in Spanish) under a bilateral collaboration project for sustainable maize and wheat production called MasAgro.

The records of consecutive crop cycles, which in some cases go back as far as eight years, are analyzed in combination with geographic, weather, and market data obtained from open sources of information. Data analysts and researchers mine the combined data sets to find correlations or patterns that help identify limiting factors and the best management practices for each plot. 

“AGROTUTOR2” – A user of the AgroTutor application in a wheat field in Mexico. Credit: Francisco Alarcón / CIMMYT

AgroTutor allows the user to store crop information, including photographs and videos, and to record their agronomic practices in an agricultural calendar that also displays alerts for performing recommended crop management tasks.

The use of sophisticated data analysis systems is common in almost every field and industry, including agriculture, but have rarely been accessible or adapted to serve the needs of smallholder farmers.

Including smallholder farmers is critical for feeding a growing population. Accelerating the access to new technologies, data and precision systems will help farmers in low-income countries close their productivity gaps and manage their natural resource base to conserve soil and water.

The systems and tools that support AgroTutor have been acknowledged for producing predictive and prescriptive site-specific analytics for the benefit of resource-constrained farmers, and for contributing to the sustainable use of natural resources that lead to more informed and effective public policies and projects.

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