Leading image

They did not believe that a 15 years old student could advance with the app

Nicholai RajKumar on the left, with in the middle his mentor Atiba Phillips from the Community HUB Corporation, and on the right his AgriHack Talent team mate

by

Seventeen years old Nicholai Rajkumar is a student of St. George’s College in Trinidad and Tobago. He is pursuing studies toward a career in IT. Nicholai at age 15, completed a Microsoft course in App Development, which aided his participation in the Caribbean AgriHack Talent Competition in 2014.

Nicholai’s passion for ITs combines with his interest for agriculture. ‘I have always loved pursuing IT, and the idea of involving agriculture makes me feel elated to be giving back to the farmers, as they provide so much for us,’ he says. The IT aspect in agriculture came initially as a surprise for him. As a young innovator in the Caribbean, he believes that there is a huge demand for agricultural based ICT applications, if released and promoted well. ‘More and more the population is becoming aware of healthy food practices and demand good quality of food from farmers,’ Nicholai says.

The application Nicholai and his team have developed for the Caribbean AgriHack Talent Competition placed them in the finals. The app is a guide for farmers in Trinidad and Tobago to increase productivity and marketing their products. ‘I could not find any app that provides farmers with easy accessible problem-solving information. Therefore, the app that we have developed allows for a wide range of features to inform farmers about crops and livestock, pest management, and irrigation,’ says Nicholai. With the support of the Community HUB Corporation - a Caribbean NGO that aims to enhance youth and communities by leveraging ICTs - Nicholai and his team designed and built the application for the local farmers to access agricultural information by the internet.

After the AgriHack Talent Competition in Suriname at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2014, Nicholai’s team developed further the app by implementing a text-to-voice speech output for the weather forecast, they integrated maps to the soil management feature, and attained support from CARDI, FAO, IICA and the Ministry of Food Production in Trinidad and Tobago.

Hackathon

The App was designed to be simple, effective, and written and sold in farmer friendly jargon. Information on crops and livestock, soil management, pest management, fertilisation, a live weather forecasting for the week ahead, and news feeds for current events, are now all available for farmers with one click or touch. New users sign up for the app by setting up a profile – “My Profile” that allows them to log-in and sign-in to the “Messaging Centre”, which is a dialogue platform where stakeholders can meet and market their produce. A feature for “Feedback” is also available to communicate with the developers. The app is designed to run on Android, Windows and iOS platforms.

What is Nicholai’s role in the enterprise? ‘I am the marketer and designer of the application. I am responsible for the choice of colours, pictures, and the overall layout for the app.’ He adds that he represents the app in different media and in business events that are arranged by the Community HUB. He reinforces that young people must get involved in agriculture. ‘As youth, we must continue in the footsteps of our farmers in this modern age. Without agriculture we will surely cease to exist.’

Nicholai outlines that being very young at 15 years during the AgriHack Talent Competition posed major and unexpected challenges. ‘I think the judges did not believe that we could advance with the app as a viable product along with a business prospectus and to formalise partnerships, as well as our pre-occupation of being in school.’ He admits that indeed it has been quite difficult to build a business venture and recommends organisers of hackathons and other entrepreneurial events on ICT innovation amongst youth to provide a special stakeholders’ fund for supporting young innovators. Nicholai would like to see, for example, better buy-in methods from stakeholder agriculture organisations. ‘More validation could help us as young people to move into the business world and provide the appreciation for innovation across the sector,’ says Nicholai.

Related links

Website of the Community HUB Corporation

Read More

by and

Young innovators in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific region, have recognised the need for creative solutions to raise agricultural productivity and the huge prospective market for their ICT-enabled services in agriculture. Although they still face many challenges, their products have the potential to transform agricultural value chains in developing countries.

by

Social entrepreneurs in Africa have developed innovative ICT-enabled models for agriculture with the aim of combining profit with inclusive rural development. Their main challenges are scaling-up and earning an income while serving the poorest rural communities.

by

New technologies enable farmers to stay in the comfort of their farms and arrange for their produce to be sold to buyers’ miles apart through an online market place. However, entrepreneurship in e-agriculture in Africa comes with many challenges.

Countries could see economic growth in e-agriculture when the private and public sectors are aligned to create a climate that fosters innovation. Some lessons can be learned from the Caribbean and Latin America on creating a healthy ecosystem for ICT start-ups in agriculture.

by

Technology hubs give young innovators and entrepreneurs the unique opportunity to develop their products and services and to make them marketable. The lack of awareness about the opportunities that e-agriculture has to offer, is one of the main obstacles to succeed.

by

French mobile phone provider Orange has developed several support programmes for ICT start-ups in Africa and the Middle East. By providing the right, tailor made support facilities it aims to enable a home-grown e-agriculture sustainable growth model for innovative, young entrepreneurs.

by

Ignitia has developed a disruptive technology that allows smallholder farmers in West Africa to access accurate weather predictions. Engaging with local partners and initiating reliable impact measurements were key factors to gain trust and scale-up the business.  

by and

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) ICT unit has established its own businesses by making use of ICT tools, like drones. The members also give ICT trainings with the aim to enhance agriculture and sensitise rural entrepreneurs

by

The Mulika Pesa app helps farmers to record all kind of their data, such as stocking and transactions. Robert Gichuru is the founder of the app. He explains how difficult it is to operationalise an ICT business.

Even without smartphones, internet or electricity, rural Malawians are gaining access to video material through young entrepreneurs called DJs who work mainly from barber shops.

As the digital age advances further rapidly, more and more e-agriculture entrepreneurs are able to launch a start-up cheaper and faster than ever before by leveraging technology, access to wider range of skills, grants, competition money, crowdfunding, and accelerator and incubator programmes. e-Agriculture entrepreneurs can choose to take a traditional approach to developing a business plan or they can examine new approaches, such as the Lean Start-up Canvas and the Business Model Canvas.

Past issues

ICT Update N. 91

Next-generation ACP agriculture - innovations that work

ICT Update N. 90

Women and Digitalisation in Agriculture

ICT Update N. 89

Data4Ag: New opportunities for organised smallholder farmers

ICT Update N. 88

Unlocking the potential of blockchain for agriculture

View all