FarmGrow is all about intensive personal engagement with thousands of farmers in the major cocoa producing areas of the world, requiring many coaches in the field who are supporting farmers on how to produce more cocoa without negative effects on the environment. To monitor this at scale, consistent information on landscape level is required, this is where remote sensing technologies come in.
Using satellite imagery (optical and radar) and artificial intelligence, Satelligence provides daily actionable insights detecting the global performance of agricultural production and its risks such as deforestation and forest fires. The technologies of Satelligence support FarmGrow implementers to better manage appropriate levels of shade on cocoa farms, provide information that is used by coaches to better target their field visits and monitor and prevent forest encroachment.
For example – one of the important factors determining a cocoa farm’s productivity is the planting material and age of the cocoa trees. Although it is sometimes hard for a farmer to cut down a tree that still produces, poor and old trees need to be replaced to achieve higher yields. As part of FarmGrow, farmers are encouraged to rehabilitate poor farm areas, while simultaneously the program aims to relieve pressure on forests and encourage farmers to diversify their income by introducing other crops. Using Satelligence’s AI techniques, we keep track of crop diversification, recognize replanting and continuously provide alerts when forest areas are cleared for new cocoa trees. FarmGrow coaches use this information to nudge farmers into doing the right thing for their farming venture and the environment.
Cocoa grows better under a light shade cover. Yet many farmers have too few shade trees and the trees are too small in size. Using very high-resolution optical imagery from newer satellites, Satelligence provides shade cover data for every FarmGrow plot. This information is used by coaches to advice farmers on which plot extra shading is required and where to plant these exactly.
With thousands of farmers onboarded onto the FarmGrow program, the field coaches are going to be busy. Considering the often long distances to travel to remote cocoa farmers, it is important for coaches to have information that helps prioritizing their farm visits. By continuously analyzing the cocoa canopy via satellite imagery, coaches now have information about farms that indicate for example expected or unexpected canopy change. Such information is valuable for coaches as it indicates either good performance of farms in their FarmGrow plans, or the contrary, farmers that need support. Coaches will use such information to make smart choices about timing and selection of farmers that are in most need of advice.
Most of the world’s cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers, who all too often live in severe poverty. The struggle to make a decent living is getting tougher as farmers grapple with aging trees, declining soil fertility and a whole host of new challenges arising from unpredictable weather conditions to increased outbreaks of pests and diseases.
Touton, on-boarded coaches among its own staff to guide cocoa farmers participating in FarmGrow on a personal basis in order to help them implement their seven-year farming plans.
Precision agriculture technologies for the cocoa industry in West Africa and Indonesia is often deemed far-fetched. Smallholder farmers in these regions, however, are susceptible to negative changes in the environment and often lack timely, site specific and actionable advice.
Global cocoa trader Touton has been closely involved in the co-design of FarmGrow right from the very start. “We appreciated the innovative approach” says Isabelle Adam, responsible for corporate relations at the company.
For cocoa manufacturing company Mars, embracing FarmGrow was an easy decision. Kim Frankovich, the vice president of cocoa sustainability at Mars Wrigley, explains that the reason her company is a “supporter, enabler, and champion” of FarmGrow is because of the benefits it offers the industry.