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How This Start-up is Helping Myanmar’s Farmers

Agri-tech company Impact Terra wants to make a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 24 Apr 2018

How This Start-up is Helping Myanmar’s Farmers

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Erwin Sikma founded agri-tech company Impact Terra after seeing an opportunity to serve Myanmar’s farmers. He found that they accounted for more than 40% of the country’s GDP and 60% of the workforce. He also noticed that more than 32 million of them already had smartphones, yet few apps truly addressed their needs.

“Given this context, I saw the potential to improve the livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers through the use of digital solutions such as smartphone apps by providing them with real-time agricultural information, access to markets, and proper access to financing options,” says Sikma.

The Golden Paddy platform is Impact Terra’s platform for farmers. According to Sikma, it offers them real-time, personalized information about local crop prices, weather-based advice like flood or drought warnings, and pest risks.

Since most of Golden Paddy’s users are smallholder farmers in rural Myanmar, the information can make a significant impact on their livelihood, as in the case of mung bean farmer, Ko Kyaw Lwin.

Prior to Golden Paddy, Lwin did not know how to deal with the pests that were damaging his crops. He had to rely on recommendations from sales representatives who may have a vested interest in pushing certain products.

With Golden Paddy, Lwin gets a comprehensive overview of pest treatment for his farm.

“He is now able to know the characteristics of the specific pests, see a list of products used to treat these pests, and find directions for how to use the products properly,” says Sikma.

He adds that they are increasingly focusing on pest prevention through partners that specialize in satellite data insights, agronomic models, and machine learning algorithms.

Delivering financial products

Golden Paddy also collects data on farmers, such as their location and details about crops, which helps financial service providers deliver financial products that meet their needs and correspond to their specific risks. This enables these farmers to get the capital they need to improve or expand their farms at accessible rates.

Sikma says that the biggest challenge of growing Impact Terra is that while there are many agri-apps across Myanmar, there is still a long way to go in making these services useful and relevant to smallholder farmers.

“It is an ongoing challenge to steadily increase Golden Paddy’s user-base while making sure all users get enough value out of our services,” he says.

He notes that they are using data from Golden Paddy and feedback from farmers to integrate agricultural and financial services into a single platform that could be more scalable in other geographies.  

To increase Golden Paddy’s user base, Impact Terra relies on Facebook as one of its digital channels as well as field teams and its partner network for offline acquisition. They mostly have maize, paddy, and mungbean farmers now, but want to expand their services to farmers of other crops in time.

Impact Terra has funding from the Netherlands Space Office Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) facility for its Smart Agriculture Myanmar (SAM) project. Over the next three years, SAM will provide advice to farmers about crop timing, pest management, fertilizing, and irrigation.