ACRE Africa and IFPRI receive award from Lacuna Fund to develop unique agricultural datasets through smartphones


January 19, 2021

Congratulations to our colleagues at ACRE Africa and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) whose project “Eyes on the Ground: Providing Quality Model Training Data through Smartphones” has been selected for Lacuna Fund’s first cohort of supported projects in the agricultural AI (artificial intelligence) for social good domain.

In the Eyes on the Ground project, the team from ACRE Africa and IFPRI will use smartphones to create a unique dataset of georeferenced crop images along with labels on input use, crop management, phenology, crop damage, and yields. Images will be collected in 11 counties in Kenya. Funding will be used to support data collection, standardization of methods for submitting images, and curation of datasets so they meet best practices for ground reference data collection and cataloguing, while safeguarding ethics considerations.

Berber Kramer, Research Fellow, IFPRI: “ACRE Africa is developing a unique database of georeferenced and labeled crop images. Their efforts to make these data available are admirable and will create a win-win situation. The Lacuna Fund support allows ACRE to invest in quality control and image labeling, which will help in strengthening the crop insurance products that it offers. These data will really give scientists “eyes on the ground” to develop AI for agriculture. It’s great to see that our partnership, building on research undertaken as part of PIM program, has empowered ACRE to land this prestigious award.”

Lilian Waithaka, Geographical Information System (GIS) & Earth Observation (EO) Data Analyst, ACRE Africa: “This is a novel concept that endeavors to provide smallholder farmers with risk mitigation and adaptation strategies through satellites and smart phones to ensure that they invest in high productivity agriculture investments. The ground pictures not only provide ACRE Africa with Eyes on the Ground to fine-tune insurance products/models and minimize basis risk, but also enable us to observe management practices that promote the adoption of productivity-enhancing yet resilient technologies through bundling with stress-tolerant seeds and remote advisories. To bridge the gap between insurance products, resilient technologies, and smallholder farmers we leverage on the Village Extension Service Providers (VESPs) model, a high touch and robust route to market model to help create awareness, capacitate, and distribute our products. This model ultimately intends to create entrepreneurial opportunities.”

ACRE Africa and IFPRI have been partnering since 2019 to develop, implement, and evaluate picture-based crop insurance (PBI) products that use smartphone images of insured crops to improve claims settlement and provide smallholder farmers with more accurate and affordable insurance. This work builds on formative research on the feasibility of PBI undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) in India. ACRE and IFPRI are currently implementing and evaluating different types of PBI products in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Wageningen University, the University of Groningen, and CABI. Funding for the research is provided by the ACIAR-IDRC supported Cultivate Africa’s Future program, NWO-WOTRO, and InnovateUK, with co-funding from PIM.

More about the PIM-supported Picture-Based Insurance project:

Picturing a Better Crop Insurance (podcast)

Can weather index insurance help farmers adapt to climate change? (blog)

Webinar: Helping smallholder farmers manage risks: Innovations to improve agricultural insurance

Picture-based crop insurance: Is it feasible? Is it sustainable? (blog)

Photo credit: Francisco Ceballos/IFPRI

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