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    « Design Team’s Energy Visionary: Nyan Lin Htet | Main | Proximity senior manager invited to speak at Devex Executive forum »
    Tuesday
    Jun092015

    Can digital sensors revolutionize smallholder farming in Myanmar?

     

    Digital sensors that allow for precision agriculture are becoming increasingly popular on large farming operations in the US and Europe. The technology, however is becoming affordable enough for developing markets. Earlier this year, Proximity Designs embarked on an interesting challenge with the Futuresense Team from IDEO.org; could we design sensors that would enhance the work of farmers in Myanmar? 

    Fast-forward a couple of months and a  IDEO.org is nearing the end of their second visit to Myanmar’s dry zone. During their first visit in April, our aim was to hone in on particular needs in Myanmar that could be met through sensor-tech. This time around, a Proximity-IDEO.org crew has spent ten sweaty days riding around Pakokku in the back of a pick up truck testing three prototype sensor products, speaking to everyone from farmers to fertilizer dealers, and thinking about what potential services around these products would look like. But, wait a second: what do we even mean by agricultural sensors? 

    At the high-tech end of the spectrum, there are drones that you can fly over your crops to tell you what areas are suffering from particular diseases or nutrient deficiencies. On the other end, there are farmers in Myanmar who use lemongrass stalks to predict next year’s rains. For this project, we’re wondering how we can use low-cost analog and digital sensors that measure soil moisture to help farmers make the best growing decisions they can.

    For instance, when we spoke to Proximity Sales Representative Aung Ko Win, he mentioned that farmers who purchase drip aren’t always sure about how they should adapt their watering schedules once they stop using traditional watering cans. So even though farmers access better technology through drip, they still rely on traditional thinking to determine moisture levels for their crops. Could a simple moisture sensor help a farmer make optimal watering decisions to reduce the risk of pests and disease and help improve yields? This is just one of the questions that we’re asking. 

    Over the next few months, Proximity will be working together with IDEO.org to continue evolving existing prototypes into fully fleshed out products and services. As we do so, we’ll be posting more on particular experiments or questions we’re encountering throughout this design process. If you’re curious and have any questions about this particular project, leave them in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you in future blogs!  

     

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