Interview

SourceTrace: Focusing on sustainable agriculture and farmer empowerment

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SourceTrace: Focusing on sustainable agriculture and farmer empowerment

SourceTrace strives to make agriculture predictable, efficient and sustainable, raising farm productivity through the use of technology. The increase in farm productivity ultimately improves the standard of living of the farmer communities, helping them become healthy, productive and successful, says Venkat Maroju, CEO, SourceTrace in an exclusive interview with Sreetama Datta Roy of Elets News Network (ENN)

SourceTrace is a data-driven technology company that helps improve farmers’ livelihoods and access to global markets.

What is the vision and mission of SourceTrace?

SourceTrace is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company that focuses on sustainable agriculture and the empowerment of farmers. Through data-driven driven digital innovations, it aims to make farming predictable, sustainable and equitable.  As the world population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050, 50 percent more food will be required to feed the world. SourceTrace is helping farmers rise to the challenge through data-driven digital innovations that improve productivity and predictability in a sustainable manner. 

How is SourceTrace Systems leveraging technology in the agriculture sector?

SourceTrace’s digital solutions improve farmers’ livelihoods in the following ways:

  • Providing greater access to global markets and customers.
  • Improving productivity through efficient use of inputs and reliable procurement processes.
  • Minimising risk by access to timely knowledge and Information.

SourceTrace’s customers build stronger trust and engagement with stakeholders by providing them full visibility of the produce from farm to fork. For example:

  • Ethical fashion brands can demonstrate the origin of organic cotton and win the trust and confidence of the end consumers.
  • QR-code based traceability solutions help retail stores provide full traceability including the origin information of the fresh produce.
  • Aquaculture farmers can demonstrate the source of the seed and offer full visibility of the value chain to the end consumers.

SourceTrace enables organisations to implement data-driven agriculture practices that improve sustainability and reputation results. For example:

  • Organic cotton farmers in India gained sustainable market access to global brands with premium pricing.
  • Organisations were able to monitor and eliminate deforestation and child labour in cocoa value chains.
  • Agri-businesses were able to improve operational excellence by providing solutions for remote and low/no bandwidth areas.
  • Firms can minimise risk through real-time solutions and insights from built-in risks.

What are the key technology systems utilised viz. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, etc?

They key technologies are mobile apps, AI/ML, remote sensing and Blockchain.  Data is collected on an android mobile device in the field, often in scattered, remote and multiple locations.  The technology can function as effectively in low bandwidth or no bandwidth conditions and across remote and scattered locations and can capture data in 14 languages. The application allows the field staff to capture field-level information of all the critical data required as a part of operations and keep the management informed of the status in real-time.  The GPS coordinates and the visual data of the environment is transmitted to the servers for management/experts review and ensure that the farmers comply with the best practices. It has both web and mobile platforms.

Remote sensing and AI/ML is used in crop yields, advisory and pest, and disease management. Blockchain technology is used in securing data where big data is involved, especially when it comes to solutions like traceability.  We are now investing heavily in enhancing the platform leveraging more cutting edge technologies like remote sensing, Blockchain, AI/ML for the weather forecast, pest and disease alerts and data security for traceability.

What are the flagship products and services?

Our digital technology platform is called DATAGREEN.  Using the above-mentioned technologies, it offers a host of eight solutions: farm management, farmer advisory services, certification, traceability, supply chain management, monitoring and evaluation, market linkage and financial services. All of SourceTrace’s solutions are targeted at making the agriculture value chain more transparent and equitable for everyone, right from the farmers and suppliers to retailers and consumers.  

Essentially it pertains to capturing relevant field data on a mobile device, for which analytics are available in near-real-time to the management team to enable quick and informed decisions.  All these solutions are made up of several modules like farm and farmer enrolment to sowing details and warehouse management. The technology used ranges from mobile and web applications to remote sensing, AI/ML and Blockchain.  Overall, the deployment of this technology brings in transparency, predictability, and sustainability. Customers can deploy any of the solutions from our technology platform DATAGREEN. 

Data is playing a major role across multiple sectors. How are you sourcing and utilising data to enhance the products and services?

Here’s a brief explanation of how it works and improves the lives of farmers- 

For example, one of the main crises in agriculture today is erratic weather patterns, for which farmer advisory services provide alerts and action points. The other issue is the sustainability of agriculture. These digital technologies can help predict the exact amount of resources like water, fertilisers, and pesticides so as to control environmental degradation. The third issue is pricing, and access to credit, which farmers often find difficult.  Our digital solutions provide market linkage that can connect producers to global buyers, providing them with a guaranteed sustainable market, with premium pricing in case of organic produce. The digital platform can also be integrated with financial institutions, providing transparency for credit risk analysis, making it easier for farmers to avail credit. 

SourceTrace solutions strive to make agriculture predictable, efficient and sustainable, raising farm productivity through the use of technology. The increase in farm productivity ultimately improves the standard of living of the farmer communities, helping them become healthy, productive and successful. It also reduces the environmental impact which otherwise leads to degradation and renders the fields unproductive. Our solutions are particularly targeted across developing countries. Currently, SourceTrace solutions are impacting more than a million farmers in 28 countries across Asia, Africa and South/Central America.

Who are the target customers and main stakeholders of SourceTrace Systems?

Our target customers are farmer producer organisations, agribusinesses, financial institutions, and government and development agencies.

What are the plans in the pipeline?

We are in the process of collaborating with organisations like GSMA association, which would help in integrating digital money with their platform for automation of payments, thus increasing the access to a wider network and helping in easy banking for farmers.  We are collaborating with ICRISAT and Germany-based Geocledian in remote sensing, AI/ML and big data. We are working on some innovative models to predict yields, pest disease, and crop insurance.

Any other information you would like to share with us.

On average our customers have reported productivity increases of 10-15 percent, enabled faster payments, in one instance, the payment cycle has been reduced from six weeks to two weeks. Digitised internal control systems have improved the efficiency of the overall certification process. Traceability solutions, in one instance, have enabled clothing brands to trace the garments to the individual farmers and farmer groups who produced the organic cotton ensuring ethical production and increasing the overall trust in the value chain.

In the next three to five years, SourceTrace is planning to impact 10 million farmers.

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