Scanner for smallholder farmers in Kenya

SoilCares creates fertile ground for development

Fertile agricultural land is the lifeblood of every farmer. But farmers in developing countries often lack knowledge about the precious soil in which they grow their crops. The SoilCares soil scanner provides them with that crucial information anytime and anywhere. "It can help improve crop yields by up to 50 percent."

Dutch farmers achieve the world’s highest crop yields from their agricultural land. World-class knowledge on the soil, use of fertilizers and effective water management lies at the heart of this leading performance. Dutch farmers know precisely which crops they should grow and how to work the soil accordingly. "Many farmers in developing countries unfortunately don’t have this knowledge," says Angelique van Helvoort of SoilCares. "So they often don’t grow the right crops on their land and don’t know which fertilizers they should use. As a result their agricultural land is frequently under-fertilized or over-fertilized, which leads to lower crop yields."

Soil analysis

SoilCares has developed an innovative soil scanner to tackle this problem. This easy-to-use device analyses the agricultural land simply by scanning the soil. Users are then provided with key data on the scanned soil through an app on their smartphones. This includes valuable information such as the main nutrients in the soil and the soil acidity. Van Helvoort: "The farmers see which crops would flourish in their soil and the recommended fertilizer for optimally maintaining the soil."

Increased income

Van Helvoort explains that farmers in developing countries benefit from SoilCares in numerous ways. "The scanner and the related training programme enable farmers to achieve 50 percent better crop yields. This obviously means they can improve both their income and food security in their local regions. It’s also wonderful that SoilCares enables these farmers to gain growing knowledge about their soil and crops. Plus it gives them a better negotiating position vis-à-vis intermediaries and other parties."

Good databases

The SoilCares scanner is the world’s first handheld device that can test soil on location. As a result farmers can literally get the information they need within a minute. They used to have to wait much longer for the results of laboratory tests. The availability of good soil databases is, however, a prerequisite for being able to obtain optimum information using the scan. This is because the optimal conditions for growing crops and maintaining the soil vary per country and region. Kenya is the first country for which SoilCares has gathered all the required data and calculation models. "The app for the Kenyan market is ready for use," says Van Helvoort. "We’re now collecting data from other countries."

Agreement with Rabobank Foundation

Rabobank Foundation has entered into an agreement with the SoilCares Foundation. Based on this agreement, Rabobank Foundation will provide EUR 400,000 to enable the introduction of 150 scanners in Kenya. Providing the devices to farmers and cooperatives in Kenya fits in perfectly with Rabobank Foundation’s mission to improve the position of smallholder farmers in developing countries. "Thanks to the partnership with Rabobank Foundation, we will also be able to test the economic and organisational aspects of the SoilCares scanner. That way, smallholder farmers around the world can start benefiting from this technology as soon as possible," says Van Helvoort.

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