Mobile apps help Chinese farmers feed the masses

Thu, 2015-01-15 12:00 -- Kevin Ebi

There is a lot pressure on Chinese farmers. China is home to 20% of the world’s population, but only 10% of the world’s arable land. With such a shortage of farmable land, it’s critical that farmers use land to its full potential. And China isn't alone.  As urban populations surge around the world in years ahead, efficient food production to feed the masses
will be essential.

New apps, built with technology from Council Lead Partner IBM, are helping to make farmers as productive as possible.

The apps work, for example, by ensuring farmers have enough fertilizer. Sinofert, China’s largest fertilizer distributor, worked with IBM on a comprehensive series of apps that help farmers and the account managers assigned to help them. They are built with IBM’s MobileFirst, which is designed to speed development and result in apps that boost engagement and drive business growth.

Becoming more responsive
One of the key challenges for Sinofert is that China is a large country, and it’s impossible for field staff to meet with every farmer, especially those spread out in remote areas. But the apps allow the account managers to help, even when they can’t meet farmers in person.

The apps allow representatives to access company databases, which helps them be much more effective in planning farm visits. They can instantly get an understanding of a farmer’s needs and step in to help by placing or expediting orders, even if they’re far away.

Farmers can also get quick help. They can submit questions, which are sent directly to their representative’s app. The account managers can respond immediately; the farmers don’t have to wait for the next site visit.

Speeding up orders
The apps have also dramatically reduced the lead time for ordering supplies. Orders can be processed instantly through the apps, eliminating paperwork and other manual processes.

That change alone has reduced the order delivery time to 10 days. Deliveries used to take more than a month.

And by synchronizing with Sinofert’s back-end systems, the apps also help the company get a better handle on business, helping it predict farmer’s needs and ensure that supplies are ready when the farmers need them.

The apps were developed by Enwaysoft, a Chinese developer that has been involved with more than 100 large-scale development projects. It says the project has helped bridge China’s digital divide, allowing remote farmers to get a level of service more like those in more developed areas. That, in turn, allows all farmers to concentrate on growing food, rather than ordering supplies.


Kevin Ebi is a staff writer and social media coordinator for the Council. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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