How mobile phones could help smallholder farmers manage land Image Cranfield University

Mobile phone app aiding remote smallholder farmers fertilise their land

Cranfield University is collaborating with partners in Pakistan and Madagascar to evaluate how a mobile phone app could help remote smallholder farmers better fertilise their land.

The research is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering for Development scheme.

Both Peshawar in Pakistan and Madagascar have remote areas with limited resources. Farming land in these areas must be managed effectively. The remote farmers are also vulnerable to natural disasters or political instability.

Vegetable production is key for smallholder farmers (SHF). A new mobile phone app could help them target fertilisers to optimise yields.

Cranfield University is leading a 12-month project to assess this system and compare it to conventional methods of land management.

Project lead, Dr Ruben Sakrabani, senior lecturer in Soil Chemistry said:

“Fertiliser use is key in this subsistence system, but there’s little data available to help farmers take measures to improve their current practices and management.

“This simple tool could make a huge difference to their farming yields, saving cost and improving their livelihoods.”

The system uses a paper strip to analyse soil nutrients. The strip changes colour when inserted into soil extracts, and its colour intensity is measured by the app, which then recommends levels of fertiliser to use.