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The World Bank Group Blogs on Data-driven Digital Agriculture and AgTech

Created Mar 11 2021, 1:17 PM by Vivek Prasad
  • Digital Agriculture
  • Data-driven Digital Agriculture
  • Agriculture
  • Agriculture Data Platform
  • AgTech
  • Policy - Agriculture Information Systems

Investing in data and innovation ecosystem to transform Indonesia’s agriculture


Digital agriculture has the potential to be a game-changer for agriculture in Indonesia and the country’s startup ecosystem has seen a rapid growth of AgTech or digital solutions for agriculture.  Indonesia’s startup ecosystem has seen particularly rapid growth in AgTech. In 2020, AgTech startups raised more than $165 million across 26 deals. Indonesian AgTech actors have helped advance many aspects of traditional agriculture and made important contributions to the needed transformation of the agriculture sector starting from production, supply chain, market access, and transaction to financing solutions. Unfortunately, smallholder farmers may not have the technical knowledge to keep up with agricultural mechanization and trends, resulting in low productivity.


Farm and food policy innovations for the digital age, by Juergen Voegele 

Imagine you are the prime minister of a country that wants to improve the lot of its food producers, consumers, and the environment: Where should you invest time and resources? What policy levers should you pull? Not a week goes by without news of digital disruption in traditional industries and sectors. We’ve already seen long-standing business models from taxis to hotels upended, and we’ve got to wonder where this will take the world’s oldest industry—agriculture. 


Beyond the Pandemic: Harnessing the Digital Revolution to Set Food Systems on a Better Course by Julian Lampietti, Ghada El Abed, and Kateryna Schroeder

One of the most striking images of the coronavirus pandemic is the contrast between farmers dumping milk, smashing eggs, and plowing vegetables back into the soil and consumers facing empty store shelves and long lines at food distribution centers. How is it possible to have over-abundance on one hand and scarcity on the other? Please click here to read the blog. 


Farmer Ex Machina: Is digital agriculture the beginning of the end of agricultural employmentby Laura Ralston And John Downes

The demise of humanity at the hands of machines has long been a preoccupation of science fiction writers, but a more pressing worry has been robots putting humans out of work. As digital technologies help farmers gain productivity around the globe, how will jobs be affected? Will we be able to ensure our creations don’t violate writer Isaac Asimov’s most fundamental— “zeroth”—law for his creations? “A robot may not injure humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.” Please click here to read the blog. 

How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system? by Simeon Ehui

There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025. Please click here to read the blog. 


Digital technology ensures food supply in rural Bangladesh during COVID-19 by Iftikhar Mostafa  

Salma Akhter, a member of an agriculture cooperative in northern Bangladesh, has been extremely busy the past four months – since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she has been volunteering to run a ‘virtual call center’ in her sub-district, helping connect rural farmers with suppliers and buyers. Farmer members call her on her mobile phone to place orders for seeds and fertilizer and to sell their produce including rice, vegetables, milk, and fish. Please click here to read the blog. 


Mirror, mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all: The case for public blockchains by Marieke De Ruyter De Wildt

According to the Oxford dictionary, blockchain technology is a system in which a record of transactions are maintained across several computers that are linked to a peer-to-peer network , which allows for the easy distribution of digital information. This has many real-world applications, some of the most exciting in the agriculture and food sector. By using blockchain technology to verify the authenticity of biofortified seeds for example, agrifood supply chains create a shared truth of immutable data and increase transparency. Effectively, blockchain enables a ‘product passport,’ meaning that details about the product that are stored on the blockchain are immutable and verifiable.This transparency can make supply chains more resilient in the face of disruptions such, improve supply chain planning and better manage cash-flow. Ultimately, this helps supply chains save costs, reduce risks and improve sustainability. Please click here to read the blog. 


Much ado about land rights: How digital technology can disrupt agricultural credit by Elizabeth Ash And Julian Lampietti 

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” —William Shakespeare

Clearly, Shakespeare never farmed. Credit is critical to farming because it sparks agricultural transformation, the process of investment and technological change leading to higher productivity. Traditional development theory tells us that land rights unlock the credit needed for agricultural transformation. But in practice, access to finance is out of reach for many farmers so a smallholder financing gap of USD 150 billion remains. Please click here to read the blog. 


Does data mean power for smallholder farmers? by Foteini Zampati

Data is power—whoever controls data has the power and means to create services and products, allowing them to benefit from business insights and providing them distinct market advantages. Tools that collect, store and share data along the agricultural value chain—known as digital agriculture—can contribute to exponential income growth, better decision making and better services and products, as well as greater efficiency, productivity and profitability.  Please click here to read the blog. 


Fail before you scale by Mariella Goebl, Chris Weigl And Marie-Agnès Jouanjean

There is a lot of enthusiasm about the use of digital technologies to solve market failures in agriculture. A forthcoming report by the World Bank finds that by reducing transaction costs throughout the agro-food value chain and enabling increasingly customized advice on-farm, they can support more efficient, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems. Personal experience, however, suggests that we should manage our expectations when it comes to seeing tech as the solution to all our problems. Please click here to read the blog.

The future of digital in Uruguay’s agri-food system by Talita Pessoa and Katie Kennedy Freeman

The concept of Sustainable Development is not new to the development world. Everyone is familiar with the framework of 17 SDGs and their targets. To put the idea of sustainable and inclusive economic growth into practice, however, is a different story. Please click here to read the blog



No country for old regulations: Protecting dynamic competition for digital agricultural markets by Julian Lampietti and Jenny Zhang

Two hundred years ago, Adam Smith introduced the idea that free market competition is the bedrock of economic well-being. According to Smith, governments have responsibilities to protect the “system of natural liberty” against the “wretched spirit of monopoly.” Since then, policymakers have followed Smith’s advice and used market regulations, competition policies, and antitrust laws to prevent concentrations of market power and preserve competition within the market. Please click here to read the blog. 

Digital technology spurring online food retail boom by Ingrid Katrina Korsgard and Artavazd Hakobyan 

From meal orders to grocery delivery, the online market for food is growing globally. Nielsen reported that global online grocery purchases increased 15% between 2016 and 2018. China generates the most revenue in food delivery with a total  of US$38 billion in 2019. Online food sales are also on the rise in the United States. Twenty-three percent of American households bought food online in 2016, a 20% increase from 2014. Russia is no exception to online food retail trends. Between 2015 and 2017, grocery delivery services saw a US$2billion increase (133%). Please click here to read the blog. 

How crowdsourcing can improve food safety by Colin Finan and Patrick Quade

Unsafe foods cost developing economies over $110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses each year, according to the World Bank's own figures. And yet in many cases surveillance is limited, and there are few effective ways for a consumer to report a case of food poisoning.

 Please click here to read the blog


Backhaul to the future – Can digital technology make Central Asia’s agriculture competitive? by Julian Lampietti and Kyle Farrell 

Whether matching drivers with riders or landlords with lodgers, digital platforms like Uber and AirBnB push the marginal cost of matching supply and demand to an unprecedented low. Large infrastructure projects like China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative - which aims at more closely linking the two ends of Eurasia, as well as Africa and Oceania - could create an opportunity to alter the future of Central Asia’s agriculture, if food supply and demand can be matched more efficiently. Please click here to read the blog. 


The Goods, the Bad, and the Ugly: Data and the food system by Julian Lampietti and Kateryna Schroeder

The business of agriculture and food is driven by data, making it the treasure trove of today’s agri-food system. Whether it’s today’s soil moisture, tomorrow’s weather forecast, or the price of rice in Riyadh, every bit of data can improve the efficiency with which the world’s 570 million farmers put food into the mouths of its soon-to-be eight billion consumers. Digital technologies are facilitating the flow of data through the food system, shrinking information asymmetries and fashioning new markets along the way.  Please click here to read the blog. 


Planet of the Apps: Making small farms competitive by Julian Lampietti and Randolph Kent

Apps have revolutionized everything from getting to work, keeping in touch with faraway friends, and dating (though the jury’s still out on this one). Can apps be the salvation of the world’s farms that are under two hectares in size – a group that most people think is going the same way as humans in Planet of the Apes? Please click here to read the blog. 



Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector by  Hyea Won Lee and Vikas Choudhary

Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town? Please click here to read the blog. 

Can Digitizing Agribusiness Payments in Africa Build a Ramp for Financial Inclusion of Farmers? by Ajai Nair and Minita Varghese

If you are farmer in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), chances are that the payments you receive for your produce would involve bundles of cash being transported in armored vehicles and held in plastic bags, and many hours spent travelling and waiting in line. Paying farmers in a timely and cost-effective manner for their produce is a challenge that both agribusinesses and farmers are constantly trying to navigate since most agribusiness payments are made in cash. As per the 2017 Global Findex, among those who receive agricultural payments in SSA, fewer than one in six individuals receive those payments through an account (at a bank, non-bank financial institution or a mobile money account). Please click here to read the blog. 

Precision agriculture for smallholder farmers in Vietnam: How the Internet of Things helps smallholder paddy farmers use water more efficiently by  Vikas Choudhary and Karin Fock

Paddy cultivation emits over 10 percent of global agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and consumes 21 percent of the total water volume used for global crop production.  Water is increasingly scarce in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, which has been hit by record droughts in recent years. Solutions that help farmers like Pham Van Tuan to grow rice while drastically reducing GHG emission and water usage would be a game-changer for the Mekong Delta. Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is one such practice where rice fields are alternately flooded and dried, and water levels kept low during the flooded stage. This irrigation practice reduces water use up to 28 percent and methane emissions up to 48 percent. With such immense benefits, one would expect that this practice is applied far and wide. But that is not so. Why? Please click here to read the blog.