SMS-based weather forecasts for tropical farmers

For small-scale farmers in tropical regions, the weather plays a huge role and farmers have to make quick, critical decisions based on whatever weather info is available. The (in)accuracy of this info remains the largest source of yield loss for the farmers, ranging from anywhere between 20% and 80%. By comparison, losses due to pest, diseases, and weeds only affect around 15%.

Ignitia is a weather model specifically calibrated for the tropics, resulting in forecasts that are twice as accurate as global models (~84%). Ignitia gets these forecasts to farmers by partnering with telcos to send GPS-specific daily forecasts, as well as monthly and seasonal predictions. The message is sent in a simple text-lite format, and can be received on any mobile phone (no smartphone required). Farmers do not have to pay a large sum upfront, instead, they subscribe via their telco and pay in micro-installments from their existing mobile credit. It costs $0.03/message, adding up to just 1%-2% of a farmer’s total costs for an ROI.

Last year in Ghana, 80,000 farmers subscribed to the 97% automated Ignitia system. The system is easily scalable across countries and can lead to long-term benefits like financial security, poverty reduction, and increased spending on education and health. With nearly 3 billion people living in the tropics, accurate weather forecasting and swift information delivery can have a great impact.