GroWise - Improving the lending potential of credit providers in southern Africa

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The GroWise product suit is called GRID. The service will consist of a Crop Growth Index (CGI) for a variety of common African crops.  The CGI will be modelled on a crop-specific basis utilising SAR data, optical satellite data and precision weather information.  The CGI will provide the credit providers with daily updates of the crop’s growth stage, the biomass of the crop and the Leaf Area Index (LAI). These three measures of growth will allow credit providers to assess how well the crop is performing. This information will be delivered via a Grower Management Tool used by the credit providers to store and aggregate customer data – names, addresses, mapped area of crop, cropping history, input provision, loan value and crucially the crop growth indices. The tool will allow credit providers to communicate with the farmers directly to provide agronomic advice via the third element of GroWise – the mobile app.  The app will be used by growers and the credit providers’ agents on the ground.  The app will primarily be utilised by extension officers, lead farmers and agents of credit providers working with small-scale farming communities.  Growers will also be able to access the app if they have a smartphone.  Each grower will have an account (linked to the Grower Management Tool) and will allow them to receive live agronomic information from the credit provider.

Users and their needs

The customers of the GRID service will be agricultural credit providers, contract farming companies and insurers.  These companies supply credit in the form of money, seed, fertiliser or pesticides to small-scale farmers.  Repayment of loans is pursuant upon growers producing a good harvest therefore it is in the credit providers’ interest to be able to see how well crops are performing and have the ability to intervene with agronomic advice to secure their return on investment.

Currently credit providers lend to farmers with inadequate details informing their lending decision. Farmers do not have a credit history and have no collateral to support the loan which leads to high interest rates being offered to small-holders.  As the primary users, agricultural credit providers need aggregated data. GroWise will be able to manage big data on extensive customer groups, inputs such as fertiliser and persticide applications, anticipated yield versus actual yield and crop progression throughout the growing season. 

Service/ system concept

Space Added Value

The services utilise Planet 3m resolution optical satellite data; Sentinel 1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and weather data from Iteris.

Current Status

The project team started a two year project in February 2018 to provide a bespoke service to credit providers in southern Africa allowing them to mitigate the risk of non-repayment of loans by tracking the crop and intervening with agronomic knowledge small-scale farmers are lacking. The service - called Grid – provides the creditor with regular and consistent crop growth data alerting them to problems with the crop that would result in a default on the loan.  There is currently no tool on the market specifically for credit providers to track crop performance and enable them to actively engage with their investment.

Specifically, Grid consists of a Crop Growth Index (CGI) for a variety of common African crops, advising the user what growth stage the crop has reached, as well as other growth indicators. This information is delivered via the Grid desktop application used by the credit providers to store and aggregate customer data. The tool will allow credit providers to communicate with the farmers directly to provide agronomic advice. The Grid mobile app is an on-boarding tool and is being used all across Africa. The app allows farms to be mapped quickly and key information about the farm be stored.

Over 140,000 hectares of land were entered into the pilot phase which ran from October 2018 to March 2019.  Since the pilot started several new iterations of the crop groth model have been released. Wheat, maize and sunflower models are now live on accounts in Africa and a soya model is due to be released post project completion. A crop growth model for sugarcane has been started and will continue once the project ends. Heads of Terms have recently been agreed with a major insurer in Zimbabwe for them to use Grid to monitor their investments. The Final Review meeting of the demonstration project was successfully held on 6 February 2020.

Status Date

Updated: 27 February 2020 - Created: 16 February 2018