Infographic: Data-Driven Agriculture

Speeches Shim

The Future of Smallholder Farmer Data Management and Use

More than 500 million smallholder farms worldwide play a significant role in food production and genetic diversity of food supply. Mobile technology, remote-sensing data and distributed computing and storage capabilities are changing how smallholder farmers are identified, understood and supported. 


A digital farmer profile is a profile that can capture comprehensive data on a farmer and their farm. It can be developed over time, provide real-time data flows between farmers and stakeholders, and it can be accessed simultaneously by multiple service providers such as financial service providers, input suppliers, agro-processors and farmer cooperatives.

Then: Digital Farm Data ↔ Extension Agent ↔ Farmer ↔ Service Provider

Now: Digital Farm Data ↔ Farmer, Sensors (soil, water), Satellite, Mobile Phone, Drones, Weather, Plants/Animals, Extension Agents, APIs (financial services, other), Service Provider(s)

As digital management of farmer profile data becomes the norm, the farmer becomes only one of many sources of that data, and only one of its many users.


Service providers who collect data on and from smallholder farmers fall into four main models.

  1. Research Entities
  2. Government / NGO Extension Services
  3. Project Management / Technical Assistance
  4. Commercial Service Providers (B2B and B2C)


Digital data capture is the starting point for developing a digital farmer profile ecosystem. Leveraging the three methods of data capture below increases the accuracy of profiles.

1. People Facilitated (i.e. extensions agents, researchers):

  • Paper Surveys
  • Digital Surveys
  • Human-centered Design (Qualitative)

2. Mobile Phone

Phone-based Capture

  • SMS
  • OBD
  • IVR
  • Call Center

Passive Mobile Capture

  • GPS
  • Phone Usage
  • Transactions

Mobile Phone Applications

  • Registration
  • Usage
  • Chatbots
  • Crowdsourcing

3: Remote Sensing or Capture

  • Sensors
  • Satelitte
  • Drones
  • Weather
  • National ID
  • Registry
  • Land Management
  • Facebook
  • Phone Data
  • Other Datasets

Farmers need to make decisions in critical moments. The aggregation of information from their profile data, remote-sensing data, satellite and weather data makes this possible. Big data is one promise that can bring fragmented data, resources and service providers together to support a farmer’s ecosystem.


Changing methods of data capture are giving rise to new configurations within service provider models.

Today, farmers provide data to service providers in exchange for support services. In the future, farmers might monetize their own data.

All service providers should consider how to compensate farmers for their data. This can be a pathway to farmers’ financial sustainability and protect their privacy.


When assessing how to leverage farmer profile data USAID staff and Feed the Future partners should consider:

  • How are smallholder farmers defined?
  • What is the landscape of service provider models?
  • What is the technology environment for supporting digital capture, analysis and timely use of data?
  • What data is commonly collected, what are the gaps and is data being shared?
  • Are there farmer profile data sources that can be leveraged to build dynamic farmer profiles?
  • What farmer archetypes have been created by programs and can they be leveraged by other service?
  • What is the policy and legal environment for data sharing, consumer protection and privacy?
  • How is data shared post-project?
  • What may be the utility of the projects’ data assets for other service providers?
  • What investments by USAID and other donors can support the development of a digital data ecosystem for farmer profiles?

For additional information digital agriculture technologies, including farmer profiles, please visit

This product is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of FHI 360 and do not reflect the views of USAID or the US Government.

Friday, April 13, 2018 - 3:00pm