Barn4 posed some questions to the SAWiE team to learn more about what they do, their ethos, and where they hope to be in the future.
What does SAWiE do?
SAWiE provides a farm advisory service to smallholder farmers around the world, especially in developing countries. The livelihoods of smallholder farmers are at risk due to the climate change crisis. There is less water and productive soil to feed the world's growing population of 9 billion by 2050. We need to double up our production. SAWiE provides specific farm advisory services that deliver sustainable solutions to address these challenges. It enables farmers to choose suitable times for sowing crops, irrigating fields, fertilizer application and taking crop-appropriate protection measures when required, to save money and enhance productivity.
Why a focus on smallholders?
The number of farms in the world is estimated to be more than 570 million, of which more than 475 million (84 %) are smaller than 2 ha. More than 500 million are managed by families in Africa, Asia and South America. Their livelihood is at risk due to the climate change crisis. SAWiE enables farmers to grow food sustainably. Despite having a significant role in our food systems, smallholders are still the most vulnerable to climate change catastrophes. When there is an extreme weather event of drought or floods, they lose most of their income. To boost their income and end poverty in rural communities, SAWiE empowers farmers with real-time information, advisory services, and in the future, will link them with markets to buy quality inputs and sell their produce at better prices.
Introduce the SAWiE team and their backgrounds.
SAWiE is led by a team with expertise in agriculture, data science, machine learning, GIS, remote sensing, and rural development. SAWiE is led by its Chairperson Ms Nosheen Ramzan. She has 25 years of experience in developing knowledge products and enterprises. Ms Rabeea Aftab leads Operations and has vast experience in project management and financial planning. The GIS team is led by Abdul Hanan, who has experience in GIS and machine learning. There are about 20 other team members that are working behind the scenes to make the success story of SAWiE. SAWiE also has a board of advisors represented by leading researchers and industry members.
"We are excited to welcome SAWiE as one of our newest Barn4 members. Their team have already begun to seek out collaborative opportunities with various NIAB departments, and Barn4 look forward to supporting further collaboration and watching SAWiE’s future development."
Michael Gifford, NIAB Director of Commercialisation
What is the ethos behind SAWiE?
SAWiE's basic principles are to support sustainable agriculture, produce more from less, and protect our natural capital. SAWIE stands for Sustainable Agriculture, Water and intelligent Ecosystem. We aim to reach out to millions of smallholder farmers with a click of a button, either through a standard mobile phone or a smartphone. SAWiE has taken on the challenge of providing access to scientifically proven information to millions of households in rural communities, to improve their income. We welcome opportunities to partner with farmer networks, supply chain partners, corporates in the banking and insurance industries, Telecom providers, input suppliers, etc. to achieve SAWiE's humanitarian goals.
Tell me about SAWiE’s growth journey so far.
SAWiE’s literal meaning is “green & healthy crops”. The concept started with the idea of enabling smallholder farmers to grasp the knowledge of good practices, to gain the most from their meagre resources. We are developing near real-time information of their crop health based on open-source Earth Observation data sets, provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), and linking with our crowed community of farmers to feed their real-time observation, to issue advisory recommendations. Our innovation is inclusive, bringing the benefits of space applications to smallholder farmers with less than 5 hectares. The SAWiE digital platform has four components that include: i) Knowledge centre ii) Advisory alerts iii) Farm specific advisory iv) Community-level market platform.
We started our journey from Cambridge reaching out to farmers in developing countries. SAWiE has support from NIAB and leading research institutions in the UK and partner countries to meet the needs of smallholder farmers. Our pilot is focusing on three countries now (Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt).
How does SAWiE technology aim to help smallholders better manage their farms?
SAWiE enables smallholder farmers to better understand the interaction between soil, water, plants and the environment. This sophisticated system integrates data from all four systems behind the scenes to produce a precise advisory recommendation for farmers. SAWiE's platform gathers Satellite imagery from ESA open-source data sets of, ground truth IoT and community observations, and uses state of the art machine learning algorithms. The SAWiE model aids in identifying crop health issues early on, including soil moisture levels, irrigation needs and crop protection measures. It also provides weather forecasts, harvesting alerts and yield predictions to help farmers to make informed decisions.
SAWiE's tools enable supply chain companies to take a record of farm to fork traceability. It provides a web-based dashboard with easy-to-use tools for a better understanding of agronomy decisions. We aim to help farmers to cut down their losses of water and fertilizer application up to 50% and double their productivity. SAWiE's capacity building will also help women farmers, who are more than 50 % of the rural population, to increase their income. Our innovation has a direct impact on the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 2: Zero Hunger, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 14: Life Below Water, SDG 15: Life on Land.
How important would this technology be for the agriculture sector of developing countries?
SAWiE's solutions offer unbiased advisory support for seed-to-seed production. SAWiE enables smallholders to increase productivity and cut down losses by 50%. This will help to address food security and cut down GHG emissions to achieve a net-zero target by 2040. We are running a pilot project in Pakistan, working with 3 crops: Wheat, Rice and Cotton, to make huge savings in water and Nitrogenous fertilizer losses as NO2 emissions.
SAWiE is also a partner on the Texonomy project funded by the British Council, alongside four UK universities that include Northumbria University, University of Glasgow, UCL & University of Plymouth, and four Pakistani universities that include LUMS, National Textile University, Lahore University of Women & MNSUA Multan. This project aims to improve the sustainability of the textile sector in Pakistan from cotton to fabric.
Why did you become a Barn4 member?
SAWiE sees great value in getting support from NIAB and Barn4. We are working with researchers from NIAB who are helping us in many fields, for example, knowledge about crops, seed selection, crop agronomy, soil health and nutrition understanding, plant health, crop protection, climate-smart and sustainable agriculture to achieve net-zero, and so on. We are taking advantage of their innovation space, access to High-Performance Computing (HPC) and many more benefits.
“We are excited to partner with NIAB and Barn4, and are keen to deliver an impact on smallholder farmers' livelihood.”
Nosheen Ramzan, Chairperson
What are you most proud of with SAWiE?
SAWiE aims to develop the simplest version of agriculture knowledge as bitesize and good practices to improve food sustainability. Our YouTube channel is developing knowledge content in local languages and animations to engage with zero literacy farmers in developing countries but is also open for agriculture advisors and sector players.
What are the next steps for SAWiE?
SAWiE is in discussion with stakeholders and partners coming from supply chain companies, government, and donor agencies, to build pilot projects in developing countries to promote climate-smart agriculture practices on smallholder farms. SAWiE's products are available both as an in-app version and digital platform.
“Honestly, Sustainable Agriculture, Water and intelligent Ecosystem (SAWiE) could be a game-changer for a paradigm shift from existing No-Tech to Hi-Tech Climate-resilient agriculture. It's indeed a new opening providing an ample opportunity for agricultural engineers to promote such innovative and promising technologies”
Eng. Mustaq Gill (Tamgha Imtiaz) Ex-Director General, On Farm Water Management, Punjab
SAWiE & Partners:
SAWiE Systems, Pakistan