The completed and multi-platform version of the AKILIMO advisory service will be expandable to provide agronomic recommendations for other crops and scalable to other locations across Africa and the rest of the world. This is according to the ACAI project coordinator and Senior Agronomist Pieter Pypers.
While delivering a guest lecture at the University of Florida, Dr Pypers said AKILIMO has already been adapted for cassava in Rwanda while modifications are ongoing to develop fertilizer recommendations for potato. Further, One Acre Fund has applied AKILIMO models and approaches to develop and test new fertilizer recommendations for maize in Kenya.
Dr Pypers delivered the lecture virtually to postgraduate students attending a new course on agricultural decision systems under the faculty of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. The presentation titled ‘co-creating an agronomic decision support service for smallholder cassava growers in Africa’ touched on the collaborative development process that characterized ACAI’s relationship with her partners, last-mile delivery agents, and the end-users, smallholder cassava growers.
The University of Florida is one of the advanced research institutes partnering with ACAI to co-develop the decision support tools. Professor Gerrit Hoogenboom and PhD candidate Patricia Moreno have made significant contributions, improving the performance of the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) and Quantitative Evaluation of the Fertility of Tropical Soils (QUEFTS) crop models to develop cassava recommendations into the AKILIMO prediction engine
ACAI project is in its final year of implementation after a five-year development process that produced the AKILIMO decision support tools for site-specific agronomy recommendations for cassava. AKILIMO is an all-in-one agronomic advisory service to support cassava growers with knowledge and recommendations to intensify their cassava-based cropping systems.
Responding to student inquiries, Dr Pypers said AKILIMO was literally built from the ground up. Already in its second year, a prototype end-to-end solution was created that allowed partners and end-users to evaluate the technical performance of the tools and provide feedback on the interfaces and user experience. Every year then, the tools went through a co-creation cycle and improved the various components of the framework. This approach ensured that the tools were meeting end-users expectations and preferences, and also delivered recommendations that resulted in yield and income benefits.
AKILIMO combines data from field trials with weather and soil data in spatial crop models to calculate expected yield increases and revenue gain from investments in improved agronomic interventions. These include customized advice on fertilizer application, tillage regime and best planting practices, cost-effective weed control measures, intercropping practices and tailored planting and harvest schedules. AKILIMO is available as a mobile phone application, printable guides with maps, table and worksheets, short message service and interactive voice response service (IVR).