Precision Agriculture for Development
Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD)
Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) is a non-profit organization that supports smallholder farmers in developing countries through the provision of customized information delivered through mobile services. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, PAD operates in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
PAD’s main model uses mobile phone-based extension to deliver personalized advice to farmers. The agronomic advice includes information on topics such as soil maintenance, pest control, and planting schedules in order to increase “productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability”. PAD employs a network of agronomists, field officers, and call center operators to synthesize farmer data to support customizable service. PAD's model is informed by randomized controlled trials, impact evaluations and A/B testing, and uses a data-driven, evidence-based and iterative approach to refine the style and quality of its advice and the quality of its service delivery.
According to the organization’s Q4 2020 report, the organization was servicing 3.8 million smallholder farmers.
PAD was founded by then-Harvard Professor and 2019 Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer (now University of Chicago) and Harvard Business School Professor Shawn Cole, Brown University Assistant Professor Dan Björkegren, and impact investment expert Heiner Baumann in 2016. Prior to their role in co-founding PAD, Kremer and Cole had separately conducted research on how information delivered through mobile technology could improve agricultural yields in developing countries. Both identified that farmers were receptive to technocratic agricultural advice and recognized the power of mobile systems to deliver such information.
In 2016, 28,325 farmers in India and Kenya used PAD services. By 2017, projects in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Pakistan helped increase the number to 345,727. In 2018, PAD started operations in Bangladesh.
Model and Initiatives
PAD often collaborates with local governments and organizations, using data and research to improve its services. For example, in 2018, it partnered with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, CABI and Safaricom to launch MoA-INFO, a free instructional text message system concerning “monitoring, identification....and control measures” for the fall armyworm pest.
Although delivery channels and crops vary among countries, PAD’s mobile services generally are composed of interactive voice response (IVR) hotlines, short messaging systems (SMS), and mobile applications adapted to local contexts. PAD leverages randomized A/B testing to help improve the content and customization of messages.
In late 2018, PAD's India Team released a smartphone app called “Krishi Tarang” for the Google Play Store. The project mirrors the organization’s IVR service, but adds the ability to see and submit images.
Funding and Recognition
As a 501c3 status non-profit organization, PAD relies on public and private partnerships. It has received donations from the following groups:
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- Dioraphte Foundation
- Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
- Jasmine Social Investments
- Mulago Foundation
- Sall Family Foundation
PAD’s projects have been featured in the Financial Times and The Standard. The organization's research has appeared on the World Bank's "Development Impact" blog and in lectures at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
A case study focussing on PAD's theory of change and evidentiary origins is included on the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) website.
In 2020 GiveWell, a non-profit charity assessment and effective altruism-focused organization, named PAD a "Standout Charity", and ranked it among the most cost-effective charities in the world.
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- "Our Team". Precision Agriculture for Development. 2019-06-18. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
- Cole, Shawn (2013-01-03). "The Value of Advice: Evidence from Mobile Phone-Based Agricultural Extension". HBS Working Knowledge. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
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- "Our Funders". Precision Agriculture for Development. 2019-06-18. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
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- McKenzie, David (2016-02-16). "Weekly links Feb 16: when scale-ups don't pan out the way you hoped, syllabi galore, do you suffer from this mystery illness? and more..." World Bank Blogs. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
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