Technology finds its way into dairy farms

Tuesday December 3 2019

Herd of cattle on a farm. Thanks to technology,

Herd of cattle on a farm. Thanks to technology, farmers have started digitising dairy farms by subscribing to applications to improve record keeping. COURTESY PHOTO  

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

He knew how hard it is for cattle farmers to keep track of their daily production records.
Mr Alvin Mbabazi – a 24 year-old graduate of Finance and Entrepreneurship from Trinity University in Texas –USA, is the brain behind Dbuntu Cattle app which digitally tracks production volumes for dairy farmers.

Mbabazi’s passion for technology led him to back to Uganda to champion modern farming practices for improved yields. After a rigorous one and half-year of research and business plan competition worth $20,000 (Shs74 million) in seed capital, in 2017, Mbabazi started Dbuntu – a digital cattle application.

Passion nurtured early
Hailing from a region that heavily relies on livestock farming created the springboard for Mbabazi to change the way dairy farmers operate and run their farms as profitable businesses.

“My family has been in cattle farming for generations. This passion originated from my grandfather who loved farming.”

“The biggest challenge is farmers don’t think of their farms as a business. They are farmers, a mindset I want to change in the market,” Mbabazi says.
But since Mbabazi’s parents did not take on commercial dairy farming, the family farm was neglected.

The agranian nature of this economy means that over 70 per cent of the population depends on agriculture. But the sector still contributes less to the country’s Gross Domestic Product because most farms focus on subsistence rather than commercial farming. If only these farmers took on good agronomical practices such as irrigation, fertiliser application, pesticide spraying and proper keeping of books, their yields would almost double their profits.

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Thanks to technology, farmers have started digitising dairy farms by subscribing to applications to improve record keeping.

Creating solutions
Determined to link farmers to markets, Mbabazi was compelled to revive their family farm. Mbabazi had a series of engagements with the cattle farmers to identify the problem.

“During my encounter with the farm managers, I realised that there was no record-keeping,” he says.

Dbuntu Cattle app is an online data platform designed to assist dairy farmers make smarter, more data-driven decisions. With the help of smartphone and SMS applications, dairy farmers can keep track of how much milk their livestock is producing.

Basically, this application gathers data on the production volumes over time. Using analytics, Mbabazi helps these farmers to improve their milk production volumes.

How it works
Ideally, according to Mbabazi, there are two approaches that a farmer can use the Dbuntu cattle app-one with farm manager that is tech-nurtured and another with for the farmer. Because it is a web-based application, to use you need internet.

So, they use a physical a template that they issue to all the farmers and fill their records in a standard form.

“We have a data manager who is the employee that goes around on a regular basis to the farm to input all that information onto the system,” Mbabazi says.

Alternatively, they can take a picture of that standard template and send it to us via WhatsApp and then they digitise and update the farmer’s profile on their system and the owner who can be sitting in Kampala can see what is going at the farm in real time.

The second option is for the farm manager to be enter the data directly onto the Dbuntu platform via the manager’s portal.

A woman logs onto the application for cattle.
A woman logs onto the application for cattle. Using analytics, Mbabazi helps these farmers to improve their milk production volumes.

“However, most farmers would opt for the physical book and then hire somebody to put it into a spreadsheet or to take a picture and then they send that spreadsheet to us. We then upload it onto our system,” Mbabazi explained.

Mbabazi loves the fact that the farmers he has worked with like the initiative.
Currently, six farmers with 400 average herds of cattle are subscribing to the application.
However, according to Mbabazi, they can also work with farmers who have less cattle which he says is a cheaper option especially for the farmer.

Ideally, there is a small fee to it but it is very good because the farmers are able to pay about $2 (Shs7,400) per month. That’s for the smaller holder farmers. While for large farms, the fee comes to $30 (Shs111,000) which is within their abilities.

He says that the farmers who have subscribed to the Dbuntu app’s businesses have becomes organised, have a better of journey how to keep records, and this is going to lead to their farms’ profitability.

Challenges
He says one challenge has been concerns by the farmers about the security of their data collected.

“Farmers are wondering about how secure the data and it is more technical but really to answer our data is secured on goggle service and then if anyone wanted to hack into those services they have to hack into goggle which is very hard to do,” He shared.

Forecast
Given the direction that they are growing and their growth with the farmers, Mbabazi says they anticipate to eventually finding a very good breakthrough into the market and all services working on a farm simultaneously.

With every month and year, the app becomes more and more relevant for the farmers.

“And as the farms, we are working on will start to showcase to other farmers the benefits of using and as a result, we will grow the market for this app,” he added.

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