Mobile app provides weather forecasts for Rwandan coffee farmers

Mar 27, 2014
Credit: STFC/Stephen Kill

A mobile app created by a start-up company at ESA's business incubator in the UK will soon help coffee farmers in Rwanda to protect and improve their crops by providing highly local weather forecasts.

Rwanda's high-quality coffee is one of the country's most important crops. More than half of Rwanda's rely on coffee and tea, with coffee exports alone worth more than $60 million.

However, changes in can devastate crops by promoting 'coffee '. In Guatemala, 70% of the plants were affected in 2013 and the damage could be even more serious this year.

The life cycle of the disease is up to ten years – but experts can bring the plants back to a healthy condition in two to three years. "That's exactly the targeted support provided by WeatherSafe," says Francesco Liucci, one of the company's founders.

"We were asked last year as part of a 'hackathon' to improve the Rwanda Meteorology Agency website that provides weather forecasts. But we essentially decided to change the challenge," says Francesco.

"Instead, we came up with an app that provides recommendations to based on local weather conditions."

Using a 'big data architecture' researched by ESA to handle datasets so large that they are difficult to process using traditional applications, WeatherSafe developed that initial concept into a set of products for different players in the coffee chain: farmers, processors, exporters and government agricultural departments.

These hyper-local forecasts can alert farmers to rain changes and any diseases that might occur.

With the support of ESA's Business Incubation Centre in Harwell, UK, part the Agency's Technology Transfer Programme, the company has developed three products generated by software that compiles multiple data sources.

For example, satellite data are complemented by specific expertise from universities and research organisations, and data directly retrieved locally from the targeted farms.

The WeatherSafe Coffee Farmer Edition app on Apple iOS, Android and BlackBerry device takes advantage of the strong mobile phone networks in many developing countries. It delivers up-to-date, highly targeted and critical information and advice straight into the hands of the farmers.

Thanks to the outstanding quality of its coffee and the size of the country, Rwanda is perfect for applying this technology. The hyper-local forecast can be tailored to each farmer to help them make the best decisions at the right time for their specific location and environmental conditions.

Increasing the crop yields will help coffee farming in Rwanda to become more sustainable, enabling them to move from subsistence farming, where are grown for survival, to more profitable and sustainable business farming.

The company is building a local Rwandan team to roll out operations nationally and then to export this approach from the heart of Africa to other coffee-producing countries.

WeatherSafe last year won the UK Technology Strategy Board's Launchpad Space Harwell award, providing £89 000 in funding and business support, which they matched with funds from private investors.

The picture shows Francesco Liucci of WeatherSafe. With the baseline app ready, his plan is to have the local forecasting app for Rwandan farmers in place within the next couple of months.

Explore further: Natural insecticide helps diversify Rwandan economy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

No magic bullet for coffee rust eradication

Jan 22, 2014

Spraying fungicide to kill coffee rust disease, which has ravaged Latin American plantations since late 2012, is an approach that is "doomed to failure," according to University of Michigan ecologists.

Recommended for you

Suomi NPP satellite spots birth of Tropical Cyclone Kate

18 hours ago

The tropical low pressure area previously known as System 95S organized and strengthened into Tropical Cyclone Kate on Dec. 24 and the Cocos Keeling Islands are expected to feel its effects on Dec. 25 and ...

NASA looks at some severe holiday weather from space

18 hours ago

Severe weather in the form of tornadoes is not something people expect on Christmas week but a storm system on Dec. 23 brought tornadoes to Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. As the storm moved, NASA's RapidScat ...

NASA satellite spots Christmas

23 hours ago

If you're looking for Christmas NASA's Aqua satellite spotted it in the Southern Indian Ocean. It's a coral atoll (a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands made up of coral) in the northern Line Islands ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.