Big Technology for Small Farmers
Steadfast in his purpose of driving agriculture as an attractive, profitable activity, Germán Vásquez developed a precision farming project for small coffee producers in the Andean region and won the Bayer Young Community Innovators (BYCI) competition in 2015. Farmers have been harvesting good results ever since.
Twenty-four-year-old Germán Andrés Vásquez grew up in the department of Caldas, in the heart of Colombia. Already as a kid, he discovered that dedication to work in the field can generate economic opportunities and well-being for the communities. Even though he had to migrate to study in the city, working on the land was what he always wanted to do. While studying towards his agronomic engineering degree, together with his friend Andrés Ibarra Insuasty, they created the “Small Precision Coffee Farming” project.
In German’s own words “The “Small Precision Coffee Farming" project is a methodological proposal aimed at enabling farmers to study the temporal and spatial variability of determining and limiting factors in coffee farming. Based on the analysis of these variabilities and on the generation of agricultural maps, it is possible to determine which areas need inputs and which do not. This has two advantages: it encourages the rational use of agricultural inputs and minimizes the environmental impact that can be caused through excessive applications of products on crops.”
With the resources and motivation resulting from winning BYCI Award, the project was put into practice in 2016. Over 20 families are involved in the initiative, and they are already seeing positive results afforded by the application of modern precision agriculture techniques to small special coffee crops in the department of Nariño, southwestern Colombia. The scheme developed has enabled Geovanny Rivera, one of the project participants in the town of Sandoná, to make more localized applications. Data collected allowed a more rational use of fungicides resulting in 20% savings. A higher control of chochineal – a pest that attacks coffee plants – through more targeted applications.
Farmers not only saved money from targeted applications but they also benefited from higher productivity. They are optimistic about the future because they expect the implementation of digital farming will continue to help increase yield and profits... They expect neighboring farmers to embrace the technology as they observe the positive results achieved.
Grower Moisés Martinez also saw savings from a more efficient use of fertilizers and a 75% higher control of one type of weed (Paspalum sp.) The implementation of technology has made Mr. Martinez changed the way he manages his coffee farm.
The project has not only benefitted farmers but is bringing Germán closer again to one of his passions: the land. He is a trainee at the La Tupia Experimental Center of Bayer in Colombia and a step away from receiving his degree.