Catalyst Fund, Network News

Catalyst: SmartAgric

Project Name: Localized weather forecasts for smallholder farmers
Location: Pretoria, South Africa


In Sub-Saharan Africa, rain-fed agriculture accounts for 97% of total agricultural land and 91% of total agricultural production. But local farmers are forced to rely on meteorological agencies with low capacity and obsolete technologies. The weather forecasting and monitoring tools that exist are also few and far between  – there are fewer than 500 stations that function/report with regularity and accuracy.

Solution: SmartAgric will develop networks of localized, ‘mini-weather’ stations, and use a distributed model of mobile phones to distribute information about changing weather with local farmers. These weather stations will operate autonomously on solar power, do not require an internet connection, and will send live periodic updates via a mobile phone network to a central database accessible to smallholder farmers.

What makes this approach different? Currently, all ‘mini-weather’ stations require an internet connection, are expensive to maintain, have limited sensing capability — and operate as single stations, not part of a network. The use of cell phone networks to transport the data to a central database, where data from multiple weather stations in a district can be used to create instantaneous weather forecasts, sets this model apart from other single-node weather stations.