Cloud Phone Application Delivers Fertilization Advice via SMS to Filipino Farmers

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Intorrent Technologies and One IP Join the International Rice Research Institute to Help Farmers Use Resources More Efficiently with Better Results

Intorrent's easy-to-use platform is helping IRRI change farmers’ lives—they become better educated, produce more and use their fertilizer resources more efficiently.

Many Filipino farmers are without access to computers and the Internet. But almost all of them have a cell phone. Through its Netherlands-based development partner, One IP, Intorrent Technologies has empowered local farmers to more efficiently use fertilizer resources, creating an automated, Cloud SMS knowledgebase with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Farmers in Asia spend $14 billion annually on fertilizer. It’s a huge expense for low-income farmers—much is at stake to ensure their limited monetary and land resources yield a successful harvest. Research has shown that fertilization processes should vary depending on the quantity and composition of the manure. Intelligent fertilization saves farmers money and keeps groundwater viable.

From years of fertilizer experimentation in many environments, IRRI assembled an impressive database of science, tips and best practices, all aimed at reducing poverty and hunger. The information was vital, but getting it to farmers posed a challenge. “We started providing complex tables on paper,” said Marco van den Berg, IT Manager at IRRI. “It didn’t work. We followed that with an interactive CD-ROM program, and then a Web site, but few farmers have easy access to a computer.”

While computers are limited, cell phone use is skyrocketing in the Philippines. Farmers aren’t equipped with the most advanced models, but they’re familiar with the basic functionality. van den Berg had found his delivery device, but problems remained. “We contacted several companies to see how we could use cell phones to advise farmers. The proposals were diverse; everything from Java applications to new iPhones for every farmer. It was just too complicated.”

Enter Intorrent Technologies and One IP, developers of open source Voice over IP solutions. Collaborating with IRRI, a simple, user-friendly application called Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMRice) was engineered: the farmer calls a phone number, answers several questions with the phone’s keypad, and then receives a personal consultation via SMS. Additionally, an interactive question-and-answer game outputs helpful advice. The application responds to answers with follow-up questions, honing in on the issue before sending the full set of answers to a central, Cloud-based server, which then sends back an opinion—up to two text messages to the farmer.

“One IP and Intorrent solutions are most commonly used in a traditional business phone environment,” said Ron Arts, CEO of One IP. “But because of our open standards, we’re able to customize and integrate features and applications that become so much more than just a phone system. Our easy-to-use platform is helping IRRI change farmers’ lives—they become better educated, produce more and use their fertilizer resources more efficiently.”

NMRice is currently operational in four languages, and, according to van den Berg, more applications are in development. “Once we can process location data, we’ll be able to advise on the timing of fertilization based on weather conditions. And if a phone has a camera, the farmer can send us a photo of an insect and we can consult with them on the best way to deal with pest; our recommendation is often different than traditional pesticides.”

For a Web demo of the NMRice application, visit http://webapps.irri.org/IVR and use login code 2378. Click the “4” key for English-language options.

About Intorrent Technologies

Intorrent Technologies specializes in Asterisk-based VoIP phone solutions for small and medium businesses. Offering Cloud, premise or hybrid deployment options, Intorrent’s expertise helps companies from any industry optimize their communications. In the flood of communications technology, businesses keep cruising with Intorrent Technologies.

Visit http://www.intorrent.com for the new value proposition in communications.

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Matt Strach
GM Voices
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