SUMMARY: Ignitia is the first highly accurate, highly scalable tropical weather forecasting company. We developed a weather model tailored for the tropics that creates GPS-specific forecasts that are twice as accurate as existing models. We send these to farmers via simple SMS so they can make better farming decisions.
PROBLEM SPACE: "2.8 billion people live in the tropics, a region where up to 80% of the working age population makes their living from farming, and many of whom live on less than $2/day. These farmers struggle to produce enough food because every step in the farming cycle is dependent on weather. This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa where 96% of agriculture is rain-fed and the crop yields per hectare are the lowest in the world. Small scale farmers in the region also account for up to 70% of the food production, resulting in food insecurity, continued poverty and low, if any, economic growth in the region.
This is made worse by climate change, which is causing increasingly more extreme and erratic weather, and is significantly reducing the number of growing days per year. These changing conditions means that farmers arenäó»t able to rely on indigenous knowledge. Weather is the single largest factor affecting yield loss, at an estimated 20%-80% (by comparison, pests, diseases and weeds account for only around ~15%), so having weather predictions to make better decisions is crucial. With a rapidly growing population, and diminishing resources, these problems are only going to get worse.
We are living in a time where change and complexity have become the constants. Meaning that many of the assumptions and norms we have held to be true need to be reexamined. This year we want to delve into themes that have surfaced as being at the heart of many of todayäó»s pressing issues, and the results of the most significant systemic failures. We have chosen themes that will be critical to work with in the most creative ways if we want to build a world that in Buckminster Fuller's words ""works for all."" These themes are Homes, Land and Place.
The first and most critical challenge under the ""Homes"" theme is Ending Homelessness in Western Australia. Homelessness is an obvious symptom of systemic failure. Where we have an abundance of homes and wealth, but yet thousands of people sleep on the streets every night, we know there is a problem. Government policies such as äóÖnegative gearingäó» are significantly and negatively affecting housing affordability. But the system failure is also a product of the culture, which is by-and-large represented by sentiments such as: the great Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block; the right to own land; and maximising wealth."
SOLUTION: "Ignitia provides highly accurate forecasts for small scale farmers via SMS. We developed a weather model specifically calibrated for the tropics, resulting in forecasts that are twice as accurate as global models (~84%). We get these forecasts to farmers by partnering with telcos to send GPS-specific daily forecasts, as well as monthly and seasonal predictions. The message is sent in a simple text-lite format, and can be received on any mobile phone (no smartphone required). Farmers donäó»t have to pay a large sum upfront, instead they subscribe via their mobile operator and pay in micro-installments from their existing mobile credit. It costs just $0.03/message, adding up to just 1%-2% of a farmeräó»s total costs for a year.
Having access to high-quality weather predictions, means they can make the right decision at the right time: timing important actions such as planting, applying fertilizers and harvesting with weather. A study by Columbia University with 3,000 Malian farmers found that by using only weather information, a farmer can increase his income by as much as 80% (Climate Risk Management in Africa, Hellmuth, 2007). This translates roughly into doubling the yields of farmers, and reducing the amount of land necessary to feed your family."
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