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Start-Up Jamaica alum, Revofarm, pitches app in Lima Peru

Published:Wednesday | January 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM
CONTRIBUTED From left: Warren Robinson, Ricardo Gowdie and Oshane Gooden at the Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security 24-hour 'hackathon', held in Lima, Peru last November.

CGIAR IS a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research for a food secure future.

In association with the Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), it hosted a 24-hour 'hackathon', giving Latin American developers and computer programmers first access to cloud-based data. The challenge was to transform the available data into actionable knowledge that will help farmers better adapt to climate variability.

The Start-Up Jamaica team developing the web enterprise app, Revofarm - represented by its CEO, Ricardo Gowdie, and team members Oshane Gooden and Warren Robinson - was the only invitee from the Caribbean to the hackathon, which was held at the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Lima, Peru, November 29 to 30, 2014. The team was sponsored by CIP, a member of the CGIAR consortium.

RevoFarm's app

It is widely acknowledged that climate change brings with it new challenges for farmers and the way they understand and cope with climate. RevoFarm's app connects local farmers to their markets via SMS and gives up-to-date market information, alerting farmers of new happenings.

The app allows extension officers to recommend new farming and climate-smart practices that are posted online, and allows farmers to try them and give them positive or negative ratings. It therefore helps to foster adaptation to climate change while boosting productivity and income.

The premise is that with better and easier access to climate information, stakeholders, whether Government or farmers, will be able to manage climate variability and make better decisions, helping farmers to reduce the risk of crop failure and have better yields.

The challenge of the hackathon was for ICT developers to use existing databases to enable stakeholders to better cope with climate.

The hackathon, though starting out as a competition, gradually became an opportunity for the teams to help each other, inevitably as there were so many people gathered in one place who love technology and agriculture. Everyone was able to impact or influence the project of other teams.

cop20

The Revofarm team got along especially well with the members of Geomelodicos - the winning innovation from Colombia - whose app helps farmers more accurately predict when to plant their crops each season. Gone are the days when farmers could rely on almanacs for predicting seasonal planting dates, as climate change has made these predictions unreliable.

Geomelodicos was one of two teams presenting their innovations at COP20, the Sustainable Innovation Forum held on December 9 in Lima, hosted by Climate Action and The United Nations Environment Programme.

COP20 brought together close to 500 leaders from key United Nations bodies, governments, international and regional companies and leading non-governmental organisations and was an opportunity for global nations to negotiate and shape the contribution they will give to vastly reduce their carbon emissions.

According to Ricardo Gowdie, "It was because we were participants in Start-Up Jamaica that we made connections that allowed us to be a part of this hackathon in Peru. Start-Up Jamaica has played a vital role in Revofarm's development.

Entrepreneurial skills we gained while at Start-Up Jamaica helped us a lot in organising our project, and the lessons we received on pitching at the boot camp last September and since then have vastly improved our skills in this area." Said Gowdie

We also thank CIP for sponsoring us - the only Caribbean team present at the hackathon - and giving us this fantastic opportunity to showcase our app."

Article contributed by Sandra Glasgow, managing director, BizTactics Limited and project manager, Start-Up Jamaica and Ricardo Gowdie, chief executive officer of Revofarm.