The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) recently funded a study designed to determine the feasibility of using a single, off-the-shelf mobile data collection solution for future use. ACIAR is a statutory authority of the Australian government created by the ACIAR act of 1982. Historically, ACIAR-funded projects used paper-based data collection, and experienced many of the issues that go alongside any manual data entry, including:

  • Increased error rate
  • Slow reporting
  • Collation and transcription delays
  • Difficulty supervising teams in the field

In addition to evaluating the technology features for the 17 apps in the study, the research team also analyzed how mobile data collection would impact that type of data collected, and how the various users involved in a project would utilize the data.

Study Methodology

To determine which off-the-shelf solutions would best meet ACIAR’s needs, the study compared 17 mobile data collection tools using a five-phase process.

  1. Identify capture needs for ACIAR projects.
  2. Review shortlisted app technologies based on identified capture needs.
  3. Plan a field test.
  4. Implement the field test and collect results based on the agreed criteria.
  5. Evaluate each app based on the performance in the field test.

Each app was tested across the following usability, scalability, affordability, user support and data security relevant to a typical environment that ACIAR operates, e.g. a rural village without Internet connection. The goal was to determine whether ACIAR could recommend the use of these apps and whether they could successfully replace and improve upon manual data collection processes.

The Results Say Yes

After looking at the results from the field test, ACIAR determined that CommCare was the best solution for their work. CommCare received a 100 percent approval with ACIAR’s field staff for the ability to function offline. This was an important consideration because many ACIAR projects take place in remote locations with limited or nonexistent wireless data connectivity. For example, the farmers who tested the applications needed to sync a survey to the cloud before moving on to the next round of survey questions. CommCare enabled farmers to seamlessly sync these surveys offline, which meant they could complete their work faster without taking a break to find an Internet connection to sync the results. In fact, the ACIAR pilot showed a 60 percent reduction in the time it took to fill out surveys.

CommCare was also identified as the clear winner in flexibility and versatility for ACIAR-funded projects. For farmers, the survey experience was enhanced by the two-way flow of information. As an example, of those surveyed, 60 percent pointed to the information about their animal’s body condition score and estimated weight as a major interest.

Here’s what a few farmers had to say about the experience using mobile data collection:

  • “The surveys seemed efficient and can be conducted anywhere. I felt comfortable being interviewed while I’m working in the cattle shed or making tipat at home.”
  • “I am amazed when the researcher estimates my cattle weight automatically using digital app. I can see the result directly thus I can estimate my cattle selling price!”
  • “I was happy to get feedback about cattle feed from the researcher. It is very useful as an advice to fatten my cattle especially in the dry season like this.”
  • “At first, I did not realize that my cattle had physical health problems. After seeing the mark-up photo from the survey, I can clearly see that my cattle’s neck was bitten by flies.”

CommCare for Agriculture

CommCare goes beyond simple data collection by offering unique solutions to many facets of the agricultural industry. For example, here are a few agriculture projects using CommCare:

  • Agriculture cooperatives, like this one using CommCare in Senegal, enjoy the benefits of tracking through the entire value chain. Cooperative managers can see planting density, expected cash flow, GPS tracking and a host of other features designed to help with small farm oversight and management.
  • In Vaagdahara, India, CommCare works on agricultural extension programs such as fruit orchard monitoring. In this setting, the app allows administrators to register a village, add a specific farm, track and plan for planting and harvest of fruit trees, forestry trees and intercrops.
  • Agriculture finance extends from micro loans to insurance coverage, which is exactly what CommCare is working on with the Micro Insurance Academy in India. This program helps calculate premiums and streamlines claims processing.
  • The World Food Program in Zambia demonstrates the effectiveness of the CommCare agriculture logistics program. By tracking school attendance and staple food usage, program administrators can send out the right amount of supplies when they are needed. This reduces waste and avoids missed meals for almost 5,000 children.

ACIAR selected CommCare as their top off-the-shelf solutions provider for data collection, but this platform extends beyond mobile data collection. By putting data to work, CommCare becomes a uniquely powerful tool at every stage of the agricultural value chain, as well as a technology for the development of improved processes. If you’re interested in learning more about how CommCare supports projects in the agriculture industry, please click below to schedule a call with our team.

Learn more about CommCare for Agriculture.