More productive and efficient organic banana as small growers become more digital
Technologies to reduce losses due to red rust and increase productivity by improving soil health are being made available to banana families through the Ma$ Banano application that facilitates data recording and analysis
Context of the story
Organic bananas offer more than 10,000 families of organic export bananas a stable income, but they are under pressure from pest outbreaks such as red rust thrips which cause losses of up to 20-30%, expensive inputs, certification requirements, and climate instability. The project Fontagro 1332-RG project developed ecological intensification practices such as opportune bagging, quantification of reject bananas by cause, nutrient balance calculations, and banana residue and fertilizer placement to accelerate nutrient uptake. By scaling out and up these technologies through routine observation of key practices with data registered with a smartphone we offer an opportunity to convert the abundant data required in banana marketing and certification into a useful resource for family farms
Observations and data taken routinely to guide continuous improvement and facilitate benchmarking
The implemented initiative
Research teams in the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Ecuador have designed a monitoring routine to register the effectiveness of improved soil health and red spot management practices. The routine measurement of Indicators monthly, every three months, and yearly enable each grower to identify their options on the path of continuous improvement. Based on the performance parameters of their growers, the associations can leverage benchmarking, a strategy that encourages improvement through comparisons among growers, especially those with above-average indicator values
Smartphone App Ma$ Banano to guide the more timely implementation of bunch bagging and banana residue and fertilizer management aimed at reducing losses to red rust thrips and improving both soil health and banana productivity
The technological solution
To scale these innovations to reduce red rust losses and improve soil health, we have converted the routine of collecting key data and monitoring the effectiveness of practices into a mobile phone app for the capture and transmission of data weekly to a database organized by grower associations. Real-time reports for use by growers, their associations and sector platforms will facilitate discussions on the production and management effectiveness both on the farm and in post-harvest and in the association.
In the first stage, 50 producers in each country pilot continuous improvement guided by the app. A diagnosis of bunch management and soil health and productive parameters in each grower forms the basis for the formulation of an improvement plan. Each association formulates a plan to extend the experiences of pilot growers to all the growers in the association in successive rounds of diagnosis, monitoring, continuous improvement, and benchmarking
"The data is useful for audits, but we do not use it for decision making."
After 36 months of intermittent field activities and 6 months from the project end date, 45 technicians from 13 grower associations have trained in methods for the diagnosis, follow-up, and monitoring of promising practices for managing red rust thrips and soil health. Seven training videos are available online under “YouTube Fontagro Banano Escalamiento” and also instructional videos on each module in the app. One hundred growers in Dominican Republic and Peru have completed a diagnostic baseline based on 37 indicators of red rust thrips and soil health. In the Dominican Republic the growers have a plan for continuous improvement ready to be implemented. The app available online in Google Play is now in an improved version and also the database and system of summaries and reports. Stakeholders in each country have been identified and convened to form a digital banana alliance to promote and oversee the maintenance, operation and growth of Ma$ Banano and to analyze the growing database