A Double Win: AgTech data platform increases African smallholder dairy farmers’ profitability and encourages youth engagement


MooMe aggregates data from farmers and on-farm sensors to generate advice for dairy producers 

A smallholder dairy farmer in northern Tunisia has taken over the family business. Like the many smallholder farms that drive the country’s agricultural sector, this dairy farm has been in the family for generations. These farms face a myriad of challenges, such as decreased productivity, low milk yields, and limited access to veterinary services and markets. 

The farmer also does not know how long the farm will stay in the family. He is hopeful his own son will one day inherit the farm. However, as with many young people, the farmer’s son has other hopes and dreams, picturing a more urban life for himself.

For these reasons, the farmer turned to a mobile application, MooMe. Adopting this new technology has not only helped the farmer boost his milk yields but has encouraged his son to join the family farming business.

Meet 𝐅𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐚, a MooMe 𝐑𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐧 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰. Flora is a dairy farmer in upstate Rwanda, with eight jersey cows. She practices her art and produces the best milk. Photo credit: MooMe
MooMe team members meet with Flora, a MooMe Rwandan fellow. Flora is a dairy farmer in upstate Rwanda, with eight jersey cows. She has been using MooMe to improve her milk production. Photo credit: MooMe

Empowering smallholder dairy farmers through AgTech

MooMe is a Tunisian mobile platform with over 3,000 users working across eight countries in Africa. The platform collects data from dairy farms via the MooMe application, or “app,” which in turn provides free recommendations on farm management and reproduction. The starter version of the app (which has some paid features) provides insights on milk production, feed, and finance, plus advanced reporting. This is done through a dairy management software that both the farmer and advisor can access and view. 

Lastly, the advanced version collects data through collars that cows wear, as well as through temperature and humidity index (THI) sensors. The collar’s sensors monitor in real-time rumination and physical activity for early disease detection. They also offer climate heat stress alerts, heat detection and artificial insemination alerts. The data is translated through Artificial Intelligence (AI) statistical data models, which are conceived by MooMe engineers and researchers.

Through the platform – and with help from advisors – smallholder farmers can make more informed decisions around reproduction, animal health and animal welfare. For example, MooMe informs farmers when their cow is in heat and alerts them when the time is right for insemination. The free, easy-to-use app is suitable for all literacy levels, and is helping more traditionalist livestock farmers to become more ‘tech savvy’.

More than 6,000 cows are registered on the system. Using the MooMe app, farmers collect and report data such as calving dates, the quantity of milk produced and the amount of concentrate consumed. Five hundred of these cows are also equipped with collars that track movement through an accelerometer, while additional sensors detect temperature and humidity levels. A gateway that is fitted in the farmers’ barn collects data from each cow’s collar, which is sent to the MooMe cloud and translated into alerts via AI. Advisors – such as veterinarians and agronomists in the community – interpret the collected data to generate advisories for farmers, either via in-person visits or phone calls, about herd management and other best practices. In Tunisia, 200 advisors are fulfilling this important role.

Watch: Mohamed Sassi, a Tunisian breeder, shares his experience with MooMe Management system of cows' health and reproduction

A double win through technology

With more than half the world’s arable land located in Africa, the continent’s agriculture sector holds great promise to boost livelihoods and reduce food insecurity. However, traditional farming approaches and a lack of access to reliable data are hindering African smallholder dairy farmers to make informed decisions to maximise their milk production and profit. 

On top of this, the continent is facing a youth unemployment crisis. In Africa, 90% of dairy farmers are smallholders and are responsible for 70% of total milk production, yet young people make up around 60% of the continent’s unemployed population. 

Smallholder farmers face ongoing challenges, such as decreased productivity, low milk yields, poor management practices and a lack of access to services such as veterinary care, commercialisation opportunities and market access. Scaling up access to innovative technology could be a double win. It can help smallholders overcome these challenges to increase productivity and at the same time encourage youth engagement in the livestock sector. 

In fact, farmers who helped provide data for the two-year pilot programme noticed an increase in milk production of 10-15% per cow, which is equivalent to $300 per cow, per year on the Tunisian market. MooMe also helped to increase milk yields by over 90 litres for local breeds and 366 litres for hybrid breeds, equivalent to $45 and $183 per year, per cow, respectively.

Safeguarding economic income and livelihoods

By unlocking access to reliable data, MooMe is helping farmers to safeguard their income and livelihoods. In addition to receiving real-time information about the health of their herd, dairy farmers can contact the MooMe team 24/7 either via social media or WhatsApp to improve their data usage. This – alongside being connected with an advisor – helps farmers to respond to challenges more rapidly and accurately. 

In Soliman, northern Tunisia, a MooMe user and cattle breeder one day fed his herd straw instead of hay due to shortages, thinking that there would be no consequences for the cow. However, alerts from MooMe app notified him about a dip in rumination among the cows and he was able to rectify their feed quickly to prevent further impacts.

Having access to reliable data educates smallholders on how to be profitable, which traditionalist farmers often struggle with due to a lack of technology, services and data. The digitalisation of herd management could also encourage youth involvement in dairy farming, which could help tackle the continent’s high unemployment levels and boost livelihoods. In turn, this can improve profitability and safeguard not just economic security, but food security as well.

In this light, the MooMe start up journey is only just beginning. The platform plans to scale up, manage more cows, equip more with collars and empower smallholder farmers across the African continent with the information and data they need to improve profitability. 

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Header photo: A dairy farmer in Kenya prepares her cow for milking. Credit: AVCD/FIPS Raymond Jumah. (Source)

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