Modisar: A unique farm management app in Botswana

In a country with a greater livestock than human population density, Modisar, a livestock and farm management app is surely a welcome tech intervention

Today, in Botswana, software development and farming have finally teamed up to provide a solution to help solve a livestock management problem. Thuto Gaotingwe and Tebogo Dichabeng founded Modisar Net, the tech startup behind Modisar app in 2013.

The app derives its name from “Modisa” Tswana for “livestock care taker.” And its ambitious mission is to resuscitate the livestock industry by marrying modern technologies with the nation’s passion for farming.

What is Modisar?

Modisar is a farm management (desktop application and web on BETA) productivity software application that can be installed on a farmer’s computer or laptop and allows the farmer to capture information about the farm better and faster.

This application does not require an active internet connection to function. It allows a farmer to work offline and to synchronize data to cloud servers once there is active internet connection. By synchronizing data, the farmer will have a backup copy of data safe on the cloud which can be accessed via Modisar Farm Management Web Application. Currently the app has farm management applications optimized for cattle, goats and sheep, the major livestock in the country.

What could this mean for Botswana?

According to Thuto Gaotingwe, co-founder of the app, “traditional farmers really have very limited control in livestock breeding [an aspect that is] very important to achieving full production cycle [as] they mostly rely on climatic seasons.”

“We have worked around innovative ways that still allow them to improve production and efficiency with less change from their old ways.”

It is notable that Africa is a powerful agricultural base albeit with serious shortcomings. “The agricultural sector is dominated by livestock farming (over 70%) and in Botswana there are more cattle than people in terms of population,” adds Gaotingwe. Tech interventions are therefore necessary and urgent.

Though traditional livestock practices may still be viewed as valuable in some areas, this innovation is taking the region by storm. Gaotingwe believes “lack of access to information together with distorted indigenous knowledge can promote terrible [traditional] ideas such as the idea of keeping more animals as wealth.”

As a serious motivation factor behind Modisar, Gaotingwe suggests that “[by way of estimation] 20% of Africans own livestock and that 20% is eight times greater than the population of Australia, a country that exports more beef products than the whole of African continent.”

“Farmers in Africa really have a collection of managerial problems that really makes it hard for them to benefit economically out of livestock farming and this has not really benefited the African agricultural sector over the past years.”

What does the app actually do?

The Modisar Farm Management Desktop Application Version 1.0 allows a farmer to record information about the farm, paddocks, costs, sales, farm equipment, animals, farm kraals [pens], animals’ assignments, as well as animal details.

When all these details are captured on the app, the farmer then synchronizes the data between local database and cloud database (sync is both upload and download).

The app also has a goal of sharing and exchanging valuable information with livestock farmers and includes a free knowledge base that has more than 70 articles. This currently covers different livestock diseases, vaccinations, feeds and best livestock farming practices. And means the farmer can download important documents and view a “symptoms gallery” where images of disease symptoms are stored.

The Modisar notification system also keeps farmers connected by alerting farmers through SMS and email on important issues such as feeding, vaccinations and care activities. These notifications are communicated in the Tswana or English depending on the preferences of the farmer.

Accolades and acceleration

In the 2014 edition of the Orange Africa Social Venture Prize that attracted more than 450 ICT startups and entrepreneurs providing tech solutions in diverse fields, Modisar app scooped the first prize and pioneered a farm management path that has not been previously tried in the region. The innovators have also been in a business incubation program, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC), a technology entrepreneurship development program, within the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH).

As the founders access farmers physically through Agric-shows and farming association meetings they are able to target individuals in very remote areas in Botswana. This means that more than 400 active farmers are now using the app.

Gaotingwe believes that “in many cases, the trend is towards vertical integration [and farming intensification], with all processes controlled by one parent company and can disempower the farmers themselves, particularly the traditional livestock farmers.”

“If we don’t empower our traditional farmers to meet this growing demand and benefit economically, Africa could lose its biggest family business, its biggest informal employer.”

“At Modisar we believe that good record keeping,  a rich farming knowledge access, engaging community and market access will make livestock production very sustainable both economically and environmentally for Africans,” he concludes. The fact that the app is currently free for farmers.