In Senegal today, farmers often use up to double the amount of water their crops actually need to flourish. Existing products to help farmers assess and implement appropriate irrigation solutions are often not viable as a result of language barriers, and the complexity of the information presented.
Tolbi’s innovation began from the ground up to solve this fundamental problem for Senegalese farmers. Built to work in local languages, and with radically simplified asks of the farmers who will need to use the technology, it is one of the first viable solutions to implementing effective irrigation in Senegal.
Tolbi combines electronic sensors placed at strategic locations in fields to assess various soil and crop parameters, with an application that integrates sensor data with scientific models to calculate the water needs of the field at the given moment. It then presents this information directly and clearly to the farmer.
In fact, the application can even read out the water needs of the field in the local language, making it possible for those with only a more basic reading ability to reap the benefits of the technology. As a result, the system not only reduces farmers’ water and diesel bills, it also increases their yield by facilitating the best possible conditions for crop growth.
Taking part in the 2019 KIC Senegal Start-Up Accelerator was an important milestone for the team. Although they already had their idea for the problem they wanted to solve within the agricultural sector, the KIC embedded in the team the importance of maintaining focus on the customer at all stages of the product development process. Rather than get carried away with exciting features, some of the simplest, such as local language translation, can be the most important to customers, and therefore crucial in generating the volume of initial customers required to make the business viable.
Where they are today
Tolbi’s system is now ready for full commercial use, thanks to a partnership with a Chinese factory facilitated by the KIC program. The team have already brought on-board their first customers, and are actively marketing and recruiting more. Have a look at their website here: http://tolbico.com