Turning complexity into reliability
In collaboration with Resonanz*, our Seeds2B team has developed the Field Trial App (FTA). This web and mobile application has already helped manage field studies of some 20 crops in nine countries**. FTA users select the trial varieties best suited to the local market and growing conditions. Our Seeds program’s motto is “More Choice, Better Access”.
“The Syngenta Foundation steps in to run crop trials in places where neither the seeds sector nor other organizations can currently do so”, explains the tool’s administrator, Sophie Sinelle. Seeds2B plays the role of intermediary, linking seed producers up with promising varieties. “Longer-term, and with the help of guidelines we’re developing, our aim is for local companies and the relevant NARS*** to perform this task themselves.”
Earlier Seeds2B trialing pointed to a number of challenges related to data collection, aggregation, analysis, and quality. Before the advent of the App, field technicians collected data on paper and then transferred them to an Excel table. This cost unnecessary time and led to some entry errors. Furthermore, the data were typically not all lined up until several months after the relevant trial. This delayed overall reporting. “Given a large number of trials, we really had to have a tool that allows us to centralize trial data in a single source”, Sophie adds.
What does the app actually do? “It enables us to digitalize trial activities from protocol# creation through to data collection”, says Seeds2B Operational Excellence Lead Nathalie Vignaux. “The tool is easy to use for a wide range of tasks.” FTA is now available in English and French. Further languages are planned.
Once the trial has been set up, technicians collect the data directly in the field using the mobile application and synchronize these with the web version. As well as running calculations, users can also take photos, enter trial site GPS coordinates and generate graphs.
Users see several advantages
« Digitalizing the trials lets us follow field activities in real-time and move faster”, comments Abdoulaye Diop, Seeds2B coordinator in Senegal. His Kenyan colleague Esther Mirie says that the Field Trial app “harmonizes both protocol creation and the scales we use to judge plant quality with a predefined list of observations. So I no longer have to take a reference guide into every field.” Djeneba Diallo, responsible for our trials in Mali, adds that the FTA “allows us to track everything that’s going on, and check that all the agronomy and its timing follow the protocol.
The Foundation intends the App to become an indispensable tool for all its trials in Asia and Africa. We are currently exploring how other organizations could benefit as well. We are also integrating statistical analysis and enabling the tool to generate automatic reports and graphs, for example of harvest data. Each user will then comment on the report. “FTA is a decision-support tool”, Sophie Sinelle emphasizes. “It can never replace the human brain’s ability to interpret data.”
These enhancements will further increase the time saved by using FTA. “In the past, we often had to wait 6-8 months for everything to be available”, Sophie recalls. “Now most data come in via tablet and we’re ready within a month or two after the trial, if it’s one we’ve run on our own.” Seeds2B then selects the varieties based on the quality scores. This lets local seed companies and their smallholder customers benefit from strongly performing seeds that meet their needs and challenges.
- For more on Resonanz
- Countries: Kenya, Uganda, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mali, Myanmar, Senegal, Vietnam.
- Crops: potato, squash, cowpea, bean, tomato, onion, soybean, cabbage, sorghum, eggplant, mung bean, maize, chickpea, groundnut, sweet pepper, watermelon, rice, pearl millet, okra, pigeon pea.
- NARS = National Agricultural Research System(s)
- # A “protocol” is a practical guide on running the trial in question. It contains all the necessary information on set-up, observation, and data collection.