For this week’s Impact Spotlight, I would like to highlight the work of Carlos Castellanos and Cultivando Futuro SAS.
Somos una compañia que esta revolucionando la industria, desarrollamos tecnología para coordinar los actores e i...
Carlos joins us from Bogota, Colombia where he is the co-founder and COO of Cultivando Futuro SAS, an organization that is mapping the farming and agricultural sector in Colombia.
Carlos, along with his two co-founders, have been working on the project for seven years. Carlos attended our Singularity University GSP program in 2015 on a scholarship supported by Socialab through a Global Impact Challenge.
Cultivando Futuro has mapped over 3200 farmers in Colombia. This includes not only mapping the location of the farms and the produce they grow, but information about the farmers themselves, such as how many family members they support to the infrastructure and services they have on their farms (ranging from everything from access to irrigation piping to toilets to financial services to smartphones.)
All of this information is aggregated into visual dashboards, where in a few minutes, the viewer can have an understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the rural communities that are mapped.
The data on the Dashboards can be used in a number of ways, from connecting farmers to the people who will buy their produce, to helping the government understand how to make policy decisions that will support farmers, to helping farmers access services. Cultivando Futuro is currently supporting the Ministry of Agriculture of Colombia with their data and is formulating a project with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to help farmers decide what they should plant and when, using AI voice recognition technology applied to phone calls.
Most recently, during the pandemic, they have also been able to publish information on when certain farmers will have produce ready, including specific amounts and at specific times. This helps with managing the overall food supply chain in Colombia during this time of uncertainty.
Earlier this week I caught up with Carlos over a video call to learn more about his work.
When I asked him about the major challenges he has faced, he mentioned one of them was simply the amount of time and years it has taken them to become a technology team that is also an expert in agriculture. For example, in order to gain insights about how data and communication tools could promote fair trade in developing countries where a conventional marketplace doesn’t guarantee successful transactions, they set up their own agricultural warehouse to understand how technology could help.
Another challenge is that because Cultivando Futuro is one of the first groups to digitize agricultural information in Colombia, there are so many different uses for the data it is hard to know where to start. It can be challenging to figure out which services they pursue first, or if they should try to build several at the same time. This also relates to which business model they hone in on.
In addition, Carlos also mentioned that it is challenging to help people understand how once they have the data, it can not only be used in many different ways, but is building a foundation for many future uses of the data. For example once the data is in place, one can also work with artificial intelligence, drones, sensors and Iot technologies. Carlos and his team face the constant challenges of trying to help farmers address their immediate needs, but also think about what they are building for the future. (In my experience, this is actually a common challenge for many SU alumni and community members as the nature of exponential technologies is disruptive - it changes how the world works on multiple levels and across multiple industries, and, over time.)
In addition to his work with Cultivando Futuro, Carlos also tries to help others. As we were wrapping up our call, Carlos was preparing to hop on another call as a mentor to young people working on agtech innovations in Indonesia. He does this through his role as an Ambassador with the Thought For Food Community. He said that mentoring goes both ways - although he is a mentor he also learns a great deal - and that it is interesting for him to talk to agtech innovators in other countries as it also helps him think about common principles and how Cultivando Futuro might scale their platform globally in the future.
I asked Carlos how this community could help him and he mentioned that he is seeking both agtech mentors and technology mentors (especially developers) and that they are also seeking grants and alliances to be able to experiment with building new functions on their platform.
Carlos recently joined our community, and you can connect directly with him here or in the comments section.