Digital tool empowers okra farmers

DAKOTA, a digital tool that can bolster sustainable production of food export commodities in Indonesia, is a demonstration of the power of agricultural technology, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said.

SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio said DAKOTA is a digital platform that will soon reach the okra farmers of Grobogan in Central Java, Indonesia.

He said the tool helps farmers achieve international market standards and fair prices through transparent records of the quality control and agricultural practices applied to their commodities.

"SEARCA Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS) supports digital innovations that reward sustainable practices, making a difference in the lives of farmers and rural communities," said lawyer Eric Reynoso, SEARCA program head of the Emerging Innovation for Growth Department, or EIGD.

Reynoso said the blockchain technology behind DAKOTA creates unchangeable records of a commodity from its farm origin to the retail market.

A project led by the Penabulu Foundation, a civil society organization in Indonesia, is adapting DAKOTA, which was originally designed for spice commodities, to raise the production quality, income and market reach of 150 okra farmers in the Grobogan regency.

Reynoso said Penabulu Foundation is implementing the project titled "Strengthening the supply chain and traceability for okra commodity using blockchain-based tracking and traceability tools (DAKOTA) in Grobogan, Central Java" through SEARCA GRAINS awarded this 2023.

Penabulu Foundation said the leading agricultural commodities in Grobogan, such as rice and corn, are vulnerable to market price fluctuations, and thus, okra is an alternative commodity with a more stable price.

It was also noted that while buyers usually have the upper hand when it comes to pricing, the DAKOTA tool for okra can potentially raise the bargaining power of farmers by providing evidence of sustainable production along the supply chain.

It added that DAKOTA provides an opportunity to build farmers' reputation in export markets and reward those who use good agricultural practices.

SEARCA said the project kicked off by engaging the interest of Grobogan farmers and vegetable exporter PT Kam.

It was also noted that through stakeholder and farmer interviews, the Penabulu Foundation has identified good cultivation practices to tailor fit the DAKOTA prototype for okra farmers.

SEARCA cited Imron Masluri, an okra grower from Grobogan, who said he looks forward to benefiting from the project.

"As farmers, we hope that our agricultural products will be sold at a fair price and be treated as valuable food products," Masluri said adding that DAKOTA, also a quality control system for okra cultivation and postharvest practices, "can help increase the sale value and improve the quality of okra."

He said ongoing discussions about okra cultivation and postharvest practices provide an opportunity to identify the best patterns for farming okra and possibly other horticultural crops.