We are a digital innovation team within Heifer International that develops, prototypes, and refines ideas before integrating them into Heifer's mainstream projects as they are proven effective. In this specialized and strategic role within Heifer International, Heifer Labs monitors disruptive digital trends to design strategic interventions through real-world testing and development processes for applying digital technologies to smallholder operations, supply chain functions, and business growth. Our team takes deliberate measures to encourage smallholders to take advantage of technological advancements to leap forward and participate in formal market systems at scale. Solutions are designed in tandem with farmers, resulting in practical software that works across multiple smallholder agribusiness value chains and is accessible even to hard-to-reach communities.
Heifer Labs monitors disruptive digital trends to design strategic interventions through real-world testing and development processes for applying digital technologies to smallholder operations, supply chain functions, and business growth.
Our team takes deliberate measures to encourage smallholders to take advantage of technological advancements to leap forward and participate in formal market systems at scale. Solutions are designed in tandem with farmers, resulting in practical software that works across multiple smallholder agribusiness value chains and is accessible even to hard-to-reach communities.
We aim to close the digital divide for smallholder farmers in 10 signature programs by 2030. We define the “digital divide” as the gap between those who can benefit from the digital age and those who cannot.
We utilize a balanced partner-to-build approach that enables a rapid and robust MVP (minimum viable product) development process to test ideas and solutions. We prioritize partnerships but also consider self-composed solutions when there is a clear and expressed market gap of available digital solutions.
We have a defined collaborative engagement model which enables continuous innovation and agile delivery by employing both Design Thinking and Modular Product Development Methodologies. We believe Co-Designing, Co-Executing, and Co-Operating enable constant innovation and agile delivery.
To learn more about our work or become a technology partner, contact us at HeiferLabs@heifer.org
We work across four activity pillars to close the digital divide for smallholder farmers:
Pillar 1: Pipeline Development
We discover, in-take, and vet digital innovation opportunities and ideas that will accelerate and amplify impact while producing lasting transformation for smallholder farmers.
Pillar 2: Program Integration
Through open collaboration, we design and support the implementation of digital solutions that accelerate meeting program objectives.
Pillar 3: Cross-Regional Replicability
We capture and consolidate technology, best practices, and partnerships that can be replicated and customized in digital strategies across regions and value chains.
Pillar 4: Smallholder Data Stewardship
We enable data usage by farming cooperatives and ensure data protection, stewardship, and ownership over data by smallholder farmers.
nDi-Chuma Digital Solutions
Heifer Labs has partnered with IBM to build Open Harvest, an open-source solution that saves time and increases profits for farmers in Malawi. The open-source platform provides visual data and customized recommendations by leveraging the power of AI and climate modeling. Smallholder farmers achieve their potential by 1) maximizing the yield from a small plot of land, 2) getting a fair market price for higher-quality products, and 3) accessing affordable capital to properly maintain and improve their farms. The platform also rewards farmers for best practices through blockchain-enabled reputation tokens that give access to lower loan interest rates.
Earth Innovation Climate Tech
Heifer Labs incorporates emerging technologies such as blockchain, climate modeling, and remote sensors into Heifer International's Caring for the Earth initiative. These technologies catalyze the organization's climate-smart agriculture practices by 1) increasing transparency and integrity, 2) expanding accessibility and participation, and 3) accelerating scale and impact. Earth Innovation will support farmers as they adapt to the impacts of climate change while rewarding them for their practices that sequester carbon in the soil.
GiveTrack Donation Platform
BitGive, the first Bitcoin 501(c)(3) nonprofit, transferred its assets to Heifer International in July 2022. As part of the agreement, Heifer will take ownership of GiveTrack™, BitGive's blockchain-enabled donation platform, which Heifer will develop to further its goal of increasing transparency and donor engagement. Look for more on this transformational donation tool in 2023.
Boomitra Carbon Credits
We are piloting localized decarbonization for resilience projects in Kenya, Mexico, and Nepal with Boomitra, which runs the world’s first international soil carbon market. These pilots will incentivize and reward smallholder farmers for their climate-smart agricultural practices, such as manure/compost additions, cover crops, crop rotations, and rotated grazing, that sequester carbon in the soil. Boomitra regularly measures soil moisture, nutrients, and carbon to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered on each farm using satellite imagery and AI.
Heifer Honduras partnered with IBM Food Trust to provide innovative solutions that improved farmers’ access to high-quality, differentiated markets and reduced their vulnerability to climate change. Heifer’s technological innovations manage traceability through blockchain technology that provides open access to cacao supply chain data while drones, sensors, and simulation software assist with improved crop management and yield.
Our team supports the digitalization of the coffee supply chain for specialty coffee producers in Honduras. This project uses emerging technologies like blockchain and AI to improve traceability, business practices, and education for coffee cooperatives. Participating co-ops have increased their living income and profitability while local policymakers have learned lessons that can be applied to the coffee sector at scale.