Expertise and Trust for the Successful Implementation of “SMART(ER) Agriculture”
Although the Serbian fruit and vegetable sector is increasingly made up of proficient entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art orchards and processing facilities, a large part of the production is still done by traditional approach to agriculture, by the producers who are often resistant to changes. Climate challenges, perhaps more than any other factor, require a different approach and the application of digital solutions and modern agricultural technical measures. In the process of adapting to the new reality, a key role is played by experts who know the sector and the producers well, and know how to apply modern production methods.
One example is the 32-year-old Radosav Raković, who comes from an agricultural family from Arilje, a place in Western Serbia known for its fruit production, especially raspberries. As a graduate agronomist, he returned to Arilje to continue farming. Three years ago, Radosav co-founded Fitomineral, an innovative company offering diverse products and services, including plant protection products, seed and planting material, irrigation equipment, and advisory services to the producers to improve their production processes.
With the support of the Big Small Businesses Project, Fitomineral launched the activity of smart agriculture in February 2023, committed to enhancing agricultural production in the local region by applying modern technologies and expert knowledge. The primary focus was to enhance productivity and profitability in the cultivation of raspberries, potatoes, apples, and pears among 34 agricultural producers in the surrounding of Arilje using digital advisory systems. This is facilitated by the installation of three specialized weather stations and an information system, allowing agronomists to provide tailored recommendations based on real-time weather data, enabling the producers to address worsening climate conditions and remain competitive in the markets.
After 10 months of joint work and the trust that Fitomineral experts built with farmers, the results are better than expected:
- Farmers achieved significantly higher yields than the average for the territory of Arilje, namely raspberries by 100%, apples by 65%, pears by 44%, and potatoes by 40%.
- The average percentage of yield increase for all compared to the previous year is 12%.
- A higher selling price of the product and significantly higher revenues were achieved.
- All the participants confirmed that they improved the production process and adopted new technologies, and the fact that they hired 98 new workers, of which 60% are women and 50% are young, is particularly important.
To that end, the Project has launched two more AgTech advisory service pilots, showing great results. Replication of the model and inclusion of additional implementers covering a wider area of Serbia are planned for the following period.