Technology Centers research and disseminate new ideas and agricultural best practices.
Every product has a set of design choices, which can be modified in each market depending on what that market values and needs. iDE establishes Technoloy Centers in the countries it operates in—supporting a network of demonstration plots and serving as test laboratories for developing technologies. These hubs help iDE keep local focus on product options and future design goals. Training sessions at these centers teach farmers and implementation partners how to correctly install and maintain equipment. Feedback received from visiting farmers and researchers helps iDE continue to iterate on both product design and technical service delivery.
See to Believe
Being able to demonstrate these products, the Technology Centers can influence risk-averse farmers who need to see technology actually in place and working successfully before they are ready to make a change. But it’s not just smallholder farmers who need to see the technology in action. iDE’s management and field staff look at each new technology with a level of skepticism and explore how it works before they begin to promote it to clients. Additionally, Technology Centers can be a focal point that helps other important stakeholders (i.e., government officials, funding partners) understand the technology and iDE’s ongoing activities.
Having a centralized location to demonstrate and test technology is useful, especially in the early implementation phase. iDE recognizes that there’s a bell curve with technology adoption. Where a small group of pioneers on the left side of the curve are eager to try new ideas and technologies, a vast majority in the middle buy the technology once they’ve seen a proven example, and then a small group of stragglers on the right side stay resistant to new technology either because of cost, perceived risk, or other factors. Finding and cultivating early adopters is critical for new ideas and technologies to take hold in the marketplace, and the Technology Centers act as magnets for the type of entrepreneur that is interested in taking the risk to reap early rewards with something new.
Technology Centers become the hub around which new ideas and agricultural best practices are cultivated and then disseminated. iDE currently operates six Technology Centers—in Bangladesh, Honduras, Burkina Faso, Nepal, and Mozambique—to continue to evaluate new options, train field staff and local partners, and be an example of what’s possible in these contexts.
Case Study: Accelerating product innovation in Burkina Faso
iDE established a Technology Center in Burkina Faso in 2011. It was the first facility of its kind in Burkina Faso where affordable water technologies could be developed, tested, and demonstrated to local farmers. The team learned about many challenges in Burkina Faso in the first year the center was active, including poor soil quality, dealing with the 400 meter distance from the nearest water source, an abundance of plant disease, and a need for system uniformity.
iDE discovered that Burkina Faso clients preferred small spacing kits (40 centimeters) rather than ones using large spacing (1 meter) because their crops were smaller plants, like onions, that tended to grow closer together. We also identified that these farmers have other needs, such as access to quality seeds, fertilizers, and water pumping systems.
Addressing these problems, which are shared by many of the farmers iDE serves, has helped validate the effectiveness of drip irrigation in the local context as well as demonstrate the value of a center for technology. The Burkina Faso center also initiated research into both the “Impluvium,” a rainwater collection system, and the “Desert Fridge,” an electricity-free refrigeration system, as well as assisting in the development of new drip irrigation emitter options and solar pumps. It is also a training center for Farm Business Advisors.