Meet the people behind Action Africa, the initiative that enables 250.000 farmers, together with Yara, feed one million people for one year in East Africa.
When describing his work building digital solutions, Andrian’s enthusiasm shines through, and the listener can’t help wanting to build something as well.
“The reason why I chose this path was to build something that translates an idea into a product. The gratification you get when somebody uses the product, it's very much the spirit of digital product development, which is all about being able to bring value in a short time.”
Andrian Kanta is a Software Developer working at Yara’s Digital Hub in Singapore. He is originally from Indonesia, but he left the island twenty years ago because of the social and political instability. Today, he and his wife, are thriving in Singapore. “It's a great city. It feels safe, and there are a lot of opportunities here. I’ve built great relationships along all these years. I think this, to me, is home now.” Andrian’s previous work included volunteering at a psychiatric hospital, where he kept the patients accompany. Empathy for the people around him is at the heart of his way of embracing life with humility and positivity. “The thing I value most in life is my family, along with having a healthy mind to balance my personal self and my professional self. I’ve experienced quite a few things, but I am still looking forward to the journey of exploring more.” When Andrian is not working, he’s often with a book, outside cycling or doing yoga.
“Farming is an extremely underserved industry,” he says. “I'm trying to figure out how to fill the gap. How can technology help? Improving the livelihood of the people in farming is the reason I've chosen to go into farming solutions in the digital sector.”
Andrian doesn’t have any personal experience with farming, but he has become very familiar with the challenges smallholder farmers face. “Everyone tells a different story. Everyone is facing a different challenge. I feel very blessed to be in this line of work, able to impact the livelihood of people who are working tirelessly to provide us with sources of food. I'm extremely grateful to have this opportunity to be in this role.”
“I’ve experienced quite a few things, but I am still looking forward to the journey of exploring more.”
Andrian has a curious personality, which helps him approach his job and his personal life with detail and perspective. “When I look at a problem, I start thinking, why is this a problem? Could it be a perspective problem? If you put yourself in someone’s shoes, you will probably understand where they and their ideas are coming from.”
In his role as a Technical Lead for Action Africa, Andrian is developing a digital solution that ensures the donated fertilizer bags are delivered to the right people in the most practical way. “It has been quite a bit of a process,” he says, “From conceptualization to the point of researching the farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, to the point of how we are going to deliver the solution to them, and engaging them for subsequent projects or donations that we could be launching. Today, we are still trying to understand them further so we know how to provide them with additional tips or help so that they can have a better yield at their plantation.”
“We are able to deliver value not just during the donation, but we have also provided them with crop nutrition information, trying to inform them how to use the fertilizer.” One of the challenges has been to find a digital means for the farmers to receive this advice, when most of them are using very basic technology; to meet this challenge, farmers receive agronomic advice via SMS texts. “The most natural way of launching a digital product today would be to go with a mobile or website application. But we ended up choosing something different (SMS texts), by understanding our market better and seeing what works.”
“Farming is an extremely underserved industry. How can technology help?”
The digital development team is still working to improve the existing solutions. “Moving forward, we are looking at potentially spinning it up as a platform where partners can come in and have traceability, knowing who the end receivers of the products are. They are able to have a personal touch with the end users. This is something that was missing in some other platforms, which is why we try to emphasize it and extend it to our partners and future programs.”
“I think the most important portion of the digital development is that it is all about open communication; having the team understand the business value of what we are trying to deliver and how we can benefit the end user,” Andrian says. “Having this in mind drives the team to deliver a good product that is full of empathy. Having that team invested in building it right is something that our team thrives on. It’s not only a digital strategy, but what I think Action Africa is all about.”