Electronic platform for certified seeds
Bulgaria has excellent conditions for the production of high quality agricultural products and food with high added value. At the same time, there is significant untapped potential for efficiency gains in agricultural commodity markets.
Information technology penetration in agricultural commodity markets, in particular for seeds, is generally below the national average and in Bulgaria below the EU average. At the same time, both businesses and people in Bulgaria make extensive use of mobile devices and applications for communication and increasingly for e-commerce.
The government is promoting the digitalisation of agriculture, and these efforts in the emerging European countries are actively supported by private initiative. Finding modern concrete solutions for interaction can ensure the long-term prosperity of the sector in our country.
Vision and objectives
The main goal is to develop Semenica as a dedicated digital eco-system with multiple applications facilitating the agricultural market actors. The functionalities developed so far include:
Digitization of basic services provided by IACAS to seed producers and users. These functionalities assist in the reliability and traceability of deliveries by marking each seed package with an individual machine-readable label. By law, IACAS must provide electronic management solutions, and Semenica assists in this task.
An application that maximises the relationship between breeders, varietal seed producers, logisticians and end users. This functionality will be highly specialized for the distribution of varietal seeds and for the actors involved in this specific field of agriculture. The specialization will enable it to be defined as a niche product and differentiate it from others by common applications. If successful, the platform can be integrated into a more general trading platform.
The solution is designed to best meet the current needs of farmers and be convenient and easy to use. A pilot version will be available in the first phase, with the possibility to develop according to user needs and market opportunities. The application will use search and query services, as well as data compilation, processing and analysis. Despite the relative technological complexity of these solutions, the user interface is simple and easy to use.
At this point in time (January 2021), the application includes only the basic functionality in order to limit development time and cost. Depending on how users use Semenica, additional features and services will be added. The integration of soil and climate data for a given agricultural area is foreseen, as well as weather and price trends and forecasts. The aim is to create a unified information environment to support crop planning, which is the heart of the agricultural cycle.
What has been done so far
We kicked off Semenica in the spring of 2019 by exploring best practices in Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. We held a number of consultations with leading specialists in Bulgaria, as well as meetings with seed producers and users in different regions of the country, mainly in Dobrich region. We met with Ms. Bistra Pavlovska, Executive Director of IACAS, who appreciated the project as very timely and useful, and expressed support for the intention to orient the platform towards a radical change of current practices; to use modern technological solutions; to support the digitalization of the sector and in particular to ensure traceability of the seeds produced (see Annex 1: The Seed Pathway).
Over a period of 17 months, we developed the first version of the platform in continuous dialogue with IACAS. We submitted a written opinion that the e-platform could integrate IACAC services within the current legal framework.At the end of 2020 the pilot project was completed.
Benefits for users
Through the Semenica platform, both the market regulator IACAC and the seed market actors gain access to a single mobile application serving the whole cycle - production, administration and turnover of varietal seeds.
The app connects on the one hand producers, traders, logistics companies, farmers - seed consumers and on the other hand the market regulator IACAC. The main functionalities are related to the optimization of the documentary process of seed administration and sale; issuing of authorizations and certificates; systematization of market information; maintenance of public registers with market information.
The main advantages of Semenica are:
- Generation of individual QR code labels for traceability of produced seeds according to IACAC control functions;
- Fully online seed certification paperwork, as well as supporting activities according to the registration and certification procedures required by the IPPA;
- Reduced costs and processing time for paperwork;
- Geo-located online tracking of seed labelling, packaging, sales, unpacking and use;
- instant verification of seed quality and suitability; o the system is accessible to market players and IACAC through both mobile and web applications;
- information security:
- high level of reliability and information security;
- secure information transmission channel via SSL certificate and https:// protocol;
- security of personal data according to the GDPR directive.
- Maintenance of a database of current plantations with a high level of detail.
Benefits for the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bulgarian economy
Bulgaria has not yet had convincing success in the use of information technology in agriculture (agri-tech). The market for agricultural commodities and consumables is fragmented and characterised by incomplete information and inefficiencies, but is ready for change. Digitalisation is a proven tool to significantly reduce the 'grey' sector. Seed will improve market information, make many middlemen redundant and reduce transaction costs - initially in the varietal seed market. The first result will be a more efficiently functioning market and more efficient farming.
In the first stage, Semenica will facilitate and streamline the paperwork and control functions of IACS for seed certification and marketing. The aim is to reduce the workload of routine activities for IACAS staff while maintaining a complete and reliable database of certified seed, issued labels and their movement.
The platform will be able to integrate into the electronic management systems used by the MAFF through an application programming interface (API). It is also possible to use Semenica's experience for the digitisation of other MAFF agencies. As the platform develops, it could be a source of timely statistical information to facilitate the management activities of the MoAHFW and its specialized agencies.
Guidelines for development
A key principle in the development of the platform is user feedback, trend analysis and use of applications. Analysing the information so far, we foresee the development of functionalities including:- one-stop shop for farmers;
- scientific and information advice taking into account the specific soil, weather and economic conditions of specific agricultural producers;
- e-commerce system for varietal seeds;
- credit evaluation and working capital financing;
- expanding market access to a wide range of agricultural commodities and supplies;
- cross-marketing and targeted advertising (e.g. for appropriate fertilizers, pesticides, services, etc.);
- identification of plant species (and specific seed types) from images taken with a mobile device (smartphone);
- Analysis of production and market information using artificial intelligence and to enhance the regulatory capacity of the MAFF.
In terms of functionalities for public use and regulatory purposes, we foresee the creation of a database of plantations, forecasting of major crop yields, and analysis of statistical information and trends.
In the next stage, we aim to expand the geographical scope by including participants from neighbouring countries and regions, as well as helping to overcome regulatory and procedural barriers to seed trade with non-EU countries.Project Website