Challenging water and technology experts to work together and create innovative solutions to today's global water problems

Three Month Old Abu Erdan

February 2, 2012

Abu Erdan means "father of beaks" in reference to the long beak sported by the egret, and they do assist the farmers of Egypt by eating the grubs, worms and even young mice that might be turned up in the tilling and cultivating of the soil.

by Karim S. Shalaby, Cairo

At the Cairo Water Hackathon held at the American University in Cairo October 21-22 2011, a group of three developers created Abu Erdan. Ahmed Marzouk, Islam Khalil and Ramy Hegazy came into the Water Hackathon wide eyed and tentatively feeling through every step of the way. They were not alone, most of the participants had not heard of a Water Hackathon and were coming to this experience with the same fears and doubts of being taken on a tour by a street guide in a foreign land.

Abu Erdan went on to win prizes from Pepsico, Nokia, Farm Frites, TA Telecom and Diwan. It was not a sweeping win, there were other winner teams of the Hackathon. It was a surprise of all and especially the development team that they won and won so big. It was really an emotional swing between frustration of the unknown and elation of discovery. The Hackathon unfolded as a true experience in innovation and creative release.

Abu Erdan, the egret, is the farmers’ friend. Abu Erdan, the project set out to do just that, create an electronic farmers friend. The goal was to make at the farmers’ disposal, through the mobile phone, information supporting the agricultural process. The initial design at the Hackathon focused mainly on irrigation optimization. The product was developed with the Farm Frites Company, a sponsor, to give the agricultural engineers feedback on the irrigation needs of the planted areas, on their mobile phones.

While the focus was on irrigation optimization, Abu Erdan team had bigger plans. They presented and had ideas to target the small farmers in Egypt, making available to them farming solutions afforded by large and industrial farmers, made simple and accessible through the mobile phone which almost every farmer has. The range of possible products covered agricultural extension information and consultation to input optimization.

There is now

Three months on Abu Erdan has grown and developed more maturely.  The components of the product now include Agricultural information – extension knowledge sharing, remote advise and consultation, cloud enabled sensors with weather stations and expert systems for input optimization including market accessability. The team has been hard at work talking to stakeholders of the agricultural network to develop the product further. In their discussions with farmers, they sensed the need to focus on market information as priority accessible information.

Google Ebda has selected Abu Erdan to be one of 50 finalists out of an original 4000 through two stages of selection and elimination. Google Ebda is a competition that awards the winning entrepreneur $200,000 as start up seed money.

Central Labs for Agricultural Expert Systems (CLAES) have shown intent to take part and contribute to costs of developing Abu Erdan. CLAES ,,  is a research body, part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.

Horticultural Export Improvement Association (HEIA), have also agreed to work with Abu Erdan to develop it and market it to its members .

Two medium size farms have committed to working with the team to develop the product and buy it for use once launched. A third one is still in discussions.  The team has a business plan and intends to set the finaicnail foundations of Abu Erdan with the large and medium size farms before they can develop the product further to serve the small and micro farmers.

I ran into Islam Khalil “ROCKY” J, one of the Abu Erdan developers team. He was more than happy to perform his putting on and taking off  the top despite the seven degree cold weather. We were meeting over breakfast.  I got to see that performance twice in this meet.

Incidentally, or maybe not so incidentally, this meeting was about a group of modelers discussing tackling the water shortage problem through improved modeling techniques. Perhaps there may be room for an open forum for developing water use models for Egypt? Something I think worth keeping an eye on to see how this community can develop and certainly possibly cover in one of the future blogs.

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