JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Through the use of technology, the Government will soon be in a better position to combat the problem of praedial larceny, which has for several years plagued the island’s agricultural sector.
  • Praedial Larceny is the theft of agricultural produce or livestock from a farm or estate.
  • In addition to the praedial larceny application, Mr. Baker informed that HarvestAPI, which is an open-data platform for sharing of agriculture sector information, was also developed.

Through the use of technology, the Government will soon be in a better position to combat the problem of praedial larceny, which has for several years plagued the island’s agricultural sector.

The new praedial larceny software, developed by a group of Fellows under the Code for the Caribbean Fellowship Programme, will assist police officers in confirming information provided by persons found with agricultural produce during routine stop and search operations.

With the application, law enforcers will be able to send text messages to an automated system to determine whether agricultural produce was purchased from farmers registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).

The text message, consisting of the receipt number or farmer identification number is then sent to a server, which queries the database and immediately presents the information and confirm or deny what was provided in a follow up text.

Praedial Larceny is the theft of agricultural produce or livestock from a farm or estate. It continues to be one of the greatest deterrents to investments in agriculture and is believed to cost the sector between $5 billion and $6 billion, annually.

Providing information on how the application will work, Co-Founder, Slashroots and Engineering Residence, Code for the Caribbean, Varun Baker said the SMS application will provide agricultural information to law enforcers’  “at their fingertips”.

“There’s a vast amount of potential for this application but we narrowed it down to directly influence the praedial larceny space,” he said. He was addressing the Code for the Caribbean fellowship programme close out demonstration day at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona today (March 13).

During a detailed demonstration of the system, Developer Fellow, Code for the Caribbean, Rory Walker said the information provided to the officer upon sending the text message include the farmer’s name; the date the receipt book was sold; and the status of the receipt book.

Giving another scenario as to how it would impact farmers, Mr. Walker said it will inform officers about the type of crops farmers are registered to grow.

“And if there is currently any issue with that farmer, let’s say some form of suspicious activity, that information would also be sent to the police officer for him to act accordingly,” he said.

Mr. Baker also disclosed that much of the data was derived from lessons learnt in St. Thomas, which is showing a reduction in the incidences of praedial larceny through collaborative efforts with the police.

“The way they did this was through the receipt book system…what we really wanted to understand (was) what are the challenges in using this system (and what we found out) is that sometimes persons would call police control, or RADA directly to get information and so what we realised is that it would be great if we could give them an easier way to get information,” he said.

In addition to the praedial larceny application, Mr. Baker informed that HarvestAPI, which is an open-data platform for sharing of agriculture sector information, was also developed.

The HarvestAPI gives on demand access to the information that powers the agriculture industry such as producer information, weekly price data and agriculture production data.

It is envisaged to be used by farmers, supermarkets, start-ups, government agencies, academia, financial institutions, among others.

“I think RADA has been extremely innovative in pioneering this type of transparency and good governance and is in fact the first institution regionally to have created an agricultural API as a process of this fellowship programme,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer, RADA, Lenworth Fulton said the initiative is a positive step, which will ultimately increase the capacity of nation’s farmers.

He noted that the programmes will promote agriculture as a viable business option for new entrants particularly the youth, adding that this will assist in building a sustainable platform to support farmers throughout Jamaica.

“We encourage software developers, business operators and other interests both locally and internationally to use the opportunity to work with Code for the Caribbean to assist in improving the business decision making process and identifying investment opportunities,” he said.

Lauding the initiatives, State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson said the use of technology to solve problems in any sector is crucial.

Code for the Caribbean is a new initiative that partners with innovative government agencies in the Caribbean to help them become more agile, open and participatory.

Through Code for the Caribbean, teams of developers, designers and entrepreneurs work alongside government partners to leverage the power of the web to jointly develop new approaches to solving problems.

Demonstration Day (Demo Day) is the closeout event of the six month Code-for-the-Caribbean Fellowship Programme that implemented the Agricultural Open Data Initiative Project, which began in June 2013, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between RADA, and the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM).

The project which was executed using a multi-stakeholder participatory approach, involved RADA, MSBM, Slashroots, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica Agricultural Society, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.