We spoke to Myo Myint, head of Proximity’s Farm Advisory Services, a couple of times during our time in Yangon. He has been working on agriculture in Myanmar since the 1970s, first as a graduate student and later with the government’s Agriculture Research Institute and as head of the Plant Protection Department where he had responsibility for rolling out initiatives across the entire country. Having retired from that role in 2004 he was compelled to come back to agriculture having witness the devastation brought by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. With Proximity he has been working since then to bring a staggering number of farmers out of poverty, rolling out interventions from the deeply complex - responding to increased salinity in the Delta region - to those that are deceptively simple - adding an extra crop to farmers’ planting schedule, allowing them to increase their income levels significantly. His focus on and dedication to best fit, climate smart, and farmer centric interventions is something that resonated deeply with the IDEO.org team.
It does though always weigh heavy on the mind that when introducing concepts to someone with the experience and knowledge that Myo Myint has, the possibility always exists that he will rubbish them. That he’ll draw from that well of experience to say say no, this isn’t possible. But he didn’t. We introduced the idea of a low cost, smart sensor network, and he immediately jumped on it.
- What about using sensors to build an early warning system for disease prevention?
- Could we use computer vision to identify changes in soil type?
- How about packaging the data from sensors up into a risk profile for a financial services product?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
“Other countries are flying in a plane and, until recently, we have been playing catch up in a car”, he said. “For years I thought that sensor technology and precision agriculture was like a fairytale. Now it is possible”. It was an inspiring conversation.
Part of what makes Proximity an exciting partner is the range of verticals they are across. What makes them feel very, very unique is the depth of knowledge they have within each vertical and the success that tapping and directing that knowledge has allowed them to achieve.
We are beyond excited to see where our partnership with Proximity can go and honored to be able to work with and learn from someone like Myo Myint.