Although Serbia’s agricultural sector is made up of talented entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art fruit orchards and processing facilities, a large part of production is still done the traditional way by the producers who are resistant to changes. Today, climate challenges, perhaps more than any other factor, are making change more necessary, causing many smallholder farmers to turn to digital solutions and modern agriculture. To adapt to this new reality, experts who know the sector and the producers well and how to apply modern production methods are in high demand.

Radosav Raković, 31, (pictured above with a weather station) comes from an agricultural family from Arilje, a place in Western Serbia known for its production of fruit, especially raspberries. After graduating as an agronomist, Radosav returned to Arilje to continue farming.

Three years ago, he co-founded Fitomineral, an innovative company offering diverse products and services, including plant protection products, seed and planting material, irrigation equipment, and advisory services. With support from the Big Small Businesses Project, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, in early 2023, Fitomineral launched smart agriculture activities. Its goal was to enhance production in the region and strengthen its market presence.

Apples treated in line with the agronomist’s recommendations (left) versus those that were not (right)

The company focused on boosting the productivity and profitability of raspberries, potatoes, apples, and pears among 34 agricultural producers in the Arilje area using digital advisory systems. Fitomineral partnered with the Big Small Business Project to install three specialized weather stations and an information system. This technology allowed agronomists to provide recommendations to farmers based on real-time weather data. Farmers are now better equipped to address worsening climate conditions and to remain competitive in the sector.

After 10 months of building trust between Fitomineral experts and farmers who began using the new precision farming technology, the results were better than expected:

  • Farmers achieved significantly higher yields than average, namely raspberries by 100 percent, apples by 65 percent, pears by 44 percent, and potatoes by 40 percent.
  • Farmers experienced an overall 12 percent yield increase compared to the previous year.
  • This resulted in higher selling prices and higher revenues for farmers.
  • Farmers improved their production processes and adopted new technologies, hiring 98 new workers, of which 60 percent were women and 50 percent were youth.

Precision farming has been mostly used by larger, more progressive farms, while smallholder farmers, who are crucial to the production of some of Serbia’s most competitive crops, have been slow to adopt this technology. Sometimes, the cost is prohibitive for them, as difficult terrain can require more investment in hardware, like sensors and drones. However, since this initial success, the Big Small Business Project has launched two more agricultural technology advisory service pilots, showing great results. The project plans to replicate the model and include additional implementers, covering a wider area of Serbia.

Learn more about the Big Small Business Project, also known as Projekat Velika Mala Privreda.

Learn more about our work in Serbia.