Farming assistant app Agrolly wins IBM’s Call for Code contest

The innovative platform will be a one-stop-shop for farmers seeking out more information on what to plant and when.

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An autonomous combine–again, smaller and lighter than conventional farm machinery–harvesting HFHa’s first crop in September 2017.

Image: HandsFree Hectare

Agrolly, a platform built to help farmers in emerging markets, was chosen as the winner of IBM’s 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge.

Agrolly provides farmers with a bevy of information about weather patterns and crop characteristics, giving them advice on what would be the best thing to plant during certain times of the year. The platform also has ways for farmers to connect with experts as well as ways for them to share information and tools with each other.

During the virtual “2020 Call for Code Awards: A Global Celebration of Tech for Good” event, Agrolly was announced as the winner of the annual competition, which brings together the world’s brightest minds to create solutions to pertinent problems. This year’s task was to develop solutions to problems related to climate change and COVID-19.

“Climate change is making it worse for farmers in developing countries and they are losing yield production because of the changes. When you come to emerging markets and you look at these farmers, they don’t have the resources, they don’t know what to plant, they don’t know what the weather will be, and they don’t have advantages,” said Manoela Morais, CEO of Agrolly.

SEE: Big data’s role in COVID-19 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“We want to change the farming industry in the long run by listening to these small farmers in emerging markets, giving them a voice, and empowering them with the latest tech available. We wanted to create an ecosystem where they can contact each other, solve their problems and build a system that is better in the

Google Assistant Now Works With Android Apps

Google announced that now it’s possible to use Google Assistant with third-party apps on Android phones. So, Android users will be able to search and control their third-party apps when they ask it to Google Assistant. Google is rolling out the ability to search apps, use voice commands for popular tasks like sending text messages, ask for the news on Twitter, or browsing your shopping cart. For example, you can now say, “Hey Google, search cozy blankets on Etsy” and get right to what you’re looking for. Or if you’re looking for something (or someone) specific within an app, just say, “Hey Google, open Selena Gomez on Snapchat.” 

Previously, Google Assistant’s third-party support was largely limited to some custom actions, mostly apps that run within Assistant. With the new functionality, Google Assistant will work directly with apps that you have installed on your phone. Now, these kinds of voice commands will work with more than 30 of the top apps on Google Play. “People do a lot more with their apps beyond simply opening and searching within apps, and we want to enable voice commands to those frequent tasks, too. Now you can do things like playing music, starting a run, posting on social media, ordering food, paying back a friend, hailing a ride—the list goes on and on—all with just your voice. Starting today, you can try doing more using your voice with more than 30 of the top apps on Google Play available in English globally, with more apps coming.” Google states. 

Google Assistant brings new functionality to most common tasks as well. For your most common tasks, you can create custom shortcut phrases. So instead of saying, “Hey Google, tighten my shoes with Nike Adapt,” you can create a shortcut to just say, “Hey Google, lace it.”

Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant?

If you’re nervously thinking of handing your tasks (and inbox!) over to a complete stranger, don’t worry – we did the research for you.


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It was 6 a.m., and Ari Meisel was half awake at an airport gate, about to board a flight to Toronto. Then his virtual assistant sent him a message: “Flight canceled!” it said. “We rebooked you on a different one, so head over to gate G7.” 

Meisel runs a business coaching service and productivity method called Less Doing, and this is exactly why he loves having a virtual assistant (or VA). Someone fixed his problem before he was even aware it. “I believe VAs should be utilized for personal tasks as much as business tasks because they both take weight off the entrepreneur’s mind,” he says. “I have four small children, and I’ve had VAs do all their school forms, health forms, insurance, camp registrations, etc., literally saving me hours and hours.”

Related: Is a Virtual Assistant the Secret to Keeping Your Small Business Afloat?

Many people agree. When entrepreneurs need help with tasks but don’t have the cash to hire a full-time assistant, they’re frequently getting a VA — a remote worker to handle a wide range of tasks. They can be hired through freelancer platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, but an increasing number of startups are now offering a suite of VA services. All you have to do is sign up, and the platform provides assistants and manages workflow.

COVID-19 created a new jolt for the VA industry. “The number of people working at home has revitalized these services,” says technology analyst Rob Enderle. Workflow expert David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says it’s