Agriculture World

How Smartphones and Cheap Data are Changing the Lives of Farmers

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo
farmers

With the growing use of smart phones and availability of cheap data packages that empowers farmers to access information and suggestion, several agri-tech start-ups are coming into their own.

Supported by investments of nearly $250 million, as many as 500 agri-tech start-ups are helping farmers boost productivity and get a better price for their crop. Hence we can says that it’s no longer about timely weather updates but algorithms that forecast output & demand.

Take for example, startups like Gramophone are replicating the Centre's Kisan helpline & call centres by leveraging WhatsApp to give technical help to the farmers. Another startup NinjaCart is engaged with the cultivators to help them get their products to the market. CropIn is working in the B2B space and it provides digital solutions to banks as well as insurers to help them assess the creditworthiness of growers.

Co-founder of Gramophone Tauseef Khan, explained that at first farmers were reaching out to them through phone calls but now all the exchanges are done on WhatsApp  or SMS. Farmers call for suggestion at every stage, whether they are sowing seeds or transplanting. Khan said, “We make profiles of every farmer so that we know what he is cultivating and at what stage the crop is”.

In the meantime, an agri-tech start-up named Fasal that is focused on horticulture deploys sensors in the fields. And based on readings for soil texture, temperature, water retention, moisture & weather forecast it provides solutions through its app, WhatsApp & SMS.

farmers

The company sells hardware (sensors) for Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 / hectare and extra updates cost between Rs 300 to Rs 700 / month. Founder of Fasal, Shailendra Tiwari told that the Whatsapp groups created in each state is working well and farmers are able to manage the technology. He said, “They use WhatsApp to do business and gather information on prices from the mandis".

Co-founder of Ninjacart Vasudevan Chinnathambi said the company’s app was not widely accepted and it was hard to onboard the farmers. Chinnathambi told that “We have call centres & we are supporting famers on SMS”. It must be noted that Ninjacart uses an algorithm-based model to decide output and predict demand and it works with around 27,000 farmers across India mostly via agents and a network of collection & fulfillment centres.

Technology is also assisting the lenders help farmers. Founder and CEO, CropIn Krishna Kumar said the company helps banks as well as insurance companies to review the creditworthiness of farmers by offering digital solutions. For example, CropIn uses satellite imagery to create a crop-signature that can then be used to evaluate crop damage & productivity. The company also helps conduct field trials to find out crop sustainability in the area and is working with around 1.6 million farmers.

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