Advance Technology Transforming Indian Agriculture
“The introduction of simple technology to rural areas can have a significant impact on farmers by providing them simple information on weather forecasts, access to credit, crop insurance and other such details” – Sachin Pilot-Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology
“Nano Ganesh is a phone based remote control system by using which farmers can switch on/off and monitors their water pumps from any place by a mobile phone” – Santosh Ostwwal-Director, Ossian Agro Automation
With about 300 million handsets (mobile phones) out of the 840 million rural populace in India as per a recent CAG Report, technological revolutions like MVAS and EkGaon experiments which are shaping the good-times for Indian farming communities.
Ramalingam, a farmer at a village in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, frequently gets message alerts on his mobile phone which helps in maximising profitability from his 10 hectares of millet field. These massages help him in deciding on seeds, fertilisers, soil nutrient management, irrigation and other farm related issues. The phenomenon seems to make deeper inroads across rural spectrum in our part of the globe.
Mobile Value Added Service (MVAS) providers have launched their Agri info services in different states. In an agrarian country like India, where agriculture and allied works constitute about 60% to 65% of our workforce, mobile VAS besides providing Agri info to the farmers, it is generating plethora of business opportunities.
Since, the country has seen a boom in mobile penetration during the past decade, the value added services are making their way to the deeper pockets of the country.
- Ek-Gaon Technologies, which is currently operating in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, provides various agri related information such as soil management, irrigation alert, weather forecast, crop advisory service, pest alerts and such other information.
- Appreciating the phenomenal business opportunity, a major player like Reuters Market Light has started providing personalised agricultural information to the farmers through mobile phones. In about 50,000 villages, the service provider has 10 lakhs subscribers across 13 states of the country. Apart from SMSes, Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) in regional languages are also provided to the farmers.
- IFFCO Kisan Sanchar, a joint venture of the leading fertiliser manufacturer IFFCO and the mobile giant Bharti Airtel, provides voice message advisory to nearly 12 lakhs farmers in the nation. These specialised advisories are helping farmers across the country to take correct farming decisions. Iffco Kisan Sanchar operates through its 13 Kisan Call Centres across 18 states in the country. Through these services the farmers frequently receive market rates, farm credit information along with equipments supplies.
- Nokia Life, which started its Maharashtra operations for providing agricultural information in July 2009 that can be accessed through any Nokia phone, now it also provides personalised and ultra local information on education, health, agriculture and entertainment on a daily basis. Moreover, Nokia Life provides services such as localised information on weather condition, crop cycle advisory as well as market rates. Farmers get prevalent market rates on a daily basis on their phone discounting their dependency over other agencies for basic information. The ‘services’ further empowers the villagers as it provides message alerts about 270 commodities in 12 regional languages across the nation at their doorstep ( on handsets)
Phone Operated Water Pump
The farmers of Punjab, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and few parts of southern India are experiencing a new way of switching on and off their pump sets, that too by their mobiles remotely through their cell phones.
- Ossian Agro Automation, a Pune based organisation which has launched an electronic device, Nano Ganesh, giving the freedom to the farmers of switching on or off the pump sets from anywhere by dialing a number through his mobile phone.
- Nano Ganesh is a phone based remote control system through which farmers can switch on/off and monitor their water pumps from any place by a mobile phone. A mobile phone has been effectively used as a low cost wireless device to m-connect the water pumps located in any terrain, near river, well, lakes, canals etc.
- The system comprises of an electronic hardware (Nano Ganesh) used in association with a mobile phone connected to the existing starter mechanism of the water pump.
There are many challenges as well for the farmers in operating the water pumps, such as distant locations, difficult terrains, wild animals, night operation schedule, power supply schedule, scorching heat along with expenses on labour and such other expenses. Hence, due to these challenges, water pumps in farms in India are not switched off timely leading to a huge loss of water, electricity which also fastens soil erosion. However plight and aforesaid travails of the farmers in India now has a bit of solace in the shape of Nano Ganesh, which needs a simple remote control solution for operating their staple source of irrigation (pumps) from anywhere. Owing to huge profit margins of over 250% for the first year of launch the Ossian Agro Automation earned Rs 15 Crore on investing just Rs 7.5 Crore, now plans to make their services pan-India lest others seize the glaring opportunities in the segment.
Experts tend to believe that the agricultural information services could be a thriving business through technological interventions. As Indian hinterland has diversified needs pertaining to farm activities like soil texture, weather and cropping pattern etc. It has buttressed the need for more personalised and relevant pool of information to the farmers, which in a way facilitate entry of more service providers operating on viable corporate models. It is widely believed that any information dissemination to the farmers in India could only work if that is relevant, correct and useful to them.
Ekgaon Technologies said “we have agriculture experts for every crop, fertiliser, soil and nutrient management and all other services we are providing. They study the nature of soil, what fertiliser needs to be used, weather conditions and what crop will be better suited in a particular field. These experts have years of experience in agriculture.”
“We are operating in Tamil Nadu, have consultations with the government of Bihar and also have expansion plans in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Very little number of subscribers quit our services and now we take pride to say that more than 75 per cent trust and continue with our services.”
As agriculture and allied works shapes the growth trajectory of Indian economy, any bad Monsoon has a cascading impact on all other sectors of Indian economy. Thus it is said that innovations that strengthen the farming communities could be a pivot in the robustness of our economy as a whole. Most of the Indian agricultural output depends upon the Monsoon, if the country gets a good Monsoon, about 60 to 65 per cent population get a good yield and earning opportunities. It directly affects the economy. If the country gets a deficient Monsoon, agricultural output decreases and the economy comes under pressure.
- Israel has transformed itself into a green country from a desert. They have faced huge issues including scarcity of water, food and energy. But by making efficient use of agriculture technology, Israel, spread across 22,000 sq km area with 4,20,000 hectare arable land, the country pacing ahead in terms of agriculture
- The Brazilian agricultural technology has made enormous stride in the production of soybeans, wheat, corn, rice and beans. Over the past 20 years, grain production in Brazil grew 127% and the sow area increased by 25%. This represents a development based on sustainability, as it generated a savings of 40 million hectares that are no longer needed. The use of new technologies has also enabled the increase in livestock production and cultivation of fruits and vegetables in the country. Most of those gains came from productivity growth in rural Brazil, which began in the laboratories of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), founded in 1973. To help building the tropical agriculture leadership in Brazil, Embrapa has invested in its staff training. Today, the institution has nearly 9000 employees, of which about 2 000 are researchers – 21% with master’s, 71% doctoral and 7% with post-doctorate.