Bringing Farmers back into Agriculture

Reverse migration fueled by smartphones, internet and connectivity

It has been 70 years since we achieved independence. From the early Nehruvian socialist policies to liberalization  policies led by Manmohan Singh, and the current India Transformation initiatives by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have always identified ourselves as an “agrarian” economy. However, a closer study of the subject reveals that while India has done a successful crossover from socialist to a capitalist nation, agriculture wasn’t really the centrepiece of this transformation. Despite being such an important occupation of the country, agriculture benefited as a bi-product of these transformations. Today, the sector demands a transition from just hard work to smart work. For years our farmers have been trying to improve the output of their farming, through self-learning alone. However, today, there is a need to bring them up to speed with advancements happening across the world. There are scientific and technological interventions such as farm mechanisation, hybrid seeds and application of real-time information related to weather, soil and market prices which can help farmers in the efficient management of farms and increase the yield. Yet, India has been selective in adopting innovations, due to which Indian farmers and farm output have lagged global averages. We also tend to forget that advancement of the sector is essential to encourage the current youth, which is more tech savvy and progressive, to take up farming. The last decade has seen many developments in the agricultural sector, especially with digital and telecommunications revolution, which has added more dimensions to this sector. The troika of Smartphones, Internet and Connectivity is now a possibility in rural areas which is enriching farmers with a wealth of information to empower them with new platforms, channels, techniques and expertise. This makeover has been a result of the start-up boom that has mushroomed in the country over the last few years. Innovation in agriculture, spearheaded by start-ups, is getting supported by numerous Government initiatives. Even larger corporates in the agri-domain are recognizing this movement and supporting this cause.

In order to bring an impactful disruption, the youth of this nation, sons and daughters of our farmers have to play a larger and important role.

Technology innovations introduced in agriculture, have empowered our farmers to access upto-date information on their mobiles for most crops, weather condition and recommendations on inputs required, best market prices availability etc. In fact, agri-tech companies are writing algorithms to interlink multiple isolated data points and make sense out of them through triangulation. As agriculture adopts more technology and innovation, more and more youngsters will start to find this sector lucrative to join in. There will be an increase in opportunities for youth to explore careers in farming which would not be limited to farm management alone. They can explore careers in integrated systems, big data and precision farming to name a few. Innovation in this space has empowered farmers to use smartphones to not only access farm related information but also aggregate at marketplaces to purchase various farm inputs at the click of a button.

In a humble endeavour to solve some of the painful problems of farmers, three years ago, AgroStar decided to leverage the power of technology, to kick-start a range of innovative and real time solutions for farmers. The organization made its start with a call centre based telecommunications platform through which farmers could reach out to AgroStar to seek expert advice from our panel of agriculture experts, on related issues faced in their crop and also order farm inputs like seeds, crop protection nutrition products and all types of farm machinery, through a simple ‘missed call’ on our toll free number. The smartphone boom coupled with internet & connectivity further motivated us to take a quantum leap from a call centre based operation to a full-fledged mobile platform designed for the Indian farmer. The journey so far has been phenomenal with the launch of our Android app available on the Playstore.

With more than one lakh downloads of the app, farmers have been happy with this innovative tool and the benefits it provides them. The mobile app allows farmers to browse through multiple crops and categories, seek expert advice to crop issues, watch technical videos on farming, monitor weather real time and receive alerts/updates for it, get crucial mandi price updates and order multiple products, all of this at the tip of their fingers. While all this is happening on the front end, the real magic is being created at the back end by our engineering & data science team. We are capturing and crunching his invaluable data on crop preferences, inputs used, location, weather, etc. and writing algorithms to deliver customized solutions, unique to an individual farmer, delivered to them in real time, on their smart phones!

We hope to do our part, in encouraging young people to find interest in the roots of our farms. Our user research has observed that the older generation farmers are pushing their children away from farming because the sector continues to be backward with no promises of prosperity and growth. But transformation of agriculture powered by technology has the potential to change this, and we are encouraged by the fact that the reverse migration trend has been set in motion. We know that innovation will bring the change at ground level and innovative farm solutions will disrupt the entire agriculture ecosystem.

Bhudhimaan aur Balwaan! Jai Kisan!

Shardul Sheth,Co-Founder, AgroStar