Mobile apps and agricultural development

Cell phones deliver timely, relevant, and actionable information to farmers throughout the world
Mobile apps and agricultural development
Representational Pic

PROF (DR) DIL MOHAMMAD MAKDOOMI

India lives in villages. With more than six lakh villages in the country, the villagers there make up 68.84 % of the total population of India as per Census 2011. Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy contributing about 18 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is also the major source of livelihood for the vast majority of population residing in these villages. These villages have contributed enormously to India’s economy by providing raw material for the secondary as well as tertiary sectors. Despite their immense contribution to the development of the country, their standing on various development indicators is not satisfactory. They still lag behind on many aspects than their urban counterparts. As the people in villages are mostly farmers who work day and night in the intense heat as well as freezing cold; provision of timely and accurate information and advisory on various aspects of crop production, livestock rearing and other allied activities is of utmost importance for them as well as development of nation

The farmers and other stakeholders need information related to different inputs, market price, weather, government policies, latest technologies, climatic aberrations, value addition and other related and relevant technologies. This extensive task of fulfilling information need was until recently accomplished by field extension functionaries only. The extension services in the country are already paralysed with multiple issues like low extension workers to farmers’ ratio, multiple roles of extension agencies, inadequate financial support and lack of expertise and skilled functionaries. This calls for immediate revival of the traditional methods and use of some new innovative techniques for information delivery system. Rural India is also now drastically moving towards digitalisation and technology. As per reports of ‘The Rising Connected Consumer in Rural India’, a study by the Boston Consulting Group, this share of rural India has jumped to 48% by 2020. Moreover, while 58% of Indian households still depend on Agriculture as their most eminent source of livelihood, it’s time to give more focus on Digital Agriculture through mobiles for a growing and prosperous India.

Information and communication technology

ICT has very recently emerged as the strongest tool for more efficient, time and cost saving information delivery. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, ICTs are defined as those technologies used in collecting, processing, storing, retrieving, disseminating, and implementing data and information using microelectronics, optics, and telecommunication and computers. ICT is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing radio, television, mobile and fixed phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing, distance learning, etc. Low-cost information and communication technology (ICT) tools like cell phones promise the ability to deliver timely, relevant, and actionable information to farmers throughout the world, at dramatically lower costs than traditional extension services. We have seen how a simple mobile is a boon for the farmers living near the sea. They get timely information about weather conditions on their mobile phones and thus plan their fishing activities accordingly.

Among the various ICT tools, the mobile based apps offer a futuristic scope for access to a diverse range of information needed in agricultural production. Studies have revealed that the use of various mobile apps to provide localized agricultural information has helped to reduce crop losses, improve yields as well as has a profound effect on enhancing the income of small farmers, including rural women. These mobile apps as a form of a social media tool enable persons to many types of conversation and sharing information and facilitating discussion. This tool is simpler and easy to use, has low internet data requirements, and is increasingly popular in rural India. Some of the apps furthering the cause of farming community in the country are as:

KISAN SUVIDHA: Launched by Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi in 2016 to work towards the empowerment of farmers and the development of villages, the app offers a user-friendly interface and provides information on current weather and also the forecast for the next five days, market prices of commodities/crops in the nearest town, knowledge on fertilisers, seeds, machinery, etc. The option to use the app in different languages makes it more widely accessible.

IFFCO KISAN AGRICULTURE: Managed by IFFCO Kisan, a subsidiary of Indian Farmers’ Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd. this app help the farmers make informed decisions through customized information related to their needs. Moreover, the user can access a variety of informative modules including agricultural advisory, weather, market prices, agriculture information library in the form of text, imagery, audio, and videos in the selected language at the profiling stage. The app also offers helpline numbers to get in touch with Kisan Call Centre Services.

RML FARMER- KRISHI MITRA

Developed by a private player, Reuters Market Light, this is another useful farming app where farmers can keep up with the latest commodity and mandi prices, precise usage of pesticides and fertilisers, farm and farmer-related news, weather forecasts, and advisory. Moreover, it also provides agricultural advice and news regarding the government’s agricultural policies and schemes. As per the official, users can choose from over 450 crop varieties, 1300 mandis, and 3500 weather locations across 50,000 villages and 17 states of India. It is designed with specific tools to analyze or provide information on different aspects of farming habits.

PUSA KRISHI: This app helps farmers to get information about technologies developed by Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) to help farmers in increasing returns to farmers. The app also provides farmers with information related to new varieties of crops developed by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), resource-conserving cultivation practices as well as farm machinery and its implementation will help in increasing returns to farmers.

CROP INSURANCE: Insurance is very important given the uncertainties in Indian agriculture. Most of the time farmers are not aware of the premiums and the insurance coverage given for different crops. Crop Insurance is an app that helps farmers to calculate insurance premiums for notified crops and provides information on cut-off dates and company contacts for their crop and location. It works as a reminder and calculator for farmers about their insurance. It can also be used to get details of the normal sum insured, extended sum insured, premium details, and subsidy information of any notified crop in any notified area.

AGRI-MARKET: The app has been developed with an aim to keep farmers abreast of crop prices and discourage them to go for distress sales. Farmers can get information related to the prices of crops in markets within 50 km of their own device location using the Agri-Market Mobile App.

SHETKARI MITRA: It is also a multi-functional mobile app made for farmers in India. It provides information and knowledge about governmental schemes, crop management, Agri-business and guidelines, market rates and success stories in agriculture.

MEGHDOOT: Meghdoot means ‘rain’. This another weather related app is a joint initiative of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) to bring high resolution weather forecast based agro advisories to farmers in vernacular language. Meghdoot provides location, and crop and livestock-specific weather-based agro advisories to farmers in local languages. The App allows farmers and interested users to access these advisories in a user friendly manner. Apart from the crop advisory, the app also makes available observed weather and weather forecast.

SHECH: This is a mobile app on developed by SKUAST-K. It is placed at Google play store in the name of ‘Shech’. Agro-advisories and weather related advisories, information regarding sale etc. is being communicated through this App in the form of text and audio. This has helped to enhance the outreach of the University to the farmers in far-flung remote inaccessible areas.

APPLE DOC: Another artificial intelligence based mobile application developed by SKUAST-K for precision farming APPLE DOC addresses the problems faced by the orchardists. Through this mobile app, the apple growers of the region get real-time information and timely expert assistance on weather advisories, usage of chemicals, soil samples and all other related information.

DSSAT: The Decision Support System for Agro-technology Transfer (DSSAT) is a software application program that comprises crop simulation models for over 42 crops as well as tools to facilitate effective use of the models. The tools include database management programs for soil, weather, crop management and experimental data, utilities, and application programs.

DAMINI: Damini means ‘lightning’ and lightning is a phenomenon that has not only fascinated, but also scared mankind. Over the recent years lightning has been identified as the single most killer over India compared to all other natural disasters. This app gives exact location of current lightning strikes, probable locations of impending lightning and movement and direction of thunderstorm. Whenever a person is within 20-km radius of the lightning event, the app will send warning, the alert will be sent 30 minutes to 45 minutes before the event and this will help people get to safer locations. DAMINI also lists precautionary steps to be taken during lightning and some general information on lightning. This app can be downloaded from the Google Play store free of cost. IITM took two months to develop this app and has handed it over to the respective state governments.

Farming apps are thus the most convenient and useful medium to guide farmers in farming. The mobile phones which were initially not affordable now have become a necessity for all. This is because with their penetration in the rural areas there has been an increase in their affordability, accessibility, and adaptability. Most of the farmers are now depending upon these small gadgets to get agriculture related information. Thus, it has a strong potential to be a viable agricultural extension tool for extension based organisations in general and extension educators, in particular, to reach out to the WhatsApp using farming clientele.

Prof(Dr) Dil Mohammad Makdoomi is Director Extension, Director Sameti, SKUAST KASHMIR.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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