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Futuristic Roadmap of Farmers:

A Case Study by IBM

Agriculture is highly inefficient in India, —the average farm takes up a little more than one
hectare and produces yields of rice, maize, and other major crops that are one-half to one-
fifth those of its counterparts in Brazil, China, Russia, and other developing economies.[1]
Major factors contributing to poor performance are subscale farm sizes, low investment in
capital such as traditional farm equipment, and suboptimal farm practices brought on by low
availability of information. Some Indian farmers have relatively little insight into farm and
environmental variables like weather, sunlight, and rainfall. Once Indian farmers harvest their
relatively small crops, inadequate storage and inefficient transport leads to approximately
40 percent of the produce spoiling before reaching consumers. Subscale farms pose other
challenges. India’s average farm size is about 1.1 hectares, compared to 180 hectares in the
United States, and 45 percent of farmers are small or marginalized.[2] Meanwhile, crop prices
realized by farmers remain unsustainably low, partially because of the large markups
commanded by middlemen in the supply chain.

Typical farming cycle:

Harvesting
Financing Planning Planting
and selling

Lenders Farm Suppliers of Buyers of


(Banks and advisory consumables farm produce
local money firms (seeds) and (such as
lenders), (Weather equipment local
Insurance and demand (tractors) middlemen)
companies forecasts)

Digital technologies can play a key role in transforming agriculture across the value chain by
connecting farmers to markets and shared equipment, automating farm management
processes, and analyzing data to drive actionable insights for farmers. A lack of documentary
evidence of financial history often prevents farmers from accessing banks to serve their
financial needs. Digital bank accounts can begin to bridge this gap by creating verifiable
transaction records, including electronic receipt of agricultural subsidies. Access to bank credit
could produce considerable savings on interest payments and enable farmers to affordably
borrow enough to acquire more advanced technology. Meanwhile, easily accessible digital
information about land ownership, weather, and other variables could improve and extend
crop insurance underwriting. The same data, augmented with imagery from satellites, drones,
or an individual’s mobile phone, could speed the claims process and accelerate payouts if
crops fail.
Digital technologies can revamp farm financing and crop insurance payouts:

Farmer is Application Bank provides a


Government data
about to through strong digital
plant for the mobile app infrastructure,
season and with mobile
seeks a loan services for
and disbursement Other data sources
insurance and payments (Digital trail)

Digital elements leveraged for loan product:


– Land records registry – Credit history
– Aadhar database – Farm photos
– eKYC platform – Other application information
– Farmer digital payments records submitted through mobile app

Digital elements leveraged for insurance product:

– IMD weather records – Claims photos


– Pest control records – Satellite imagery
– Land records registry – Farmer digital payments records

The increasing availability of real-time data from a variety of sources can enable entities to
offer customized advice to farmers, commonly known as “precision agriculture”. Advice on
achieving more scientific practices can enable farmers to increase their productivity, even if
they are not able to adhere strictly to all best practices. Public or private agencies can advise
farmers on the need for inputs and even the mix of crops likely to produce maximum profit
after their algorithms analyze soil conditions, aerial images, weather forecasts, and other
factors over a four- to six-month crop cycle. Additional advice is provided based on real-time
data from internet-connected sensors in the field and GPS-enabled equipment that delivers
the optimal amount of inputs at the individual crop level.

Collection of data Analysing data Applications

•Soil health cards •Personalized alerts •Yield forecasting


•eNAM sales •Dashboard applications •Crop protection
•KCC engagement •Advisory services •Input demand
•IMD weather reports •'Smart' farm equipments forecasting
•Digital land records
•Input sales records
•Satellite imagery
•IoT sensors
Type of questions answered by the advisory services:

- Which crops work best with my soil pro le?


- When should I plant and harvest for optimal results?
- What should I expect in terms of pests?
- What is the best nutrition management plan for my crops?

State and union government agencies across India collect vast amount of agricultural data
each year by way of about 800 national, state and research institutions. This rich data
infrastructure includes information such as seed availability from Seednet India Portal,
weather patterns from meteorological departments, and daily mandi prices on Agmarknet.

Globally, large agriculture-input providers such as Monsanto and Mosaic are using data to
provide actionable insights for farmers. Monsanto has launched a farm-management platform
with the aim of providing advice for planting and crop nutrition using farm-level weather and
soil testing data. Monsanto has invested heavily in proprietary algorithms to accomplish this.
Mosaic has gone another route, starting CropNutrition.com as a digital hub for information on
soil fertility and crop nutrition. Nutrient management algorithms provide advice for farmers
without the use of any farm-level data, providing a simpler but lower-investment tool for
farmers.

Most of India’s 138 million farms sell their crops at local mandis, or wholesale markets, where
buyers usually are scarce and sellers have little bargaining power, resulting in poor income
realization. A viable nationwide online trading platform could address this problem by providing
farmers and traders with timely information about prices and supply as well as an alternate
venue in which to transact crop sales. When accompanied by enabling digital infrastructure,
such a digital venue would give farmers access to a larger pool of potential buyers. However,
several challenges restrict widespread adoption. The main problem is trust: how can buyers
be sure they will receive the right product on time? Integration of e-warehousing and a logistics
interface to assure timely produce delivery can help, as can digital verification of transactions
and identities or of institutional facilitators who stand to act as guarantors between small
buyers and sellers. Working in this ecosystem will also create the need to consult closely with
state governments to manage the regulatory and legal environment, because agricultural
sales are heavily and disparately regulated in different states.

To succeed, digital markets for perishable produce must also be able to verify the quality of
the goods being sold. Digital technology can offer solutions here, too. Photographs and a
proprietary algorithm can be used which considers parameters such as firmness and minor
and major flaws.

The potential gains from digital agriculture applications could be considerable. For example,
moving 40 to 60 percent of agriculture product sales to a universal marketplace by 2025 is
forecasted to increase prices paid to farmers by 15 percent.[3] Widespread implementation of
advisory for precision agriculture, such as digitally enabled advice on crop choice, fertilizer
use, weather patterns, and other variables, could increase yields by 15 to 20 percent, or
$20 billion to $25 billion per year by 2025.[4] Combined, these and other digital technologies
could help food production better keep pace with the country’s population growth, add
$50 billion to $70 billion of economic value in 2025—and fundamentally change Indian
agriculture.[5]
Individual farmers stand to gain from digital technologies at every turn in their crop cycle.
Receiving digitally enabled credit and insurance, instead of a loan from the local middleman,
can lead to other benefits. A digitally enabled farmer may use advisory services to plant the
most efficient crops for his soil type, avoid a pest infection thanks to an app-based notification,
and harvest crops at the opportune time. The farmer is then free to sell the produce using an
online platform to command a fair market price instead of selling produce back to a local
middleman to settle his debts, allowing him to pay off his formal loan with money to spare.

From our primary and secondary research, it was apparent that farmers are aware of the
hazardous impact of chemical usage. Regarding water scarcity, the concern among farmers
varies from region to region, but it was pretty evident that some degree of interest is there.
When asked about the usage of chemical and waters, most of them are afraid of the
quality/quantity of output with limited usage of chemicals/water. Where they lack primarily is
the precise advice regarding the ways or stages of production where the chemical usage can
be eliminated, or water can be saved.

We propose to promote awareness and bridge the gap through small video clippings regarding
the same in regional languages which will be uploaded on the smartphone application they
are using. There will be 2-3 questions to answer based on each video. To motivate them, there
will be incentives in terms of discount coupons or similar thing in seed or fertilizer purchasing
when they reach a specific score. There will be additional incentives when they upload an
actual photo or video of the outputs or the modified process they are following.

There will be new videos with new tips or awareness campaigns uploaded regularly and with
this regular process we try to implant the chemical usage/ water scarcity awareness in farmers’
subconscious mind. This will result in a ripple effect when farmers are talking about
themselves about their little learnings and small incentives. This small small happiness will
create a bigger impact.
Reimagining a typical seasonal farmer’s journey:

Traditional journey Reimagined journey

Rohit has no credit history and Rohit uses a mobile application to


cannot apply for formal credit, so he apply for a loan, which leverages his
borrows from local middleman digital payments to underwrite terms

Rohit decides to plant rice, since this Rohit leverages mobile app for farm
is what he grew last year and he has advisory to select the most promising
experience growing it crop to plant

Uses a mobile app to rent a tractor


Rohit cannot afford a tractor, so he for a week to plough and plant his
uses old equipment to plough and field
plant field

Advisory program warns about


imminent threat of pests, and he is
Rohit goes to local market to buy able to avoid any crop damage
chemical nutrients, but due to
shortage can’t get the exact ones

Notifications from advisory program


prompt Rohit to harvest at optimal
time based on crop maturity
Pests are especially bad this season—
an infestation ruins a patch of Rohit’s
crops before he can contain it
Rohit uses website to check
prevailing crop prices in local mandis

Rohit returns to mandi, selling crop


Ultimately, he decides to sell his crop
outputs to local middleman at
on an e marketplace platform, which
quoted price
will take care of shipping logistics
References:

[1]: OECD

[2]: Agricultural statistics at a glance: 2016, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry
of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, March 2, 2017

[3]: Ramesh Chand, Doubling farmers’ income: Rationale, strategy, prospects and action plan,
National Institution for Transforming India policy paper number 1/2017, March 2017

[4]: “Adoption of precision agriculture technologies in India and in some developing countries:
Scope, present status, and strategies”, Progress in Natural Science: Materials International,
June 2009, Volume 19, Issue 6.

[5]: Ramesh Chand, Doubling farmers’ income: Rationale, strategy, prospects and action plan,
National Institution for Transforming India policy paper number 1/2017, March 2017