Photo Courtesy: TSCFM

New Delhi, June 24: As the Indian farmers embrace technologies like big data and analytics in improving crop yield, BharatAgri app is offering personalised crop advisory to the farmers by generating a personalised crop calendar using big data and analytics taking more than 30 parameters into account.

These parameters are collected from soil, water, satellite imaging, weather and other crop parameters, according to Siddharth Dialani, Co-founder at BharatAgri.

In general, the company was able to increase the income of farmers by 30-50 per cent by enhancing their productivity by 20-30 per cent and reducing costs by 10-20 per cent.

Here are the excerpts from an interview:

Q: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to help farmers make better decisions?

A: Through our BharatAgri app, we offer personalised crop advisory to the farmers by generating a personalised crop calendar using big data and analytics taking more than 30 parameters into account. These parameters are collected from soil, water, satellite imaging, weather and other crop parameters.

BharatAgri farmers also get advice on the exact amount of fertilisers and pesticides along with their spray date enabling the farmer to save on the costs associated with these crop inputs. Through our satellite monitoring feature, we can gauge the farm performance and advise farmers before any probable pest attacks or nutritional deficiency in certain areas hence the production of the farm is maximised earning more income for the farmers.

In general, we have observed, we are able to increase the income of farmers by 30-50 per cent by increasing their productivity by 20-30 per cent and reducing costs by 10-20 per cent. BharatAgri farmer sees an increase in income by Rs 20,000 per acre in a year. And their costs go down by Rs 5,000 per acre in a year.

Q: Looking ahead 4-5 years, what are some of the technologies that excite you the most which can lead to more innovation/disruption in Indian agriculture?

A: In 4-5 years, we believe satellite imagery combined with the advanced machine learning models could replace the manual or physical testing of soil/water completely, helping the farmers monitor their farm health with better precision.

It will also help Agri-Tech firms like us to provide better real-time recommendations to the farmers about irrigation practices and optimise the usage of different nutritional and protectional components such as chemical fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides. Further improvements in predictive analytics on cohort-based user behaviour would lead to enhanced user experience of non-tech savvy users from tier 3 cities and rural areas.

We are also excited to see improved transparency across the Agri value chain as weather and satellite imagery based predictive analysis are integrated for market prices of crops. Another exciting technology emerging in the agriculture domain is image processing. With advanced algorithms, the crop health and produce quality can be analysed using images taken by the user. This would not only improve the real-time advice but also bring parity in crop prices based on quality of the produce.

Q: What are the challenges you face when it comes to farmers embracing new technologies? Tell us about your growth over the last few years and how many farmers currently use your app?

A: There are multiple reasons as to why farmers aren’t very comfortable using a digital app. One of the prominent reasons is the rural infrastructure around mobile networks and internet connectivity. Since a lot of farmers use low-end smartphones they are always struggling with storage issues, slow internet and even low mobile network range. Another factor that adds to the issue is the apprehensiveness of farmers for using the digital payment services like UPI, net banking for making any sort of payments.

However, this has changed significantly in the last few years. The smartphone penetration has increased significantly in rural areas. Farmers can now afford good quality phones with better storage capacity. Moreover, the internet speed/quality is much better now in villages than a few years back.

Our app on the Google play store has been downloaded by more than 3.5 million users. We have impacted the lives of more than 30 lakh farmers so far from our app and currently we have more than 1.2 lakh active-paid farmers associated with us through our subscription service.

BharatAgri has successfully monetised the advisory services and users have now become comfortable in purchasing digital subscriptions. Bundling that with value added services like crop-input ecommerce, talk-to-expert, etc have further increased uptake and retention.

Q: In terms of sustainability (conserving water, reducing carbon footprint etc.), how has the farmer and the agriculture landscape benefited due to your services?

A: Indian farms do not need as much chemical fertilizers as much are being added by the farmers. Moreover, since farmers do not follow scientific techniques of pest prevention, they further end up using more chemical pesticides.We advise farmers to use only the required amount of fertilisers and pesticides on their crops so that leaching and washing out is minimised. This helps our farmers conserve a lot of these chemicals as well as they experience better soil longevity due to less amount of chemicals in the soil.

In terms of environmental impact, BharatAgri has helped the farmers reduce their carbon footprint by 30 thousand tonnes of CO2 in the past 1 year and has saved 4.8 thousand tonnes of chemical fertilisers and 175 thousand litres of pesticides from going into the soil and then ultimately leaching into the groundwater.This would increase the soil longevity and would increase production from the farm. This reduction in the use of the chemical fertilisers and pesticides also helps maintain the pH and softness of the soil.

Q: What has cloud technology allowed you to do that you couldn’t do before?

A: Mainly, AWS allowed us to scale our operations as we onboard a large number of farmers on our platform. We are planning to leverage Amazon forecast predictive learning models to help us create better personalised advisory recommendations for the farmers and help us improve the weather prediction of the next few weeks in advance. Our users are more comfortable with video and audio-based communications. Hence, the digital cloud infrastructure becomes even more important for an app like BharatAgri.

Also, AWS IVS (Interactive Streaming Platform) will smoothen the video streaming on our app. One major impact of this would be that our farmers will now be able to play the video content even in the low mobile network areas having slow internet speed.

AWS also enabled us high computing performance through their high compute VMs. AWS also reduced the time for generating the personalised crop calendar for our farmers using our advisory generation model for a large set of farms in a more efficient or optimised way. These personalised crop calendars have helped us provide real time data analysis and decision support systems to farmers.

AWS has surely helped us improve our business performance as we are scaling our operations at a rapid rate. Overall, our estimates tell us that by using AWS services we have been able to reduce our technical costs by around 30 per cent and our time to market has increased by around 25 per cent.One of the major benefits of using AWS services is that we are experiencing a 50 per cent decrease in the latency, enabling our users to stream video content even at a very slow internet speed. We also experience very low down-time leading to improved availability of our app across all times.

In terms of business metrics, most importantly even though our users have scaled, the cost of serving the customer has come down significantly. We are currently spending 25 per cent less per paid subscriber. And this can be attributed to AWS.

Source: IANS