At a time of widespread agricultural distress caused by successive droughts, unremunerative farming and debt-trapped rural economies, a young man with his mobile app is showing how change can be brought in the life of farmers at the grassroot level.

In 2016, V. Naveen Kumar, who had no personal knowledge of
agriculture, was so moved by the suicide of a farmer in a village in his native
Warangal district of Telangana that for the next three months he ran around
like a man possessed, meeting farmers to understand their problems. He
interacted with agri-entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to find if there is a
way he can bring some change in the lives of the financially besieged farmers.

Today, over 1.24 lakh farmers in Telugu-speaking states of
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh use his mobile app NaPanta to avail a host of
services, all free of cost. And this MBA degree holder is satisfied that he is
contributing his mite to bring some change in the way they practise
agriculture.

NaPanta, which was started in June 2017, saw, surprisingly,
thousands of farmers download the app. The launch of the pocket-friendly
Reliance Jio and the boom in use of WhatsApp brought more people on the
platform.

The app, which provides all farming-related information and
communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the
time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

“I am confident that if farmers follow my platform,
they will be able to save 20 per cent on expenditure and get 10 per cent extra
yield. We can make 30 per cent difference,” V. Naveen Kumar, Founder and
Managing Director, NaPanta, told IANS.

While the country has many apps to help farmers, there is no
single app covering the entire gamut of agriculture activity ranging from
selection of crops to locate the market offering highest price for their
produce. From advisory services and weather information to market prices and
e-commerce, the digital platform offers the comprehensive agri eco-system.

The app has tools like crop expenditure (which helps farmers
track their expenses in an organized manner), crop protection, weekly agro
advisory, agri forum, market price, agri e-commerce, crop insurance, weather,
food processing technologies, and soil testing information.

A farmer can also buy or rent an agri-equipment as per the
requirements of his crop cycle and can also sell his produce for the highest
price without any middleman.

The app also allows farmers to access real-time and dynamic
information pertaining to daily market prices of 300 agri-commodities across
over 3,500 markets, along with three-year price trend.

Currently available in Telugu and English, NaPanta App
provides complete pest and disease management details, covering 90 crops and
with suggestions about 3,000 pesticide products.

Naveen Kumar, who earlier worked as a Credit Relationship
Manager in ICICI Bank and later as Credit Risk Manager with HDFC Bank before
co-founding apnaloanbazaar.com, a retail loan distribution services portal,
says he is trying to build core competence among the farmers.

According to him, for all their requirements, small and
marginal farmers depend on third parties like distributors of the companies.

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and
requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some
extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up
incurring huge expenditure.”

With agriculture extension officers of the government more
focused on clerical related activities rather than extending actual help, he
believes there is a huge gap between farmers and the government initiated
activity.

“Farming is not depending on a single advisory. It is a
combination of various services. We identified all that a farmer needs in day
to day life and ensured that he has easy access to the advisory so that
whenever he gets a doubt, he can get it cleared then and there,” he said.

Naveen said several states including Maharashtra and Tamil
Nadu were showing interest in the platform. The app will be available in Hindi
and Tamil in June-July this year. “If everything goes well in next 3 to 5
years, we will have our presence in 7-9 states,” said Naveen, who heads a
five-member team.

While the information on app will clear regular doubts of
farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which
includes agriculture scientist and experts. IANS

NaPanta, an incubatee of International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) also gets the institute’s help in
business activity, reaching the farmers and engagement with agri-input
companies.

The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its
own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says
he will go with whoever is close to his idea.

With huge amount of data being generated on the digital
platform, Naveen embarked on building big-data architecture with crowd-sourcing
information. It is building database with information on major crops in a
particular area, major insects which affect a crop, cropping system, sequential
cropping model, pesticides and where the farmers sell their produce.

He is confident that this data will be a goldmine in the coming years. “This kind of crowd-sourcing information is not available in the agriculture sector in India. We are getting information from actual farmers and not third parties.” IANS

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2019-05-18 18:34:13
Image credit: source

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