In 2010, Peepli Live had farmer Natha Das trapped in a dark comedy. His only escape seemed a televised suicide. But now the story can be rewritten. Today, Das can whip out his smartphone and know that his land is best suited for an alternate crop, say millets. He would also know where to get the seeds, what fertilisers to buy, and how to water them with the little that he had. Finally, he could alert a big retailer a month before his harvest and strike a deal over an app. It might have sounded improbable then but agri-tech start-ups have changed the script.
About 40 kilometres from Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, lives 31-year-old Ravi Kumar, a fifth-generation farmer. On his one-acre plot in Karahalli, the foothills of Nandi Hills, Ravi predominantly grows tomatoes. His field is neatly divided into three — two sections for tomato and the third, for chrysanthemum. “I grow the flowers between two harvesting seasons to help retain soil nutrients,” says Ravi, as we walk through the rows of plantations.
He taps open the ‘Smart Farm’ app, created by agri-tech firm CropIn, on his tab. Profiles of 150 farmers in the area, who largely grow vegetables, pop up. Ravi double taps on the screen and shows us the information displayed. It has everything a farmer can ask for — literally. There is info on what to grow and how, and warning about possible pest attacks and suggestion on pesticides, and all of this has been customised according to his field’s soil quality and harvesting pattern. If he encounters a new problem during this cycle, he can click a photo of the plant, upload it and the answer is delivered in 24 hours. When his crop is 70% closer to harvest, the app even sends an alert to buyers about the expected yield and quality. If an order is placed and produce delivered, payment is made directly to Ravi’s bank account within three days. Smooth! CropIn has come up with this dashboard using technologies such as geo-tagging, big data analytics, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). “My yield has gone up 3x over the past year, from 10 tonne to 40 tonne per season,” says Ravi with a smile. With better quality produce, he gets Rs.8 more per kg. “Namage Olleya dinagalu bandide (Better days are here),&r