With digital connectivity slowly spreading to remote parts of the country, farmers in small villages are now becoming empowered with new-found technology in their hands. This fact struck Subhash Lode, an engineer by profession and son of a farmer, on one of his visits to his native village near Yawatmal district in Maharashtra. He saw some of the illiterate farmers using smartphones and that was a pleasant surprise. When he further inquired about what they used their smartphone for, the answers were vague – using certain apps or listening to songs, etc.
That’s when the idea of developing an online platform for farmers struck Subhash. Having earlier worked alongside his father on their own farm, he was familiar with different problems the farmers faced.
Of these, there were two main issues: logistical difficulties and the lack of knowledge.
“You see, sometimes these problems seem small, but to a farmer, they are huge. For example, to buy seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, a farmer has to go to a ‘krishi kendra’ (agriculture centre), which is located at the ‘taluka’ or ‘mandal’ level. On an average, any village is in a 12-13 km radius from a kendra. The farmer has to spend time as well as money during these trips. Based on the annual schedule of a farmer, it takes at least 20 such trips in a year. So it turns out to be a major drain of meagre resources,” Subhash explains.
Further, the lack of proper knowledge about pesticides and fertilisers among farmers gives the vendors an opportunity to misguide them and maximise their own sales.
“When a farmer observes any pest infection growing on his farm, he goes to the vendor and explains the problem verbally. The vendor then hands him three or four different pesticides with instructions on how to use them. There’s no way for the farmer to know whether or not it is the right pesticide. Big private companies usually reward the vendors in some form when their sales are high and therefore the latter sell even unnecessary products to farmers,” says Subhash.
So when he decided to quit his job in the IT industry and pave the way for his start-up Agrowbook, he decided to focus on these two problems. One and a half years ago, this led to starting a social networking solution for farmers in Telangana. The services Agrowbook offers are simple and effective. The website team appoints a person to be a bridge between both the farmer and the vendor, bringing them together on a single platform to ensure right pricing. This also serves as an online marketplace with a functional supply chain, other than acting as an information hub for users where updates on different government schemes, agricultural news as well as videos, are featured.
The platform also runs a helpline for the farmers. A farmer can simply upload the image of his/her pest-infected farm on the platform and receive advice about the pesticide required. The Agrowbook experts conduct the required research and analysis for the farmer’s problem and provide a solution.
After functioning in the online space in the beginning, Agrowbook has also started operating at the ground level in a small village in Telangana.
Agrowbook is currently running a crowd-funding campaign to help Rajesh and Ganesh set up a medium-scale production facility in their village. To contribute to their fund-raising campaign, click here. To know more about Agrowbook, visit the official website here.