The problems that an average Indian farmer faces are multi-fold. At any given point in time, a farmer is facing different issues simultaneously such as natural calamities like droughts and floods, lack of proper irrigation systems and therefore water scarcity, low market prices, mazes of middlemen, low return on investment, debts, no facilities for storage as well as transport, and a lack of technical know-how about crop patterns, soil types as well as the use of chemical pesticides.
While India has seen prices of agricultural produce shoot up dramatically in the past few years, the rise in the market prices has not reflected on the farmer’s incomes. A major share of the total profit goes to middlemen who connect farmers with traders.
Image for representation only. Source: By Meera’rah, via Wikimedia Commons
Bhoomee, a Bengaluru-based startup aims at changing this unpromising scenario. The startup which was founded in 2003 has been helping farmers connect with traders and vice-versa through their online portal and call centre services.
“The basic aim of Bhoomee is to create awareness among farmers regarding agricultural commodity prices at various markets, so that the farmers can negotiate and get better prices than what they are getting right now. It also makes more choices available to the farmers. Our portal has over 1,50,000 farmers registered from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu who avail different services provided by Bhoomee,” says Raghunandan TN, CEO of Bhoomee.
Bhoomee’s web portal offers different services like market prices, postings, business intelligence, problem solving and weather. The farmers who are registered on Bhoomee’s platform can avail IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited’s voice message service, which allows them to access latest news and information that is relevant to them.
Often, 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. This is where Bhoomee comes into the picture,” says Raghunandan.
In addition, the prices of the same crop vary depending upon the variety and market. However, the farmer would not necessarily be aware of this. In such cases, a farmer can directly contact the call centre and get to know the prices. This has improved the negotiating abilities of farmers.
While the initial plan was just a web portal, Bhoomee is now planning to become a more active player in providing agricultural assistance to farmers. Bhoomee is building a rural workforce to serve as crop doctors. Called the DESEE Force in Agriculture, where DESEE stands for Digitally Empowered Self-Employed Extension Force, these self-employed agricultural experts will connect to thousands of farmers through over 100 centres.
“Under the programme, we are recruiting youngsters from villages who will undertake a 7-day training course at University for Agricultural Sciences, Raichur. Their training will equip them in crop health management and enable them to diagnose and prescribe the most appropriate solution to the pest problem,” explains Raghunandan.
The DESEE Force program has already kickstarted in some districts of Karnataka. The members of the DESEE Force conduct awareness programs in the rural areas and demonstrate the proper crop care processes to the farmers.
Once registered with the DESEE members, farmers will be able to call for their services at any time and obtain the right prescriptions.
“Through the DESEE Force, Bhoomee is creating an amazing employment opportunity for educated individuals, especially youth, in their own villages, allowing them a respectable and comfortable life providing crop health support services to farmers,” says Raghunandan.
He further goes on to say, “For any average Indian farmer, making agriculture a profitable business has been and still is the challenge. A majority of farmers in India do not have large portions of land, but farm on small plots of land. What we are trying at Bhoomee is to assist farmers in making farming a sustainable and profitable business.”