This article is a part of the #TechForGood series powered by Accenture in India.
In December 2016, Hyderabad-based Naveen Kumar decided to travel to his hometown Hanamkonda in Warangal. Little did the founder of ‘ApnaLoanBazar,’ (an online retail loan aggregation platform) know, this trip would change his life.
Speaking to The Better India, he recalls, “The incident is clear in my head. A farmer was found dead. He had committed suicide by consuming pesticide after being cheated by a dealer who sold him adulterated cotton seeds, for a profit of Rs 300. And while the crop had grown in all its beauty, it failed to yield anything. With no option to recover the loss or repay the cost incurred for the crop, the farmer took the drastic step of killing himself.
“To me, it was an absolute shocker that a measly profit of Rs 300 had costed a farmer’s life. It wasn’t the only one. In hushed whispers, every day the news of farmer suicides in the nearby villages would travel to ours.”
Naveen couldn’t sleep for nights. So he conducted extensive ground research with farmers across villages, agricultural officers, scientists experts etc. and stumbled upon some unique findings.
Naveen realised it was easier for well-to-do and educated farmers to benefit from the information available on government portals and via agriculture authorities on best practices. But marginal farmers wasted over 20-30% of their time in collecting information from different physical sources. And even in the pursuit of doing this, they were being cheated.
A mere lack of information made these farmers fall prey to spurious seeds, fake fertilisers, low cost for produce and exploitation by middlemen.
“And so, effective communication is the need of the hour in Indian agriculture. There is a huge gap between the actual on-field situations and government supported activities. To fill these gap, we developed the app and offered it to the farmers for free. Our app is designed primarily to serve small and marginal farmers,” says Naveen.
The NaPanta app was, therefore, Naveen’s unique solution to help farmers better their crop yield and curb the rising farmer suicides.
NaPanta – Developing an agri-encyclopedia!
NaPanta is a free to download ‘Agricultural crop management’ mobile application. Available on the Android platform, it currently has over 1,17,000 users (farmers) from across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The startup is incubated and supported by AIP-ICRISAT and IIIT-Hyderabad and helps farmers access all kinds of agriculture-related information they need in real-time.
From daily market prices in 3500+ markets to a three-year price trend of over 300+ Agri commodities, everything is a mere click away. All the farmers need is a simple mobile internet connection.
Also, NaPanta helps farmers track their expenses in an organised manner and gives them detailed information on the availability, composition, preparation techniques of pesticides and insecticides.
It also displays a five-day weather forecast, information on crop insurance, location of soil laboratories, cold storage facilities and agri-dealer contacts across the two states.
For those farmers who find it difficult to have an internet connection at all times, the app also has offline features with information on crop and pest management techniques for over 100 crops.
The app is currently available in Telugu and English and also helps small time, and marginal farmers buy or rent agriculture equipment for very affordable prices and sell their produce directly online without the interference of middlemen.
Failing their way to success
The road to developing the successful app was anything but easy. Within three months of its launch, the app had over 50,000 farmer takers. But it was only a matter of time until they started uninstalling it. The reason – there was little information and it did not meet the expectations of the farmers. Each of them has a unique requirement to be addressed which made the task at hand difficult.
“When we added too many offline features, their phones started crashing thereby leading to more uninstallations. But we persevered and after much trial and error arrived at the model when we offered over 16 services while maintaining the app installation size to less than 40mb. This helped farmers even with the most simple smartphone to access and benefit from the app,” says Naveen.
“Evolution and adding new features continues to be a constant process,” he adds.
Helping farmers master crop management techniques – one click at a time!
Naveen explains the utility of the app with a real-life scenario.
“Let’s take a farmer with a small landholding, perhaps fewer than five acres. He travels to a different place every time he either needs genuine seeds, pesticide or wants information on crop protection solutions or cultivation. And even in the process of running around, he gets very little information which at most times, is incorrect. If a pest attacks his farm, by the time he collects the details and purchases the pesticide, three to four days go by, and the crop is already ruined. In such a case, NaPanta provides him with complete details along with the related images on crop cultivation and protection. Its precise information and well-defined solution saves the farmer time and helps acquire positive results.” he says.
It is important to mention that all the data in the app follows the guidelines of CIBRC (Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee) guidelines. Even the market price of agricultural commodities in various mandis available in India is acquired from agmarket.nic.in
Today, NaPanta has reached 1,17,000 farmers. The daily unique farmer visitors are over 3,000, and the daily app interactions are more than 25,000.
The reach of NaPanta reflects in the results of the extensive survey the University of California, Berkeley conducted in the villages of Andhra Pradesh with over 10,000 farmers. The students wanted to understand how farmers use technology for agricultural practices.
The unanimous consensus was NaPanta.
It was only a matter of time until NaPanta was invited to be a part of the Andhra Pradesh state-government and University of California’s smart village project in these villages.
“We didn’t invest a penny in marketing when we developed the app. It was an absolute surprise for us that within four months we had over 50,000 farmers downloading it. Most of the farmers would promote it through word of mouth and share the app using ‘ShareIT.’ From then to now, the journey has been a rollercoaster ride and full of learnings. Today, I can proudly say that NaPanta is like an agricultural encyclopedia for the marginal farmer. Once they use our app for any kind of information, they don’t need to go to any additional source.”
He fondly recalls how at a farmers meeting in Thallapusalapalli near Mahabubabad he was amazed to see some of the most progressive farmers using NaPanta for their activities.
“In presence of the Joint Collector, the chief guest, they told me how the app had transformed their farming methods. Even the District Agriculture Officer (DAO), Joint Director of Agriculture (JDA) and Assistant Director of Agriculture (ADA) of Telangana have shown interest in NaPanta and are encouraging the farmers community to benefit from it.” While Naveen is presently in Mumbai pitching to the State Government of Maharashtra, NaPanta has already managed to get the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on board.
He signs off, with a message on leveraging technology for the cause of the farmers.
“The perfect blend of resources and technology is all that is required. What one needs to understand here is, a farmer is not concerned with lengthy articles about best agricultural practices, theories, and verbal comprehension! All he/she wants is hard facts obtained from and by other farmers toiling in the field. Present them with the right information and proper guidance, give them a solution to their problems and make sure it easy to understand. That’s how you spark a revolution in agriculture.”
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)