Once young technocrates identifed major pain points of the farmers, it took only 2-3 years to design a model to train them for intelligent farming. The model is a success in four districts of Western Uttar Pradesh with at least 10 to 15 percent increase in income. The increase came through input cost reduction, best farming practices and better marketing of the produce. The intelligent farming model has been designed and developed by Akshamala Solutions and named as ‘Unnati’ Agri Clinics. Unnati is run under Rural Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Program(REAP).
Akshamaala Solutions, founded by a young technocrate from BITS, Pilani Ashok Prasad in 2012. An MBA from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) Prasad, fully capitalised his over 15 years of experience in solution designing & engineering of complex business and technology systems. His experience and knowledge of Telecom, IT and ICT has enabled him to create valuable solutions which can change the way we interact with rural consumers specially the farming community.
The ‘Unnati’ helps the farmers to improve productivity and income through technology led interventions across the agriculture eco-system. It provides a platform to farmers for access to quality and genuine inputs at Point of Sales. The Agri clinics also impart knowledge and assistance for scientific best practices.
“Apart from technologies, we also help farmers to selll outputs at the right price assisted by the trained youth. Currently Unnati functions in 4 districts of Western Uttar Pradesh with over 105 Point of Sales, benefiting over 3,500 farmers. We will generate employemtn for 600 youth over next 18 months across 10 districts in the country,” says Ashok Prasad, Founder, Akshamaala Solutions.
Key Challenges for farmers are include lack of awareness, bridging the knowledge gap, improving crop yield and quality, supply of quality inputs. Akshamala makes all efforts for handholding the farmer during the crop life cycle which include creating farms,soil testing, best practices which are specific to the crop sown from sowing date, tracking activities done on the farm, purchase of farm inputs, selling their output and answering
their queries regarding farming.
“Agri-clinics are manned by local youth with strong knowledge and understanding of their area.Each agri-clinic is identified through a branding board which also helps farmers identify the PoS in its vicinity. Each agri-clinic operator has a smart phone and mobile application to capture geo-tagged data and bring it on a map,” adds Prasad.
Each of these agri-clinics have a commercial relationship where they make money based on results. Akshamaala trains youth in several activities like soil collection and testing using mobile kits, digitizing and capturing data of farmers using their mobile phones.
Intelligent farming, based on data captured and highly tailored knowledge, is helping the farmers in improving quality of inputs. Increase in revenue comes through better practices, seed treatment, irrigation at the right time and switching over to more remunerative crops.
“Genuine inputs, right inputs at better than market price, better practices, reducing wastage through timely information on irrigation and right dosage of agri-chemicals and nutrients have reduced the cost of production upto 7 percent. That is very encouraging,” informs Prasad.
For lifetime support in provisioning of inputs, Akshamaala has tie-ups with agri-input companies.It provides ready access to best quality input sourcing through these tie-ups at company level and not at the dealer level.The company also imparts training on government led schemes and support in getting them implemented on-ground.
The founder says Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna will be a game changer for the sector. Once rules, regulations and procedures are simplified and streamlined, Akshamaala also intends to provide crop insurance products to the farmers.
Wide experience in IT & ICT came as big support for the company. It IT applications are easy to use and understand for the farmers. First of all, applications are completely in Hindi to ensure that the reach is good from North India perspective. Applications are based on knowledge and information derived from working with more than a million farmers. Based on Android platform,it reaches to the masses since it works on low cost smartphones. ‘ Unnati’ uses technology to track and create a platform for the multi-modal interactions with the farmers and the technology is a combination of
IVR, SMS, Web based and Mobile Apps. Trained youth at ‘Unnati’ are provided with mobile applications to manage the lifecycle of the farmers associated with them.They become advisors to the farmers and help them in their farming needs.
Further, farmers with smartphones are also provided a personalized mobile app using which they can manage their farms. Farmers can order any genuine input, manage commericals transaction between them and company.
Akshamaala’s technology platform engages farmers and retailers in rural India through mobile apps, IVR, SMS and Web based systems. It is currently being utilized to reach more than a million farmers and100,000 retailers. The company has big plans, going forward. It aims to benefit 6 lac farmers and generate employment for 60000 youth over the next 30 months across 300 districts in the country through UnnatiAgri-clinics. It also plans to digitize soil data on a pan-India basis.
Intelligent farming is the only way out for the farmers as it involves cost and incentive model which is almost missing in conventional methods. So with actionable intervention, Akshamaala solutions has shown a light to farmers. The exciting part of the programme is that it is easily scalable.