Friday, June 10, 2011

Mobile Service Helping Indian Farmers

A new mobile service is helping Indian farmers weather tough agricultural times, working to lower the suicide rates of those who struggle to make ends meet.

The new service, called "mKrishi," offers farmers in India information on everything from weather and crop diseases to where they can sell their produce, making their difficult lives a little bit easier. Arun Pande of Tata Consultancy Services' (TCS) Innovation Labs and his team are still perfecting mKrishi, which has so far debuted in four Maharashtran villages.
MKrishi enrollees use cameras equipped with cell phones and specialized software to snap and send in pictures of their crops. Experts from agricultural universities and companies then analyze the photos with a web application, offering instant advice to the farmers via text messages and voicemail on what pesticides to use or weather to expect.
For the weather reports to work, farming villages must set up sensor networks and weather stations to provide experts with localized data. Crop disease forecasting is more difficult because the sensors cannot measure all the various factors needed to predict when plants will become ill or suffer an insect attack. Still, mKrishi won MIT's Technology Review Grand Challenge this year for alerting farmers whenever possible to the threat of crop diseases.
"We expect preventive measures will reduce the cost of expensive pesticide once the disease is set in," Pande said.
MKrishi has so far helped cotton, grape, potato and soybean farmers in four villages to increase productivity and decrease pesticide use. The Grape Growers Association, fertilizer manufacturers and NGOs are now eager to use mKrishi, spurring Pande's team into talks with each group over potential partnerships.
If mKrishi had been developed earlier, it might have saved the nearly 20,000 recorded Indian farmer suicides in 2009. As the corporate chemical industry began to control seed supplies starting in 1997, prices rose and many farmers found they couldn't afford to grow anything. As it stands today, one Indian farmer kills himself every 30 minutes for want of any avenue to make an adequate living.
MKrishi can't heal the plight of Indian farmers overnight, but it may at least prevent them from ending their lives in despair. This in turn could encourage the next generation to stay and farm the land rather than leaving it to become migrant workers in a big city.
"Today's rural youth is aware of the prosperity in cities through print and television media, and they're moving away from the family farms, which are being sold off," Pande says. "This is creating a vicious cycle of reduction of farm land, fewer farmers to till the land, lower income from farms, migration of rural families to cities."
This cycle continues to spawn slums in over-crowded cities, hasten the loss of traditional culture and separate family members from one another. If mKrishi succeeds in making farmers' jobs easier, it could potentially help reverse this trend, drastically improving both India's economy and its society.source

1 comment:

  1. Nice Post... Now Indian Chemical Industries manufacturing agricultural products like Nano Fertilizers. That helps farmers in agriculture.