Encouraged by over 90% accuracy in monitoring crops and guiding farmers through technology, IFFCO Kisan, a value-added service provider, plans to expand a pilot project on advisory services, aimed at increasing quality, yield and income of farmers.
“Farmers need to know problems on three-four major issues like water requirement, seeds, fertiliser and pests and a timely information and intervention proved to have helped increase the productivity and value of crops,” said Sandeep Malhotra, chief executive officer (CEO) of IFFCO Kisan. About 1,500 farmers were covered under a pilot project for five crops — wheat, paddy, soyabean, cotton and ginger — in select districts of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, he said.
“We set up weather station in those fields, funded by Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) and Nabard and also sensors on the ground. That helped us monitor the soil conditions including nutrients and moisture and also crop growth using artificial intelligence. We also cross checked the advisory generated through technology with physical validation and there was 90-95% accuracy,” Malhotra told FE.
The technology intervention by IFFCO Kisan also allowed institutional buyers like food processing industries and exporters to trace the quality of the produce assessing through a QR code, he said, adding that this helped increase the value of the crops. Since exporters need commodities, which conform to certain standards in buyer countries and use right pesticides within prescribed limit (maximum residue level or MRL), the addition of traceability feature helped them to know details like where the crop was grown, what pesticides used how many times, etc.
Vishal Tiwari, a farmer in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh, wants to even pay a fee to get the consultancy services as he felt it increased the yield of paddy and wheat which reduced his input costs by 20%. Tiwari is managing farming in 40-45 acres, growing paddy, wheat, moong and vegetables. He said that while the consultancy provided by IFFCO Kisan was useful, it could have been much better if it also connected farmer like him with institutional buyers.
However, Satyendra Sahu, also from Jabalpur, did not find the consultancy service of IFFCO Kisan that useful. “What its representative said was already followed by me as I keep visiting nearby agriculture university regularly,” said Sahu, who grows paddy and wheat on around 35 acres. Like Tiwari, he also wants marketing assistance as he is unable to find buyers for organic paddy he started in 3 acres some four years back.
Malhotra said digitisation and geo-locational mapping of the associated farms as well as farmers for seamless flow of information would position the farmer producer organisation (FPO) as ready for future block chain ecosystem. His company has started partnering with FPOs even for buying products as it has forayed into manufacturing spices under ‘Swarnahar’ brand.