Apps poised to alter agro-services industry mindset

Lead Consultant

In recent times smart phones have become an integral part of our daily lives. Irrespective of our gender, location, income profile or other such demographic differences, the smart phone is an all-pervasive accessory. Our topic looks at the smart phone as an enabler for conducting business and not just as an applications-rich tool for reducing day to day humdrum.

There are about 720 million mobile phone users in India of which there are 320 million rural phone users. Add to this another statistic – 29.8 % of all mobile phone users are smart phone users – and we get a substantial smart phone user base in the non-urban sector – 96 million.

While the use of apps such as – Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action (SRIJAN) and SwayamShikshanPrayog (SSP) are revolutionizing rural life on the social side; we need to come up with solutions that can use the humungous data being generated every day on the farm fields.
Farming applications

1. Disease Detection and Diagnosis
In this system, the smart phone works by capturing images of plant leaves that are being investigated for diseases, then preprocessing and transmitting the processed images to remote laboratories. Leaf images are segmented by a clustering algorithm into three areas: background, non-diseased portion and diseased portion(s) of the leaf. The images are then cropped only to the location of the largest diseased patch and transmitted over any available network to lab experts for further disease identification. “Gene Z”, an app developed in Michigan State University,works on similar lines

2. Fertilizer Calculator
In this system, the app evaluates the color level of plant leaves and recommends the number of fertilizer bags required with specific ratios of nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium mandated.”Fertulator” is an app that works in this manner, helping farmers make buying decisions

3. Soil Study
In this system, soil color information is read from images taken by built-in digital cameras on smart phone and processed using image processing techniques to transform RGB color space into colors in XYZ and HVC spaces. Then, a mathematical model can predict topsoil organic matter and carbon content based on geographical data along with accompanied soil images. “Soiltestpro” is an app which works in the domain of soil testing. This app, however, does not provide solutions on the go.

4. Water Study
The quality of irrigation water is dependent on total salt content, the nature of salts present in solution and the proportion of Na to Ca, Mg, bicarbonates and other cations. “iDee App” is an application that allows for submission of records of river conditions in the form of a geo-referenced photograph of the river together with assessments of water clarity, flow speed and algae cover.
5. Crop Water Needs Estimation
In this system, crop water needs are analyzed to supplement water loss occurring from evapo-transpiration. “PocketLAI” is an app which uses Leaf Area Index to calculate crop water requirements. Based on the results received, farmers can adjust their watering/irrigation tools.

6. Crop Produce Readiness Analysis
Herein, smartphone cameras are used to capture pictures of fruits under white and UV-A light so thatripeness levels of green fruits could be determined.On doing this, farmers can segregate their produce into different ripeness levels, in bulk, before sending it to the market. “The Growing Degree Days” application measures the maturity of your crop.
What we can do

Force.com is a platform as a Service (PaaS) product designed to simplify the development and deployment of cloud-based applications and websites. Developers can create apps and websites through the cloud IDE (integrated development environment) and deploy them quickly to Force.com’s multi-tenant servers.

1. Offline Access
Internet connectivity is very patchy in rural parts of India, hence this feature of Salesforce gains utmost importance. With offline access turned on, the user will be able to access his records, reports and dashboards. The app can be further customized to work on the data generated as discussed above and provide meaningful output even in the offline mode.

2. Field Force
Field sales reps are responsible for generating business as well as act as the eyes and ears of the business to keep a tap on market sentiment about the products being sold. This would be applicable to the agro-based industries as well. All the apps we have discussed above or those that are usually found, in majority, work on providing the farmer information or enable him as a decision enabler. However,we see a role reversal, and the field sales reps if provided with all or some of the features that have been discussed above, can in practice ensure solution selling, which is substantially lacking in the present scheme of things

3. Wave Cloud
Using the powerful feature of wave analytics cloud, we can quickly bring any third-party app data, public data or such similar data into the data store. As a result, the end user can ask any question, not just those baked into a pre-defined data model that takes months to develop and days or weeks to change after the fact.

To conclude, mobile technology is the way ahead for improving sales and service for the agriculture servicing industry as well as increasing agricultural productivity. What is of more importance is a shift that needs to be made in the way selling is happening at present. The mode needs to be proactive rather than reactive. That can happen only if the equipment, raw materials’ providers and other such producers become partners of the farming community rather than considering them as mere end-consumers of their respective products.

 
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