Making up around 60% percent of the country’s total land area and contributing around 14% of GDP, the agriculture sector remains a cornerstone of the Indian economy (tradingeconomics.com) (Confederation of Indian Industry). Yet the 14% that agriculture contributes to GDP is a number that is steadily declining, having comprised 30% of GDP in 1990-91, despite around 52% of India’s workforce still engaged in the agriculture sector (CII). Though the decline in agriculture as a percentage of total GDP points the growth in Indian GDP contributed by other spaces, particularly the booming IT space, the high concentration of Indians in rural areas means that India’s poor are not experiencing a comparable increase in income. And while the high rates of growth in the Indian economy are exciting, a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry indicates that a growth in agriculture by one percentage point is two to three times more effective in reducing poverty than the same increase in other sectors. In light of this finding, the demand for addressing the needs of the agriculture sector becomes even more critical for the nation’s development.
Many social enterprises are currently addressing the agriculture space, attempting to bring new technologies to rural areas to improve the efficiency and profitability of farmers. One such venture is agropedia, an online platform developed by the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), which serves as a one-stop hub for information on the agriculture ecosystem. The Wiki-style platform provides, among other things, a space for stakeholder interaction, best practice sharing, news updates, and an online library certified by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Agropedia has also collaborated with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a training and education center for farmer and rural entrepreneurs, to develop “Voice Krishi Vigyan Kendra” (vKVK), a mobile-based advisory system that sends SMS and voice-based messages to field officers and farmers around the country.
We had the pleasure of connecting with Akhil Gupta, a research engineer at agropedia, to find out more about how the platform is contributing to the development of the agriculture sector.
Q: Please tell us a little more about agropedia and your mission.
Agropedia is a unique Web 3.0 platform in the agricultural domain, as it is semantically organized and enabled so as to assist one in getting exactly what information or service she or he is looking for. It is the first of its kind in the world with the capability of searching semantically enabled information. agropedia seeks to address lacunae in Indian agriculture knowledge and applications, specifically the lack of content, organized information, and the extension of services, which are serious challenges. Along with the certified content in the library section (gyan dhara), it also allows space for interaction, knowledge co-creation (jana gyan) and social networking (chat, blog, forum, wiki) making the site dynamic and the learning participatory, integrating traditional wisdom with modern knowledge and social interactions. So, for any type of agricultural content you will find a special dedicated spot on Agropedia, be it our Package of Practices (text/voice), Dos and Don’ts, Crop Calendar, Library, Newsroom, Events, Agrowiki, Agroblog, Agroforum, Agrochat or Images. Any user who registers to the site is encouraged to either add, rate or comment on any content in all major Indian languages. All this is what makes Agropedia different from other sites.
Q: What was the biggest challenge and opportunity working in the Indian agricultural sector?
The biggest challenge is that connectivity and infrastructure are a problem. But this is to be expected, and it is improving rapidly.
The opportunity, on the other hand, was that in the agriculture domain, a platform where both tacit and certified knowledge can come together in order to create a semantically enabled state of the art “Archive” of agriculture content was missing and hence agropedia came into the picture. At the same time, Krishi Vigyan Kendras needed to be empowered with tools and technologies to improve their service delivery and self-improvement skills. Hence a mobile-based delivery platform and a Facebook-like knowledge-networking platform were envisaged in the form of vKVK and KVK-Net.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about Agroforum, Agrowiki, and Agroblog?
Agrowiki was developed by using the concept of ‘Wiki’, popularized by Wikipedia i.e. socially co-creating content. Everyone is able to search and create content regarding agriculture, and share it with his or her peers. Here one can also visualize and upload images in addition to text.
Agroblog is a section in Agropedia where one can record his or her agriculture-based experiences and stories. Blogs are generally a portion of a web site on which an individual records their opinions, information, etc., on daily basis and hence the name “AgroBlog” was devised to represent agricultural based opinions and experiences.
Agroforum is a crop based Question & Answer forum of Agropedia. Any registered user can write his query in Agroforum and our agri-experts will answer those queries. It is open to anyone, and users can participate in the forum anonymously.
Q: What is the biggest trend in Indian agriculture?
Agriculture, being a huge domain that covers about 60% of India and also having multiple stakeholders, has various emerging trends. It seems that among all these trends, voice based services delivered through cell phones are the most popular, as with our vKVK platform.
Q: What is your vision for Agropedia and what do you think will be the future of agricultural sector in India?
Agropedia seeks to address lacunae in Indian agriculture knowledge and application, specifically the lack of content, organized information, and extension services. We are providing agri-advisory services to farmers, so that in the coming years we will see a more developed agricultural sector in India.
Q: Anything else you would like to add for our readers?
Apart from the above stated services and platforms we also have delivered the below mentioned services in agriculture domain”
OpenAgri: an open access research repository for agriculture documents.
Agrotagger: Automatically generates keywords for any agriculture document.
Agroid: An application developed using open source android (Cell phone OS) wherein a local copy of Agropedia can run on a mobile phone without the use of internet.
Agropedia Appliance: The Agropedia app. In the coming years we will see India as more developed in the agricultural sector. Appliances act as a local server, and through intranet connection, more than one system can connect to it and access information. It is useful for places with limited connectivity.
vKVK: “Voice Krishi Vigyan Kendra” is an unique web and cell phone based multimodal agricultural advisory system. vKVK makes use of the existing vast extension network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in the country and allows the extension officers to send SMSs and voice based agro-advisories in local dialect to the farmer’s mobile phone.
KVK-Net: A platform for experts at KVK to share information and experiences. KVK experts join the community and write information on the wall, similar to Facebook.