Gurugram startup The Krishi is touching the lives of lakhs of farmers through its AI-based mobile app
An astounding 58 percent of India’s population depends on agriculture for their daily bread. Despite this heavy dependence on the sector, many farmers across the country are reeling under a heavy burden of debt and are struggling to secure a decent standard of living.
According to a report published by policy think tank Niti Aayog in 2011-12, more than one-fifth of rural households with farming as their primary occupation was living below the poverty line. And, one of the main reasons behind this is the inadequate penetration of technology in the agricultural sector and the lack of awareness about modern practices among the farmer community.
The penetration of technology in the agricultural sector stands low.
Realising concerted efforts are required to bring the farming sector into the tech fold, Ashish Mishra and Siddhant Bhomia founded The Krishi in 2018. The Gurugram-based enterprise offers a one-stop digital platform in the form of a mobile application for farmers to obtain useful tips and information in order to boost both productivity and income.
The Kisan Network app was designed to include a slew of features, right from the location of nearby marketplaces or mandis, weather predictions, seed and fertiliser details, specifics on cropping techniques, government schemes as well as real-time insights on technical tools.
“The idea behind introducing such an app was to revolutionise the agricultural space in India by educating and enabling the farmers to improve their yields. Today, more than 6,00,000 farmers are benefitting from The Kisan Network app and we are sure that this number will go up in the coming months,” Co-founder Ashish tells SocialStory.
The dawn of a new beginning
After graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur as a computer engineer, Ashish went on to work with multiple companies in the IT sector. However, he always had a very strong association with the agricultural space.
Ashish Mishra (left) and Siddhant Bhomia (right) with a farmer.
“Since my maternal uncle was a farmer in the town of Shikohabad in Uttar Pradesh, I used to keep visiting his fields. During the course of this, I got to witness the process of cultivation from close quarters – from sowing seeds to harvesting crops. I even had an opportunity to interact with several farmers and that was when I realised that most of them had no knowledge about high productivity and modern farm practices. After thinking through it for many days, I decided to introduce a technological intervention to bridge the gap,” recollects Ashish.
To start with, Ashish began tracking a Facebook page called Bhartiya Kisan in order to gauge the online activity of farmers. The platform which was aimed at promoting people to have meaningful conversations around agriculture had 19,000 individuals as part of it. Under his observation, the membership count increased to as many as 56,000 within a span of few months.
Many farmers today have access to mobile phones as well as internet connectivity.
This heartening engagement clearly indicated that several farmers had an digital presence and were interested to make use of it. When Ashish spotted this, he set up The Krishi and began working towards introducing a mobile application, exclusively for farmers.
Though bootstrapped initially, Ashish and his team of 12 recently received a round of seed funding from an angel investor.
Inside the Kisan Network app
The Kisan Network app, presently available only in Hindi on Android phones, was designed by incorporating a simple interface so as to ensure ease of operation for farmers. Once the application is downloaded on the phone, all that the farmer needs to do to access the features is enter basic details to sign up.
The Kisan Network app is easy to use and only requires a simple registration.
The highlight of the application is its weather forecast component. Just by giving access to their location, farmers can obtain weather predictions. Not only is this useful to plan ahead and make informed decisions, but also avoid losses by adopting appropriate crop management techniques.
The Kisan Network app predicts weather conditions for farmers to plan ahead.
The Kisan Network also comprises a page where farmers can secure both text and audio-visual content about all the available government schemes that farmers can leverage, as well as modern agricultural practices, like mixed cropping, micro irrigation, and mulching. This was introduced to enable farmers to access up-to-date information and, in turn, increase the yield of their crops.
The app interface that gives information about the best way to cultivate different crops.
Another useful feature of the app is the identification of crop diseases. In case of crops being infested with pests or defects, the farmer can upload a picture of it to access data on the details of the problem including ways to resolve it.
The app gives an option to farmers to upload the picture of a crop and in turn identifies the type of disease it is infested with.
The app also shows the farmers the nearest mandi based on their need to buy seeds, fertilisers, and other materials. And, in case they need any other specific advice on guidance, the farmers have an option to get in touch with agronomists, academicians, and other experts through The Kisan Network.
“All the features of the application were well-thought-out by the team. We used a combination of deep learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to build them. The Krishi’s goal was to get farmers acquainted with all the possible technical resources they might need to be able to achieve sustained progress in their efforts,” says Ashish.
Empowering farmers all the way
Sunderlal Yadav, a 60-year-old farmer residing in the village of Kaliyaka located in Mewat, Haryana, was witnessing a slew of crop failures a few months ago. Though he weighed his options and tried different cultivations techniques, he was unable to rectify the problem. That was when he began using The Kisan Network app.
“I got in touch with a few experts through the application and figured that the issue was not with my cropping practice, but my choice of crops. Since the water available in the area was hard, only certain kinds of produce could be grown. From then on, I began sowing millets, wheat, and mustard instead of vegetables. All my crops are growing well now and I am sure that I will earn a good amount in this cycle,” Sunderlal says.
The Kisan Network app has assisted many farmers in their cultivation.
The Kisan Network app has assisted many such farmers and led to 35,000 acres of land being cultivated successfully across the country. The active participation of farmers has become evident with 1.2 lakh minutes being spent on the application every day.
“Farmers tend to work day and night to reap a good harvest and earn a decent amount of income. If we can leverage technology to educate and inform them, there is nothing like it. Our startup has already made the first move and we are now planning to ramp up our endeavour,” quips Ashish.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)