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Widespread Agricultural Distress: Hyderabad Social Entrepreneur Uses Big Data To Change Farmers’ Lives

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

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crops
The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea. Pixabay

At a time of widespread agricultural distress caused by successive droughts, unremunerative farming and debt-trapped rural economies, a young man with his mobile app is showing how change can be brought in the life of farmers at the grassroot level.

In 2016, V. Naveen Kumar, who had no personal knowledge of agriculture, was so moved by the suicide of a farmer in a village in his native Warangal district of Telangana that for the next three months he ran around like a man possessed, meeting farmers to understand their problems. He interacted with agri-entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to find if there is a way he can bring some change in the lives of the financially besieged farmers.

Today, over 1.24 lakh farmers in Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh use his mobile app NaPanta to avail a host of services, all free of cost. And this MBA degree holder is satisfied that he is contributing his mite to bring some change in the way they practise agriculture.

NaPanta, which was started in June 2017, saw, surprisingly, thousands of farmers download the app. The launch of the pocket-friendly Reliance Jio and the boom in use of WhatsApp brought more people on the platform.

crops

While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.
Pixabay

The app, which provides all farming-related information and communication in Telugu on a single platform, is significantly reducing the time and cost of cultivation for a farmer in real time.

“I am confident that if farmers follow my platform, they will be able to save 20 per cent on expenditure and get 10 per cent extra yield. We can make 30 per cent difference,” V. Naveen Kumar, Founder and Managing Director, NaPanta, told IANS.

While the country has many apps to help farmers, there is no single app covering the entire gamut of agriculture activity ranging from selection of crops to locate the market offering highest price for their produce. From advisory services and weather information to market prices and e-commerce, the digital platform offers the comprehensive agri eco-system.

The app has tools like crop expenditure (which helps farmers track their expenses in an organized manner), crop protection, weekly agro advisory, agri forum, market price, agri e-commerce, crop insurance, weather, food processing technologies, and soil testing information.

A farmer can also buy or rent an agri-equipment as per the requirements of his crop cycle and can also sell his produce for the highest price without any middleman.

The app also allows farmers to access real-time and dynamic information pertaining to daily market prices of 300 agri-commodities across over 3,500 markets, along with three-year price trend.

Currently available in Telugu and English, NaPanta App provides complete pest and disease management details, covering 90 crops and with suggestions about 3,000 pesticide products.

Naveen Kumar, who earlier worked as a Credit Relationship Manager in ICICI Bank and later as Credit Risk Manager with HDFC Bank before co-founding apnaloanbazaar.com, a retail loan distribution services portal, says he is trying to build core competence among the farmers.

According to him, for all their requirements, small and marginal farmers depend on third parties like distributors of the companies.

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.”

With agriculture extension officers of the government more focused on clerical related activities rather than extending actual help, he believes there is a huge gap between farmers and the government initiated activity.

“Farming is not depending on a single advisory. It is a combination of various services. We identified all that a farmer needs in day to day life and ensured that he has easy access to the advisory so that whenever he gets a doubt, he can get it cleared then and there,” he said.

Naveen said several states including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were showing interest in the platform. The app will be available in Hindi and Tamil in June-July this year. “If everything goes well in next 3 to 5 years, we will have our presence in 7-9 states,” said Naveen, who heads a five-member team.

While the information on app will clear regular doubts of farmers, for specific doubts a farmer can ask questions to a panel which includes agriculture scientist and experts.

NaPanta, an incubatee of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) also gets the institute’s help in business activity, reaching the farmers and engagement with agri-input companies.

farmers

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.” Pixabay

The startup, which can sustain for next six months on its own, is receiving proposals from different investment companies and Naveen says he will go with whoever is close to his idea.

With huge amount of data being generated on the digital platform, Naveen embarked on building big-data architecture with crowd-sourcing information. It is building database with information on major crops in a particular area, major insects which affect a crop, cropping system, sequential cropping model, pesticides and where the farmers sell their produce.

Also Read: Strict Conservation Laws Result in Eviction of Hundreds of Indigenous Karen People in Thailand

He is confident that this data will be a goldmine in the coming years.

“This kind of crowd-sourcing information is not available in the agriculture sector in India. We are getting information from actual farmers and not third parties.” (IANS)

Next Story

How does a Cotton Picker Work?

Here's everything you need to know about a cotton picker

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Cotton picker
A cotton picker can do the work of hundreds of field laborers in a short amount of time. Pixabay

A mechanical cotton picker is a complex and large piece of machinery designed to do the work of hundreds of field laborers in a short amount of time. It has a lot of moving parts to it that are extremely important. Cotton pickers generally come in two types, though some newer models will combine features of both, as well as cotton harvesting machines, which used to be separate devices. The spindle picker, a machine that uses rotating spindles to pull off cotton from the boll, was the first successful picker and remains one of the most common types of cotton pickers. The cotton stripper-type picker, a machine that removes the cotton from the boll and separates other components of the cotton plant, is used with success in areas such as Texas and Arkansas. Both types of pickers substantially reduce the time and human effort needed to pick cotton and are invaluable as labor-saving devices.

What is a Cotton Picker?

The two major types of cotton pickers work in significantly different ways and often include features of other less complex machines that were once themselves separate from the picking machines. The traditional spindle picker works through the movement of moisturized spindles that pull the cotton off the plant while spinning, allowing the cotton to neatly be removed from the spindle after a sufficient amount has been collected. The cotton is then removed by a doffer and blown towards a basket for collection to be placed in a module builder, a separate machine for baling the cotton. Because of their “soft” method of collection, cotton pickers can be used throughout the picking season and generally do not pull more than mature cotton.

Cotton Picker
A cotton picker is a very complexly designed machinery. Pixabay

By contrast, a cotton stripper, used in areas where only a single harvest can be reasonably expected or multiple picks are infeasible, actually tears the entire cotton boll, seed cotton and all, and is useful for harvesting not only the seed cotton but also the cotton by-products. A stripper is generally used at the end of a harvest when the growing season is almost over because it completely removes the cotton– including the immature seeds. At the end of the season, there is presumably no more picking to be done for the year so it’s okay if the other seeds are disrupted. These machines are popular primarily in Texas and Arkansas, and have a long history there, as will be discussed later.

While module builders have been used over the decades for baling cotton, newer models of both types of machines often include baling equipment built-in, thus reducing the need for a module builder. For smaller growing areas, often a single cotton picker can do most of the work needed for picking, harvesting, and baling cotton.

When Was the Cotton Picker Invented?

Rembert and Prescott’s 1850 model of the cotton stripper represented the beginning of a long evolution in the development of cotton picking machines. The earliest models of cotton pickers were often good at harvesting plants, but not the seed cotton. Due to this, John Rust’s 1932 spindle picker revolutionized the industry in terms of picking seed cotton. His 1936 demonstration of the spindle picker led to a large-scale revolution in the industry of cotton picking, and the spindle picker remains the most well-known model of cotton picking machinery today.

Meanwhile, cotton strippers had a divergent history with an identical origin point, one that goes back to the earlier attempts in developing harvesting machines before Rust’s spindle picker and closer to Rembert and Prescott’s original design. The first cotton stripping patent was given to John Hughes in 1871, and the machines became a staple in areas such as West Texas.

Because cotton strippers could remove the whole plant, they obviously had utility for more than just the soft seed cotton. The first cotton strippers were actually mule driven and existed before the great depression, often mistakenly called “cotton sleds” because they were placed on sled runners. But it was not until 1931 that Deere Corp began selling mechanical cotton strippers on a large scale. The earliest stripping machines were not commercially successful, but the rise of cotton stripper sales took off after the Great Depression, with John Deere continuing as one of the leading producers of cotton strippers.

Where Can You Get Parts for Your Cotton Picker?

Because of the complexity involved with mechanical cotton pickers, breakdowns are usually for serious and identifiable reasons. If a part fails on a cotton picker, it’s best to go with experts who understand how cotton pickers work and what goes wrong. Mechanical failures are often due to parts that need to be rebuilt or replaced. Due to the nature of outdoor work, there are a number of ways things can go wrong even with the best cotton pickers available. When parts need to be replaced and pickers need to be fixed, it would do cotton harvesters good to contact Certi-Pik, USA.

Cotton picker
Such machines are used to save time and reduce human effort. Pixabay

Long regarded as experts in cotton pickers, cotton strippers, and other cotton harvesting machines, Certi-Pik, USA is well-known in the United States and internationally as a leader in replacement parts for all types of cotton pickers and stripping machines. Not only does Certi-Pik understand the nature of cotton picker failure and diagnosis, but they also carry a full line of parts and supplies for cotton pickers to get your machine up and running again. Their knowledgeable staff will be able to help you get the parts you’re looking for.

Certi-Pik proudly carries complete sets of parts for all of the top mechanical cotton pickers and strippers, including John Deere and Case IH, and CNH model harvesters. Certi-Pik carries a full line of replaceable parts for your cotton picker that includes parts such as cam tracks, nuts, hoses, scrapping plates, picker and grid bars, gears and more.

They can also custom build parts for your cotton picker, as well as rebuild parts when needed if they are not readily available. Cotton machine owners all over the United States (and the world) trust Certi-Pik to have the parts they need when something goes wrong with their machine.

Also Read- Ways to Make Money in the Stock Market

Final Thoughts

If it’s not obvious yet, modern cotton harvesting machines are big, have a complex history, and a lot of parts. The beauty of the modern machine is that it is capable of doing the work of what used to require hundreds of human laborers (the Rust model in 1932 could replace 75 workers with one row of cotton: modern pickers can work with six rows of cotton at once, and strippers can handle up to eight). Little more than a century ago, the idea of a machine capable of clearing an entire cotton harvest on its own was no more than a dream.