Interview – FarmERP plans to Uberize India’s small vegetable growers

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Photo by Mayur Deshpande | Unsplash

Farm ERP co-founder Sanjay Borkar  spoke to Indoasiancommodities.com about their recent efforts to use the same principles as Uber to create an efficient and sustainable value chain for small vegetable growers. His company has been using Enterprise Resource Planning to help the farming community just like any other business.

What is your plan for Uberization of vegetable growers ?

Uberization as a whole has brought in lot of predictability in domestic travel.Previously you did not know how much money you would pay, what route you will be taking. But now it is very simple, you book an Uber and step into the car and you know how much you will need to pay and what is the ETA. It has helped our lives become more predictable.

We thought of the same concept can be applied for small vegetable growers. More than 80% of the farming is done by small holders in Southeast Asia. Now looking at India and surrounding countries small farm holders population is high. Now they struggle to get information on time. It is very tough for a farmer growing one acre of tomato to get the advice from an expert on time, when there is a pest attack or a disease attack.

Sanjay Borkar 

For small vegetable holders it is very important to have consistent profits. Now, if he misses that on one crop then the cash flow goes for a toss and that piles up and he may have to take loans. If losses happen for 3-4 crops then he faces a tough time.

What we thought is why not map his entire journey digitally and the first objective is to make things predictable for him and the second objective is to link him to a buyer. What we did is we identified a group of farmers, one is a Farmer Producer Community called High Tech, who have farmers growing only vegetables and grapes.

They are in Nashik. We contacted them and started mapping all their activities. Now another grower group is near Pune district near Junnar. In Junnar-Naraingarh area there are many farmers here who are growing vegetables and supplying to Pune and Mumbai. Here we ha e identified organic vegetable growers.

We mapped their entire activities.from Geo tagging to land resources and then we give them a package of practices over their mobile phones as well as day to day practices through messaging. Using Artificial Intelligence we started simultaneously providing climate change advisories. How much water to be given today ? What is the nutrition to be given ? What is the pesticide to be given ? They would get exact numbers.

What are your plans for the next season?

Now in the next season what we will do in the next season we will add water resources on the field so that we can tell them specifically that you run your pump for one hours or two hours on the field. 

Another  thing we have done is identify buyers like Reliance Fresh and Amazon and linked them to farmers. Farmers started sending availability of their crops — next week I will be getting this much chillies or tomatoes in my farm.

The buyer gets a complete dashboard picture of what he can get next week. We also tell growers what kind of quality that buyers are looking for. 

How are you training farmers to use technology?

Our field officers go there and help capture the information. Not all farmers are tech savvy and can use our apps. Our challenge now for the next season is to bring all the farmers to use the apps rather than our field executives keying in the information. The second challenge we face is to send orders from farmers to vendors for their service and making sure that vendors satisfying them. We hope to overcome this in the next season. 

What is the outcome of your efforts?

We did this because typically some of our clients  do this and do it in bits and pieces. So we thought why not come.into this and show how to to do this as a whole process. We could actually help farmers sell their produce. We never got into this area earlier except during the pandemic . We are now thinking of scaling up this model. This is the need of the hour – people really want to have all this on to a single platform so that everybody benefits.

We have now also approached some micro credit companies and asked them to be part of this effort -; whether they could provide.some short term capital to farmers. We are also approaching an insurance company as that is not a product that many like to offer vegetable growers because these are short duration and no one likes to take much risk. But we are trying to build a model around that.

How many farmers have enrolled for your product?

Till this point of time we have 89 farmers because we have just started and not made it very open. We have made it selective because we want to make it a success. So that the FPOs and buyers we have selected we could build a model for them. That has been done now. We have identified and plugged the gaps. Now we can scale that up and add more Farmer Produce Organizations.

I have starred talking to an FPO in Assam and they have Shawn interest. In the Northeast what we found is that the turmeric there has high content of curcumin. Some of them are vegetable farmers and some are  turmeric growers.

Will the recent changes in the law that enables farmers in one state to sell their produce elsewhere help your efforts?

I think that is the thing which has boosted the idea, though it came to us before the farm bill. But I think it will help in the longer run because there will be a lot of private parties coming into the picture. There will be lot of transactions happening outside of APMCs and they all will be requiring these digital tools. It will help farmers get better rates and middle or buyers to get access to the farmers

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

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