Using mobile technology to combat pests and disease

Smart Krishi Nepal is an ICT based startup company and we disseminate timely agri info on good agricultural practices (GAP) for smallholder farmers across Nepal through web application, mobile application and social media channels. Not only do we help farmers with genuine information and professional training, we also help them to find the right deals for agri input and their products through an eCommerce solution.

Our team comprises Anil Regmi (Founder/ICT expert), Bikapla Neupane (PhD, Human Computer interaction), Niranjan Pandey (Agricultural officer), Roshan Rijal (android developer), Arpan Shrestha (software developer) and myself Manish Kumar Pal. I am currently working as a Crop Development Officer  at the Agricultural Ministry, Province 2, Government of Nepal. I am also pursuing Msc in Entomology at Agriculture and Forestry University. My involvement in Smart Krishi is from its early days and I look after extension.

Penetration of data connections and smartphones is increasing (10 million smartphone users) among farmers; they can get actionable, relevant and decision-critical content in a significantly more engaging and powerful manner. Our vision is to be an leader in South Asia on #ICT4Ag domain and minimize the gap between skilled and unskilled farmers by providing necessary solutions. Not only do we use a digital platform to inspire new people on agriculture, but we also provide commercial training for farmers and newcomers as well. Our target is 500k downloads and 1 million social media followers by 2020.

Scenario and Target Locations:
The flow of information to farmers concerning plant protection and support system and other aspects of farming is severely limited (now also affected by federal system).

Timely communication and provision of the right information are among the critical needs for deployment of appropriate plant health management solutions to protect crop yields and farmer access to markets in developing countries like Nepal. One of the main sources of information to farmers are dealers (agrovets), who are motivated by profit and sales. We have so many cases reported to us where agrovets are recommending 2-3 different pesticides and fungicides just because they are unsure about the disease. This kind of uncertainty not only add financial burden to farmers but also risk damaging crops severely.

Multiple reports from Nepal revealed that more than 75% of farmers in districts like Kavre, Morang, Chitwan, Siraha, Sindhuli, Dhading, Makawanpur, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Kaski, Dang, Banke, Kailali, and Kanchanpur, engaged in commercial vegetable production area use heavy amount of chemical pesticides to control insect pests in their vegetable (Atreya, 2013; Vaidya et al. 2017; Rijal et al. 2018). The trend of pesticide use is increasing in Nepal by about 10-20 percent per year and expenses on pesticide in market oriented vegetables and fruit production has been a major cost factor (Jasmine et al., 2008).

Our Solution
Our proposed solution is to strengthen the support system for smallholder farmers with improved (existing) mobile app which is being used by more than 200k (32k monthly active users) farmers across Nepal. We already have a large database of disease and pests (based on the data/photo of disease from farmer) in our app (updated regularly based on the queries from farmers, agriculture officers and students directly from field). Being the largest agricultural network here in Nepal, we also want to help the government particularly with extension (different projects and programs) on plant protection measures whether be it location specific crop calendar integrated with suitable variety, informative contents ( videos, social media posters/designs).

Using machine learning and AI, our online support system (online message system) ensures a prompt response to farmer regarding their plant health related problems and ultimately reduces the use of harmful insecticides and pesticides. We will conduct a live video session (with plant protection officers) based on the query from app regarding disease and pests for upcoming season and promote via social media channels (we have more than 700k social media followers and 1 million weekly post reach).

We believe, the brand value and market presence will makes it easy to reach to farmers and empower them without leaving the field. By leveraging potential of social media we can reach targeted location and demographics easily at cost effective way.

Starting from two people we are now six members. We have come a long way in this field. Being an agriculturist myself, I envision our startup to empower all those small holder farmers with ICT tools and partner with different stakeholders. We have already worked as extension partner with HELVETAS Nepal, Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project (PMAMP),ShreeKisan Innovation Hub, RIMS Nepal/ Welthungerhilfe, NIC Asia Bank (Access to finance domain) and other 12 leading agribusiness companies who work on quality seeds, inputs and machineries. I believe our solution can definitely bridge the gap.

Manish Kumar Pal, Nepal


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