GreenPHABLET developed to help small holder farmers

It provides farmers with services to improve productivity and find better prices

By Vijdan Saleem
Published: Thursday 01 January 2015

Photo courtesy ICRISAT

A non-profit based in Telangana, working on agricultural research and development, has launched a low-cost phone cum tablet computer—phablet—to benefit small holder farmers.

“GreenPHABLET will allow information to be precisely targeted to individual smallholder farmers, helping them to purchase inputs at a lower price and get a better price for their produce. It will also link them to markets which would help their overall growth.” said Dr William Dar, director general of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The customised GreenPHABLET, costing US $299, was commercially launched on December 29 at ICRISAT’s global headquarters in Telangana. The non-profit conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.

GreenPHABLET is dust- and shatter-proof, readable under bright sunlight; operates from -20°C to +60°C, its makers claim. The device has been developed by the ICRISAT Center of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture in collaboration with NUNC Systems, a company based in Hyderabad.

The device acts as a knowledge centre for a village. Info-entrepreneurs or extension professionals, equipped with tthe device, can serve as intermediaries, collecting information on registered farmers' landholdings and cropping practices, and questioning the database to pull information on their behalf, supporting informed regular decision-making and monitoring.

The device can enable farmers to benefit from contemporary information and communication technologies and expanding Internet connectivity in remote rural regions, said Dileepkumar Guntuku, global leader and director of ICRISAT Center of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture.

“It creates an ecosystem of services that will improve the quality and convenience of information dissemination and knowledge sharing among stakeholders,” he added.

“Real time information sharing between farmers and researchers enables farmers to improve crop productivity and researchers to collect accurate data in real time. This lays the road for future innovations in the field of agriculture,” said Sandeep Dega, senior director with NUNC Systems.

Special SIM card for individual needs

Along with the phablet, a special SIM card, GreenSIM, was also launched.

The GreenSIM can be used with any mobile phone. Apart from offering regular phone services to the farmers it also receives free messages about the weather and pest problems while sharing the most competitive agricultural input and crop prices. This has proven successful in pilot tests, claims ICRISAT.

Through the GreenSIM, a farmer will be entitled to receive five voice messages. These messages are in Telugu, covering various fields like agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, insurance, government policies and schemes, mandi prices, weather forecast, sericulture, pisciculture, crop loans, plant protection and health. Farmers can retrieve these messages by calling the helpline. It allows access to a help-desk for additional information.

In its first six trial months of operation, the GreenSIM programme has saved precious food supplies while improving farm incomes through timely messages to 40,000 rural subscribers so far, claims ICRISAT.

“In 171 villages across three states of India (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), farm incomes have gone up since farmers can now compare prices of agricultural crops and inputs offered by both the traditional local agent and, now, via the GreenSIM,” said Guntuku.

Farmers from Addakal, Mahbubnagar district in Telangana, southern India have experienced the benefits first hand. The area experienced unseasonal rainfall which destroyed the crops. But this year the farmers were informed prior to the rainfall, enabling them to harvest a few days ahead in order to save the crop.

GreenSIM also encourages entrepreneurship at the grassroots level. Interested youths, farmers, women and unemployed community members act as “info-entrepreneurs,” selling GreenSIM cards, earning Rs10 for each card and 2.3 per cent of every mobile recharge coupon sold to the farmers.
The GreenSim was created under a partnership between ICRISAT, mobile phone service provider Airtel, the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative and Kisan Sanchar Limited. The GreenSIM (previously put to trial as KrishiGyanSagar and KrishiVani) received the prestigious Flame Award 2013 from the Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI), and was cited for “showcasing innovative use of technology of the decade”.

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