eAgriculture: Perspective to Practice

Earlier today, I chaired a Panel Discussion on “eAgriculture: Perspective to Practice” at eIndia 2010. The Panel was quite diverse, consisting of the Knowledge & Information Management Officer of FAO Rome, the Director of Kerala IT Mission, the Dean of Bombay Veterinary College, Dean of Raichur Agri University, a Project Manager of C-DAC who is implementing the e-Village project in Arunachal Pradesh and a Director of a Farmers Organisation from Uttarakhand.

I opened the discussion, by saying that the role of ‘e’ across the whole agricultural value chain has been well visualised. Several models also have been successfully demonstrated. For over a decade now. ‘e’ played central a role in information generation, information processing and information exchange in those idea. ‘e’ filled the gaps in the crucial linkages across the value chain starting with research, and moving on to education, extension, crop management, supply chain management and post harvest management in those models. ‘e’ increased productivity, improved efficiency, reduced risk and delivered value through traceability in the pilot projects. Yet large scale operationalisation of these ideas is far from satisfactory, in the sense that the intended benefits haven’t reached even a fraction of the needy farmers. So, the question to the Panel was “What does it take to translate the Perspective to Practice in eAgriculture?”

At the end of the session, I synthesised the experiences and case studies shared by the Panel into a model that I called “Pentagon”, named after the five dimensions of what it takes to translate the perspective to practice in eAgri… The acronym of this model turned out to be C-ROSE, taking the first letter of each of the dimensions!

Collaborative Ecosystem of several stakeholders, that can stitch an integrated end-to-end solution for the farmer instead of each player targeting a sliver and increasing the costs of friction. An ecosystem that institutionalises a Knowledge sharing network for collaborative learning to hasten evolution of the practice.

Relevant Technology that is easy to use, in local language; may be a speech interface in addition to the text. A technology that is robust to withstand the challenging physical conditions and make up for the infrastructural deficiencies.

Orientation that doesn’t view outreach to the farmer just as a last mile challenge, but more importantly, sees it as a first mile challenge to appreciate the individual needs of all the farmers. This can help in delivering personalised solutions. Given the heterogeneity of farmers’ circumstances, such an approach is vital.

Sustainable business models that can be scaled to reach out to “all” the farmers, not just a prototype here or a pilot there. Scale doesn’t necessarily mean that one initiative needs to reach “all” the farmers; multiple local enterprises can replicate a proven model and scale out to saturation.

Enabling Environment, most critically the Policy environment that fosters competition and that does not distort markets. The reversal of reforms in APMC Act, Essential Commodities Act or Forward Markets Regulation halted the roll out of ‘e’ solutions more than, possibly, any other dimension mentioned in the model.

Happy to incorporate any other dimension that any of you would like to add, and change the shape of this model. A Hexagon or even a Septagon? The end goal is to be Bang-on 🙂