How traceability solutions lead to boost in farmer incomes
The farmers in every step of the way – deciding which crop to grow, certification of farm produce quality, market linkage, price discovery, etc require critical information to make the right decisions. Technology helps them do just that. Venkat Maroju, CEO, SourceTrace speaks with Express Computer
Which of your DATAGREEN solution suites is used most by the farmers? Do you provide them with an app? How is the solution managed at the farmer’s end?
Farm management, along with monitoring and evaluation, are the most used solutions in the DATAGREEN Suite. SourceTrace applications are mostly used by agribusiness. The field staff of the organizations are the main users of the app who work with farmers and collect data.
There are two solutions which the farmers can directly use: Advisory service and Market linkage. The farmer can post his query on the pest or disease found on his farm, he can take pictures and post voice messages through the app. The agronomist receives the alerts and responds to the farmers with his remedy.
The market linkage suite allows farmers to post his harvest quantities on the app, which gets uploaded to the portal where buyers can check and buy from the farmers. Farmers are given training on how to use the app. The app also functions in the local language.
Share some stats on how has your suite of tech improved the farmer’s productivity, income, selection of crops, improve bio-diversity of the farm?
In Sierra Leone, our certification solutions have helped increase the income of organic oil palm growers by 10% and also reduce the use of chemicals.
In India, organic Fairtrade cotton farmers are earning Rs.6.8 more per kilo of organic FairTrade cotton.
More than 30,000 Haryana horticulture farmers are directly linked with the buyers through the market linkage platform and it has helped reduce post-harvest losses and storage needs. Having an app to help manage pests and diseases has also helped reduce crop loss.
What are the most important characteristics of your traceability solutions ?
Compliance to food safety and certification standards are the two characteristics of SourceTrace’s traceability solution that helps it sell more. For example, the companies that procure food, fibre or flavouring items from our customers are assured that specific certification norms are being followed; that the transfer from procurement to delivery centres has been done within the right time and under appropriate conditions; that the produce that they have procured is as per the standards that they have set for the producer. Now more than ever, food safety is a dominant reason why our solutions are used. Food businesses and consumers want to know that food is naturally grown and safe to consume.
Our solution – DATAGREEN, is one of the most comprehensive offerings that bring all stakeholders such as farmers, exporters, logistics partners and end customers and all data points such as farmer and land profiles, certifications, chain of custody on one common platform. For example, one of our customers grows their spices as per the globally recognised GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). SourceTrace’s solutions have helped in managing backward integration operations right from farm and farmer registration, crop and farm inspection, input distribution and even traceability. The solution also monitors compliance with sustainable agricultural practices and the generation of dynamic reports and analytics. We have also implemented blockchain-based traceability solutions. That gives our platform a definite edge.
Do the farmers give any comparative benefits of having worked without any traceability solutions and now when they are working with you, what’s their reaction? Any particular farmer conversations that you can recollect ?
SourceTrace does not engage directly with farmers, but with farmer collectives, agribusinesses or govt agencies who work with groups of farmers. These organizations deploy our traceability solutions. The benefits do directly accrue to the farmers. For example, one of our customers, Chetna Organic, is using our traceability solutions for organic certification of cotton. They work with more than 8000 farmers across Telangana, Maharashtra and Odisha. SourceTrace’s traceability solutions were used as proof of Organic Fairtrade certification of its organically produced cotton, which is procured by ethically conscious global brands based in Europe and the U.S. This Fairtrade certification, for which proof is available as a result of using traceability has enabled these farmers to earn 15% premium pricing compared to the local market price. This increased income has also kept families together, as the younger generation no longer needs to migrate in search of work. These are some of the economic and social benefits of having deployed SourceTrace’s traceability solutions, for example.
Have you developed any apps for the farmers, in terms of where their produce is being sold and where it is getting more traction?
We have designed a farmer app for market linkage and pest and disease management for horticulture farmers in Haryana which was facilitated by the Horticulture department of Haryana state government.
SourceTrace’s market linkage solution brings producers and buyers onto a common platform, enabling buyers to procure fresh produce directly from the farmers. Some of the crops currently listed by the FPOs are potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, gourds, citrus fruits and cut flowers. Haryana Horticulture department encourages potential buyers to register on the SourceTrace portal. Once registered, the buyer, who could be an exporter, a small mandi buyer, or a local retailer, can look up the required produce using filters such as district, crop, variety, grade and FPO. The quantity of available produce will be displayed in real-time along with the contact details of the concerned person from the FPO. A prospective buyer can then directly get in touch with the FPO and close the deal.
Another difficult problem that the farmers face is the lack of timely advice on managing pest and diseases. SourceTrace’s farmer app also connects farmers with experts for crop-based advisory. To help farmers utilise the app effectively, SourceTrace has designed it keeping in mind the need for flexibility and easy access to experts. To this end, the app works in the local language Hindi as well. The farmer would first need to download and install the app on android mobile. Once registered, the farmer gets access to the pests and diseases menu. Pictures of major pests and diseases are preloaded into the system, in collaboration with and approval of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR). In case it matches with the pest/disease that the farmer encounters in the field, ready recommendations are available. If not, the farmer can click a picture of the affected plant and upload it with comments. This information hits the server and is directed to the expert or scientist from the agriculture department, who responds with an advisory delivered through SMS to the farmer.
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