Small and marginal farmers can now look forward to remote-sensing based precision farming advisory, free of cost. The Bengaluru-based startup ELAI AgriTech has started offering free precision farming advisory to farmers such as weather update, when to irrigate the farm, measures to be taken to tackle disease and pest attacks and nutrient management among others.
Presently, large farmers, who grow high value crops such as pomegranates and grapes have access to precision farming advisory, which is a charged service. Such advisory is derived from data gathered by sensors and IoT devices installed on their farms. Also, a section of farmers who are engaged in contract farming or part of FPOs are provided access to such precision advisory by their principals as it is largely sponsored.
ELAI has built a technology stack that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to generate farm and crop-specific advisory based on satellite images and ground level inputs provided by the farmers.
Farmers have to download the ELAI app, add their farm co-ordinates and provide field level data including the pictures of the plant/farm to get specific advisory, said Aditya Chaturvedi, Co-founder, ELAI Agritech.
“We are doing hyper-spectral imaging and using artificial intelligence, we have built models to sense the same things which IoT and sensor-based companies are doing currently. Without having a physical presence, we are offering the precision farming advisory to farmers, free of cost,” Chaturvedi said.
ELAI has started working with farmers in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat and plans to expand its operations to other States including Karantaka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu among others. At present, over 1,800 farmers are using ELAI’s crop advisory, which is being offered in six languages, and expectation is that about one lakh farmers will use the app over next couple of months, Chaturvedi said.
Through the app, ELAI also offers services such as live agronomist support, soil health analysis, plant and farm health, early warning system for disease detection, price prediction and warehouse location among others.
ELAI has partnered with APMC, Mahua in Gujarat to offer its application to the 50,000-odd members. Similarly, it is planning to partner with organisations like BAIF and Chaitanya Foundation that work with farmers, to expand its reach, said Manish Nair, Co-founder, ELAI.
Nair further said that ELAI currently uses image generated by NASA’s sentinel satellite once in every five days. “Once we scale up, we are aiming at having our own low orbit satellite, which can generate images on a daily basis,” Nair added.
Bootstrapped with an initial investment of ₹3.5 crore from strategic investors — Anand Nagarajan and Jital Shah — ELAI is in advanced stages of raising $1 million to scale up its operations. While ELAI would be offering free advisory to farmers, it aims to generate revenue from its B2B customers such as corporates, financial institutions and government agencies among others, Chaturvedi said.
Focus on small and medium farmers
Strategic investor, Jital Shah, who is also mentoring the ELAI team, said the small and medium farmers are the focus for the start-up, which believes that enabling them with right information at the right time would help them improve productivity.
While ELAI offers basic advisory services free of costs, it plans to charge for the premium services such as farm visits by its agronomists among others, Shah said. ELAI is also offering equipment as part of farm automation services for controlled irrigation and fertigation and intrusion detection systems, which will be charged, Shah said.
ELAI has set up some 50 model farms, where its technologies are deployed and also has categorised some 200 farmers using the app as Champion Farmers, to help the company expand its reach.
“Earlier, we had to visit the nearest Krishi Vigyan Kendra to get any advisory on pests and diseases. Now, I just need to take a picture of the plant/farm and upload it to get the advisory,” said Sachin Thorat, farmer in Shrirampur, Maharashtra, who grows cotton and sugarcane. Thorat said about 150-200 farmers in his neighbourhood have downloaded the ELAI app after he started using it in the past three months.