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New mobile app for farmers to identify crop damage

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-05-2017 Yunus Y. Lasania

Hyderabad: In a bid to help farmers identify problems with their crops, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Air Tropics (ICRISAT), in association with Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies (PEAT), a German start-up, has developed Plantix: a plant damage diagnostic app.

All one has to do is to take a photo, and the app will scan its database for diseases and nutrient deficiency in the harvest. Currently, it will be used in the Telugu-speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and will later be introduced in other states.

Srikanth Rupavatharam, scientist, digital agriculture, Research Program Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT, said that the Plantix app will soon be launched in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Telangana is also showing keen interest in using it to help the farming community.

“So far, Plantix has more than one lakh downloads and about five lakh pictures taken by users. It was developed about five months ago after we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PEAT last year,” said Rupavatharam. The app was presented at the Information Communications Technology for Devlopment (ICT4D) conference in Hyderabad on Monday.

In order to make it location-specific and to cater to local needs, the app also uses geo-tagging, with which it can point locations. It also provides a five-day weather forecast to users. The challenge, however, was to create the database sourcing it locally and translation of scientific terminology in Telugu language, said Rupavatharam.

“Plantix also helps farmers buy the right pesticides they need for their plants. At times, they are sold things they don’t require due to lack of awareness,” Rupavatharam said.

At present, the app is available for use in Telugu and Hindi languages, and work to add Kannada is underway, he said.

The ICRISAT scientist also said that ICRISAT has been conducting several workshops in Andhra Pradesh with officials and ground-level staff from the agriculture department to help them teach farmers how to use Plantix app. “We have done it in six districts of AP and we are starting the same in Telangana now,” said Rupavatharam.

Telangana IT minister K. T. Rama Rao, who addressed delegates at the ICT4D event, also said that apps like the Plantrix are the need of the hour in the country. “Farmers are very much using technology and Telangana as a state has proven that it is tech-savvy. It is the people here who have been pushing to go digital,” he told reporters.

By the end of June, 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots will be installed in Hyderabad and another 3,000 subsequently, Rao said. The work is being undertaken in association with the Atria Convergence Technologies Pvt. Ltd. The IT minister also said that Hyderabad has about 17 start-up incubators at present.

About recent reports of lay-offs in the IT sector, Rao said the situation in India is the opposite and that it is an opportunity for India to innovate. “It is a cyclical thing and if you look at data from the last three years, this is normal as there are lay-offs every year. When we are pushed to a corner, it will force us to innovate. In fact, we need to create solutions for the rest of the world from here,” he said.

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