Thursday, 5 August 2010

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 :)


  1. Hi Siva, as usual an insightful commentary on the emerging Indian agricultural ecosystem by a seasoned expert who has pioneered most of what he talks!
    My attention kept getting drawn to the section on "relevant technology". I still think that there is a tremendous opportunity (gap) to bring down ICT costs especially converging open source and mobile technologies. I am sure you're already aggregating the next generation ideas on this - would love to engage more with you on this topic as & when it assumes greater momentum.

    Keep up the great work! And yes, look forward to e-Choupal 4.0 soon!!

    Kind regards,
    Arun (@ntarunkumar)

  2. i have to say you are great visionary to people of india and i can only say god has blessed me that i have a great gift of being sharing with you sir,hats off for what you have said and always will be

    you have a vision of using tech in agriculture and absolutely brilliant idea

  3. Hi Shiv

    Great perspective and i enjoyed reading it…. though hearing you is always a pleasure. Our practice at the field level with farmers while initiating sustainable business models we learnt that there is a need to bring another dimension; what we call 'Co-creation'. one needs to sincerely and systematically involve farmers as a partner is creating by genuinely considering them as partner not end beneficiary. The knowledge and insights of farmers in creating a sustainable model are more important than of other stakeholders


  4. Commodities Exchange architecture of risk management and counter party guarantee coupled with de-mutualised nature has opened up new vistas in e-markets for commodities. These spot exchnages like NCDEX Spot Exchange(NSPOT) fulfills all the conditions of C-Rose.
    With a de-mutualised market interested in 100% physical delivery and bringing all eco-system partners in one chain would be the next logical step after pioneering efforts like e-choupal.

    These are real e-markets and hence the challenge is to bring on varied market participants on to its platform at the earliest.

  5. Many thanks for your kind comments, Arun :) Let's meet and exchange notes, when I next visit Chennai.

  6. Thanks Pavan & Anirban :) Much appreciate

  7. Thanks Kirti :) You are right about the importance of co-creation. In the C-ROSE template, co-creation is part of Collaborative Ecosystem; it's not aptly articulated. Thanks for bringing it out.

    In his forthcoming HBR article and his new book, Venkat Ramaswamy illustrates how ITC eChoupal co-creates with farmers.

  8. @Rajesh: Have NSPOT volumes picked up now? Which commodities are more popular?