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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Intelligent Advisory System for Farmers- A Quicker Solution to Farmer's Problems

- Canning S Shabong
Canning S Shabong, IASF Co-ordinator, Meghalaya and Ranjan Yengkhom, CDAC Mumbai giving a demo to farmers of East Khasi Hills district

Intelligent Advisory System for Farmers(IASF) is an advisory system for answering queries related to farming activities carried out in Northeastern states of India. The system can be extended with inclusion of any other crops from any State of India. The project covers five major farming activities (Insect Management, Disease Management, Weed Management, Rice Variety Selection and Fertilizer Management) which required expert’s advice relating to diagnostic and remedial measures.
IASF aims to improve and strengthen existing agriculture extension services by integrating Information Technology with mobile services. Sharing of knowledge among experts, farmers, students and research scholars are very important to the growth of the agriculture sector. The farmers’ queries are stored in a database along with its relevant solution (called CASE) in database. A farmer can ask a question related to the above mentioned farming activities supported by IASF and the system automatically produces a highly probable solution from a large database containing collection of queries and expert opinion given by a team of agriculture experts and subject matter specialist. IASF is also a self learning system that acquires new problems and corresponding solutions. The system can help farmer in critical times where access to an agricultural expert is not forthcoming or due to unavailability of agriculture extension worker in the field. The system is specially useful in States and rural areas where the ratio of extension worker to farmer is very wide.
This system networks registered agricultural experts from various agricultural domain like Plant Protection, Horticulture, Agriculture Extension, Marketing, Agronomy, Soil Science, Seed Technology etc. from the Department of Agriculture, Government of Manipur; Department of Agriculture, Government of Meghalaya; Central Agriculture University (CAU), Imphal; Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) of Meghalaya in playing an active role as contributor and knowledge engineers for building the knowledge component of the advisory  systems.
The main objectives of IASF are:
  • Provide improved services to the farming community through the use of ICT.
  • Advice and help farmers to solve problems related to their farming activities. Otherwise, they need to contact agricultural experts and private extension workers.
  • Providing vital and generic information to farmers so that they get periodic alerts on important/useful tips, ideas, knowhow etc.
  • Updates farmers on latest technology in Agriculture sector for improved productivity and quality farming.
  • Developing an advisory system which can be extended with any other types of crops in any State of India.
  • Improving agricultural extension service by using mobile services so that farmers can send queries about their farming problem from their mobile device.
  • To develop an educational materials to be used by students for their practical experience with real case scenario.
 Beneficiary of the Project:
  • FARMER:Farmers from North East Region of India mainly farmers from Manipur and Meghalaya: Farmers can get direct or indirect advice from agricultural experts for his/her query related to their farming activities covered by IASF. Farmers can also communicate their problems with agricultural experts by sending an SMS text message in a predefined format.
  • AGRICULTURAL EXPERT: Experts can advise to farmers’ query from anywhere using Internet or mobile SMS. Experts can also share knowledge among themselves by suggesting to other expert's advice given to farmers.
  • DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE(DOA): DOA can broadcast periodic alerts and useful information to registered users via mobile SMS and email. Department of Agriculture can use IASF as a tool to train new officers and extension functionaries.
  • STUDENT: One of major objective of IASF is developing educational materials to be used by students of agriculture for their practical experience with real scenario.
  • RESEARCH SCHOLAR: research scholars will be able to study diversity in farmers’ problem across north east region of India and how agricultural experts are suggesting remedial measures on various field problems.
Presently, IASF is benefiting 1886 registered farmers in 6 districts of Meghalaya and 9 districts of Manipur who uses the platform for redressal of their farm problems. 50 Subject Matter Specialist are also registered in the portal to respond to farmer's queries in real time. An agriculture expert can reply to any query from his/her registered mobile phone via SMS by sending his reply to 51969. Farmer/Student can also register themselves to the IASF portal via SMS by sending their name, address in a specified fomat to 51969. The project can be easily scaled and rolled out with localised content and languages. This is the first of its kind project in North East India, where ICT has come to the rescue of resource poor farmers residing in remote and inaccessible part of the country. The integration of web technology and mobile service delivery gateway has been a boon to this project, where the reach and scale of the project can have a multiplier effect on the agriculture scenario of geographically remote and inaccessible rural areas of India.
To know more about this project, please visit this link

(The writer is currently working in the Department of Agriculture Meghalaya as Agriculture Development Officer (Info& IT) and also functions as the State Co-ordinator of IASF Project, Meghalaya)