GreenPHABLET to save crops, raise farm incomes in developing world

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) today launched the “GreenPHABLET powered by the GreenSIM” – a low-cost combination phone and tablet computer customized to improve developing world agricultural success and incomes.

“ICRISAT has been at the forefront of using the latest technology to benefit smallholder farmers. The GreenPHABLET will allow information to be precisely targeted to individual smallholder farmers. This will help farmers purchase inputs at lower price, get a better price for their produce, and link them to markets, thus putting them on the path to prosperity,” says Dr William Dar, ICRISAT’s Director General.

The device, priced at US$ 299, has been developed by the ICRISAT Center of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture in collaboration with NUNC Systems, a company based in Hyderabad, India.

Roll outs are planned India-wide and in Africa.

Info-entrepreneurs/extension professionals equipped with a GreenPHABLET serve as intermediaries, collecting information on registered farmers’ landholdings and cropping practices, and questioning the database to pull information on their behalf, supporting informed regular decision-making and monitoring.

“This device acts like a mobile village knowledge center/common service center, enabling farmers to benefit from contemporary information and communication technologies and expanding Internet connectivity in remote rural regions,” says Dr. Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader and Director, ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture.

“It creates an ecosystem of services that will improve the quality and convenience of information dissemination and knowledge sharing among stakeholders,” he added.

“Real time information sharing between farmers and researchers enables farmers to improve crop productivity and researchers to collect accurate data in real time. This lays the road for future innovations in the field of agriculture,” says Sandeep Dega, Senior Director, NUNC Systems.

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The GreenSIM is a special SIM card that can be used with any mobile phone. Apart from regular phone services developing world smallholder farmers receive free messages about the weather and pest problems while sharing the most competitive agricultural input and crop prices. This has proven successful in pilot tests.

In its first six trial months of operation, the GreenSIM program has saved precious food supplies while improving farm incomes through timely messages to 40,000 rural subscribers so far — its uptake exceeding all expectations.

“In 171 villages across three states of India (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), farm incomes have gone up since farmers can now compare prices of agricultural crops and inputs offered by both the traditional local agent and, now, via the GreenSIM,” says Dr Guntuku.

Chandrakala, a farmer in southern India, is one of many to have experienced the benefits first hand.

“Last season, our whole groundnut crop was destroyed due to unexpected rain,” she says. “However, this season a weather forecast voice message received on my mobile phone through GreenSIM saved our crop. We were able to harvest three days ahead of the original harvest date and this saved our season-long efforts and hard work,”

GreenSIM is also applauded for encouraging entrepreneurship at the grassroots level. Interested youths, farmers, women and unemployed community members act as “info-entrepreneurs,” selling GreenSIM cards, earning 10 rupees (US$ 0.17) for each card and 2.3% of every mobile recharge coupon sold to the farmers.

The GreenPHABLET powered by the GreenSIM takes ICT mediated advisory services initiatives to the next level by providing pull based personalized advisory services to individual farmers rather than providing push based generic advisories

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