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Case Study

Integrating Technology in Agriculture: Drone-Based Crop Advisory (CropAssure)

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Bharat Rohan

India loses $500 billion worth of crops to pest attacks and disease outbreaks every year, and  farmers now use 3.5 times more fertilisers and pesticides than in 1970. The lack of data for monitoring and traceability of crop production has resulted in a lack of support systems that incentivise farmers on sustainable crop production. 

About the Organisation

BharatRohan is a tech-enabled integrated agri-value chain company that provides drone-based crop advisory to farmers, quality inputs, post-harvest processing, quality assurance, and market linkage for crops like cumin, coriander, potato, and paddy. They empower associated farmers with end-to-end decision support system services backed by unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and hyperspectral imaging technology to provide timely actionable advisories to prevent significant crop losses and increase profit margins with efficient and traceable agricultural practices. 

Farmers benefit from this advisory by receiving data for crop management at the right time, and this is achieved through flying drones in a cadence of 7 to 15 days for early diagnosis of pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies. The application of Hyperspectral imaging technology helps to identify the colour changes occurring in the leaves due to the biochemical changes during the onset of the infestation and provide early predictions and forecasts to minimise losses. The prescription maps are generated after two days of drone flight and shared along with recommendations reports in the vernacular language of the farmers to help them accurately assess the needs of their crops and implement precise and sustainable methods to achieve optimal yields without harming the environment.

Alongside this, BharatRohan also works on enabling farmers to practise the alternate wetting and drying method in paddy fields, a management practice in irrigated lowland rice that saves water and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while maintaining yields. 

Addressing Intersectionalities

BharatRohan has improved the livelihoods of farmers by reducing their input costs and providing a better and fair price for their produce. This drone-based technology adopts a climate lens by allowing farmers to reduce their negative impacts on the land and prevent issues such as soil erosion, soil degradation, and groundwater contamination. The table below shows the savings and additional crop yield, savings and increase in profit margin. The precise and calculated use of nutrients and pest control also allows for better carbon sequestration and the creation of natural carbon sinks in the land. Furthermore, AWD practice can reduce water use by up to 30% and is assumed to reduce methane (CH4) emissions by an average of 48% compared to continuous flooding. With a plan of implementing AWD practice in 10,000+ acres, reaching 7,000+ farmers in the upcoming paddy season, these farming initiatives are expected to collectively benefit a significant number of farmers through additional income while reducing GHG emissions from paddy cultivation. 

Savings gained while reducing carbon emissions 

Success Stories of Beneficiaries

Ashish Kumar from Barabanki used to consult a local pesticide shopkeeper for advice on pest and disease incidence in his field. He soon realised that the help he was seeking was not scientifically backed and late application resulted in crop loss and increased cost of pest control. Therefore, he engaged in Bharat Rohan’s CropAssure services, where he received early alerts and scientific advisory that allowed him to control the damage well in advance. The CropAssure® service recommends soil supplements based on soil testing; improves the implementation of IPM Practices; provides periodic weather forecasts; and provides advisory on agri-input usage to apply the appropriate quantity at the right time and place to grow crops according to global good agricultural practices. Consequently, he witnessed a 10 kg/acre increase in yield and Rs 11500/acre increase in income. 

Shri Luv Kumar from Barabanki said the team works with him like a family, where they learn from each other. Kisan Sehyog of the farmer relationship management team of BharatRohan helps to disseminate crop-specific sustainable agricultural practices recommended by BharatRohan agronomists to them and also understands their on-farm challenges need to be addressed. Through BharatRohan’s support, Luv has increased mentha oil yield from 60 kg to 85 kg per acre with an increased menthol content of 66% to 74%. BharatRohan has also helped him to sell this better quality of menthol oil at a better price. 

 

Scalability of Services

Initially, BharatRohan faced a lack of scaled working capital to service its procurement cycle as institutional credit was difficult to raise given that they were an early-stage startup without a credit history. Villgro, through their partnership with Caspian, was able to help BharatRohan with access to credit. This has helped to scale their supply chain business to multiple crops and other geographies and by supporting the farmers in the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices with technology-backed crop monitoring services by improving agriculture resilience and increasing yield in the face of climate change. Villgro further provided support in terms of mentoring, marketing and sales, and business model development. BharatRohan has recently launched a crop insurance scheme to prevent farmer losses caused by weather uncertainties. This is a step towards their goal of assuring farmers that their crop yield and income are protected, thereby assisting them in becoming climate resilient. 

BharatRohan is also planning to initiate a carbon farming project to enhance additional income to the farmers and reduce the GHG emissions from agriculture. They are on their mission to revitalise agriculture with technology for a safe and transparent food supply chain.

Videos

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8s9n15nztifi1zd/Demo_%20Video_BharatRohan.mp4?dl=0

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

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