This is something thats been hovering over my head from the past 2 weeks. One of my extremely smart friend talked to me about this idea and without spilling a lot of details about it (since he still wants to pursue this as a business) – I want to give my 2 cents on this.
The idea is very simple – basically create a searchable index with a REST API in the front for the agricultural information for a certain region – in this case it would be some county/district in India. This index would be a subscription based one for people who want to sell services and goods to farmers in this farmland. That’s the idea – but when you get down to implement it – it’s an uphill task. Since I have been thinking about this I want to take a crack at this – in theory for now. The difficulty is in collection of data – it needs to be cheap but network connected. The one thing that comes to my mind when I think about it is – Raspberri Pi – RPi has made inroads to some serious business models from a hobby and I think a simple prototype can be built which have multiple sensors and can capture them and store it temporarily. This could further be powered with solar (yeah I know the cost might go up with this one). The networking part can be solved with a simple solution. The Rpi unit doesn’t need to be online all the time. It could be a simple app running in background on an Android phone which will collect data as you pass by Rpi and send it across to a central location. There is a lot of scope for innovation in getting the data out from fields to a central db.
Then there are human problems – like vandalism and people stealing these things away for copper in it. This is going to be tricky. The farmers are mostly poor and they would need a incentive to keep these Rpi’s buzzing and collecting data. I think there is a scope here to involve a CBO or a micro lending company to turn this into an interesting investment option for the farmers. Imagine treating Rpis as cattle and as the data gets collected they would get paid some amount. It might be less than what they can make over cattle – but this one would be reliable and more recurring. Also the fact that the data might actually help them find the resources like fertilizers etc faster and might raise their land value is pretty convincing.
That’s just a small sample of what I think about the Agri data. I would love to jump into something like that and build a nice usable prototype if I have enough backing.
I did explore a very similar idea in Education area with another friend of mine who is equally skilled and passionate about bringing in cheap hardware and rich content to teach kids in remote areas – but that’s another blog post.
I think if you scale back and take a look at bigger picture – the bigger index is the social index – which would be hard to create but with incentives and some good planning it would be possible to create a social aspect index of Indian rural area which would then help other CBO and NGOs to be able to target specific issues at grass root level in the areas they want to.
The possibilities are unlimited and my imagination is buzzing!