Punjab’s economy is primarily driven by agriculture. More than 55 million households are directly or indirectly tied to this sector. Profit margins of farmers have declined over the time because of high cost of borrowing and high rates of agricultural inputs. The Agriculture Department has initiated an interest-free loan scheme for small farmers. The scheme provides loans to farmers possessing land less than 12.5 acres and has a flexible repayment option. The PITB has developed a centralised system for managing the database, helping raise efficiency and accountability of the scheme. All stakeholders can access the database of over 350,000 registered farmers. All processes involved in loan allocation have been automated. In the conventional method for loan processing, an applicant would have needed to visit the PLRA and bank more than 10 times to secure the loan, but with the help of this system, the number of visits was reduced to only three. The Agriculture e-Credit Scheme has improved liquidity in the agriculture sector, timely availability of crop inputs, an increase in yield and higher profit margins.
As many as 110,000 farmers will be given mobile phones with 10 applications to enhance their capacity. Each farmer will have a mobile wallet through which the loan would be disbursed. The most interesting aspect of the initiative is that mobile phones given to farmers will have 10 agriculture-related applications. These include:
The Onboarding/Tutorial app will be used to welcome the newly-registered farmers and verify their credentials. They will receive an audio/video based welcome message from the chief minister and will be given an introduction on how they could benefit from the program and its features. Moreover, they will also be able to access tutorials for all applications provided under the program.
The weather app will show the forecasts based on the latitude and longitude of the farmer’s location for 5 days. ‘Today’s Weather’ will include wind speed, temperature and chances of rain. Farmers will be able to add multiple locations to receive alerts.
This app will provide crop specific advisories. These are provided primarily in audio and video format for the benefit of less educated farmers but are also available in text. This app will also educate farmers about new technologies, methods and techniques related to various crops.
Video on Demand App
This will primarily serve the need of farmers whose mobile literacy is low. By accessing this app, farmers will be able to see the latest video advisory on sowing, growing and harvesting stages of various crops. Pest and disease alerts will also be issued through this.
Expert Opinion App
If a farmer requires expert advice, he can use this as a chat app to talk to an expert. It will support audio, as well as photo sharing. Farmers can send messages to agriculture experts nominated by the client and get quick advice on various issues.
Crop Yield Calculator
This app will allow farmers to calculate the approximate cost of seeding, fertilizer and pesticide usage and crop yield based on their land size and crop type. The algorithms will be designed using the data provided by relevant government departments.
The Mandi app will connect farmers with potential buyers. Buyers can also contact farmers using this app. For payment, they will use EasyPaisa Mobile Wallets.
Supply Chain Tracking
The farm supplies app will allow farmers to browse, compare and buy various farm supplies such as fertilizers, seeds and pesticide from their mobile phones. The complete inventory and product transactions will be made visible for the client’s stakeholders. For transactions on this app, farmers will use Mobile Wallets.
This will enable farmers to redeem subsidies given through various types of tokens (e.g. Potash Fertilizer Subsidy) through this app. Additionally, token redemption is available through USSD menu for Telenor SIM users as well.
Hyperspectral Imagery App
This app will capture satellite imagery of land and check the health of the crop, soil moisture, pest information and then using the above mentioned parameters to recommend remedial measures.