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Plant telemedicine and remote farm advisory services for smallholder farmers in a socially distanced world

We provide critical farm advisory services to small farmers via mobile phones, as COVID-19 cuts off access to conventional sources of advice

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Kheyti is an initiative that has been generating climate resilient incomes for smallholder farmers over the past four years. Over 300 smallholder farmers are a part of our Greenhouse-in-a-Box program, in which farmers use our low-cost modular greenhouse and end-to-end services which help them protect crops from unpredictable climate events, grow 7x food with 90% less water, and earn steady, additional incomes of $100-$150 per month.

Learning from conversations with 1000s of smallholder farmers, it is our conviction that smallholder farmers face challenges at every point of the value chain and while some solutions may exist at the two ends of the value chain, i.e. farm inputs and markets to sell in, most smallholder farmers severely lack scientific and timely guidance on crop practices and health. In India, smallholder farmers rely almost singularly on the advice of the local shop-owner from whom they purchase inputs, or at best, on the advice of representatives sent by large agri-input corporations.  

 

To fill this gap, Kheyti has a team of experienced agronomists that provides dedicated crop advisory services to our farmers through a remote, plant telemedicine model where farmers’ queries are addressed via telephone and WhatsApp.

In light of COVID-19 restrictions, the need of smallholder farmers for farm advice and support has been significantly exacerbated as small farmers suddenly have been cut off from their conventional sources of farm advice. While traditional knowledge certainly exists, the mainstream use of modern seeds, pesticides, fertilizers etc., require different and suitable advice. Kheyti is responding to this need by extending our telemedicine and remote agronomy services to smallholder farmers even outside the Kheyti program.

Under the telemedicine and remote agronomy model, a technology enabled platform comprising of mobile phones, WhatsApp and a CRM system is used by our call centre and team of agronomists to:

1) Support farmers in crop planning at the beginning of crop cycles

2) Provide guidance on technical aspects such as choice of inputs, bed preparation, fertigation etc.

3) Respond to farmers’ queries related to crop health. Here, farmers reach out to our call centre which is the first response team. Upon a case being created in the CRM system, farmers use WhatsApp to send a specified set of pictures of their crops, which is diagnosed by our agronomists. The farmers are then given detailed prescriptions to respond to disease/ improve crop health and farmers are supported until the crops have fully recovered.  

Kheyti’s telemedicine model is working exceptionally well with zero cases of crop failure being reported from our farmers. We aim to open up this service to millions of smallholder farmers who continue to keep the wheels of the food system turning, even as social distancing and lockdowns make farming infinitely more challenging.

What is the need are you focusing on?

Our solution focuses on the acute need of smallholder farmers for scientific and contextualized crop advice. In light of COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, small farmers are unable to access even conventional sources of farm advice, however weak they may have been. Besides, as our solution is completely remote, it is delivered in time and without putting agronomists at risk of violating local COVID-19 restrictions.           

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Kheyti provides tech-enabled telemedicine and remote agronomy services for smallholder farmers who are using our low-cost greenhouse. As COVID-19 restrictions have cut off smallholder farmers from accessing conventional sources of advice, we aim to extend our plant telemedicine and agronomy services to all vulnerable smallholder farmers so that they can reap better yields and mitigate, to some extent, the economic consequences of COVID-19 crisis.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

If the proven benefits of Kheyti's telemedicine and remote agronomy services is extended to all smallholder farmers, there will be significant increase in yield from the small fragmented landholdings of marginal farmers. Kheyti's greenhouse farmers experience farm productivity increase of 7x, but even for open field cultivation, dedicated farm advisory services such as Kheyti's can result in manifold increase in farm yields. There are over 80 million smallholder farmers in India, and greater farm productivity has a direct positive influence on their livelihoods. This is especially critical in times such as these when entire food supply chains are being disrupted and prices are more unpredictable than ever before. Our solution is already being delivered to over 150 farmers with a 100% success rate. It can be extended to more farmers immediately.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Kheyti

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Kheyti helps smallholder farmers battle climate change through its "Greenhouse-in-a-Box", a low-cost greenhouse bundled with end-to-end services. Designed for smallholders, our greenhouse fits in 2-5% of their land, protects crops from environmental risks and grows 7x more food using 90% less water and significantly less chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Along with the greenhouse, we provide telemedicine & crop advisory services and also work with partners to offer farmers financing, input linkage and market linkage services, creating a seamless path towards steady incomes of $100-$150/month and out of poverty. Please go to https://kheyti.com/ to read more, or watch a 2.5 minute video at https://vimeo.com/258440242

What is your profession?

Business Development & Strategy

Where are you located (country)?

India

Where are you located (region)?

  • Southern Asia

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Agriculture/Farming
  • Non-Profit/Philanthropy

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 11-49

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We require funding in the form of grants to expand our services. We are also looking for partnerships from mobile technology experts who can guide us in strengthening our telemedicine services and making it work seamlessly at scale.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

The main barrier to implementing this solution is quickly ramping up our team and strengthening the use of technology in our services.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

We have been delivering this solution to over 150 smallholder farmers. Our key learnings are: 1) Farmers require customized advisory services in regard to their crops, and this requirement changes each day and each crop cycle 2) Our plant telemedicine and remote agronomy model can deliver results. We have seen zero crop failures since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions. 3) Millions of smallholder farmers share a similar need for their crops, be it open field cultivation or greenhouse, and this advice is critical for their livelihoods. 4) Kheyti will need to build up its team and double down on its technology enablement to reach and serve these millions of smallholder farmers.

Website URL

http://kheyti.com/

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