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.