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Overview and Advantages of eSagu Framework

An IT-based Personalized Agro-Advisory System

IIIT, Hyderabad and Media Lab Asia

The eSagu (The word 'Sagu' means 'cultivation' in Telugu language) is an IT-based personalized agro-advisory system. It aims to improve farm productivity by delivering high quality personalized (farm-specific) agro-expert advice in a timely manner to each farm at the farmer.s door-steps without farmer asking a question. The advice is provided on a regular basis (typically once a week) from sowing to harvesting which reduces the cost of cultivation and increases the farm productivity as well as quality of agri-commodities. In eSagu, the developments in IT such as (database, Internet, and digital photography) are extended to improve the performance of agricultural extension services. The eSagu system offers next generation agro-advisory tool, and supplements and integrates into the existing agricultural extension system.

In e-Sagu, rather than visiting the crop in person, the agricultural scientist delivers the expert advice by getting the crop status in the form of digital photographs and other information.

The eSagu system contains the following parts: (i) Farmers (ii) Coordinators (iii) eSagu local center (iv) Agricultural information system and (v) Communication system. The farmers are the end users of the system and can be illiterate. A coordinator is an educated and experienced farmer who is stationed in the village. Each coordinator is attached to eSagu local center which contains few computers and a computer operator. Agricultural Experts possess a university degree in agriculture and are qualified to provide expert advice. Agricultural Information System is a computer based information system that contains all the related data. Communication system is a mechanism to transmit information from farms to agricultural experts and vice versa. If enough bandwidth is not available, photographs from the village to the main system can be transmitted through courier service. However, the advices (text) can be transmitted from the main system to the local center through dial-up Internet connection.

The operation of eSagu is as follows. A team of agriculture experts work at the eSagu (main) lab (normally in a city) supported by agricultural information system. One eSagu local center (few computers and one computer operator) is established for a group of about ten to twenty villages. Educated and experienced farmers (who are from the villages) work as coordinators. Depending on the crop, each coordinator is assigned with a fixed number of farms. The coordinator collects the registration details of the farms under him including soil data, water resources, and capital availability and sends the information to the main eSagu system. Every day, the coordinator visits a fixed number of farms and takes four to five photographs for each farm. The coordinator also collects other information like weather and farmer feedback regarding crop situation. If the bandwidth is available the data is uploaded to the agricultural information system. Otherwise, a CD is prepared with the photographs and other information and transported to the main system by a regular courier service. The Agricultural experts, with diverse background (Entomology, Pathology, Agronomy) at the eSagu (main) lab analyze the crop situation with respect to soil, weather and other agronomic practices and prepare a farm specific advice. At the local eSagu center, the advice is downloaded electronically through a dial-up Internet connection. The coordinator collects the advice print out and delivers it to the concerned farmer. In this way each farm gets the proactive advice at regular intervals starting from pre-sowing operations to post-harvest precautions.

The eSagu system is being developed since 2004. The advantages of eSagu system are summarized as follows.

(a) Since 2004, the eSagu system has been implemented in about 10,000 farms in hundreds of villages for about 30 field and horticulture crops. The farmers are happy with the expert advice as it is helping the farmers to improve input efficiency by encouraging integrated pest management (IPM) methods, judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers by avoiding their indiscriminate usage.
(b) Through eSagu, it is possible for the agricultural expert to provide the expert advice by observing the crop status through photographs for most of the crop problems and issues.
(c) The impact analysis shows that the additional benefit accrued to farmers comes to Rs 3,874/- per acre with cost-benefit ratio = 1:4. The turnaround time for advice delivery is 24-36 hours. The farmers have paid the nominal subscription fee for the services and they are satisfied with the service.
(d) The eSagu sytem provides a quality personalized agro-advice to the farmers. It is a query-less system and provides agro-advice even without the farmer asking a question by following a proactive approach and averts problematic situations.
(e) Through eSagu accountable advice can be provided with two-way communication. The advice is comprehensive, complete and regular in terms of diagnosis, analysis, advice delivery, follow-up and feedback.
(f) The eSagu is a scalable system. The system can be developed on the available infrastructure. In the worst case, it can be implemented on the postal system.
(g) It is a cost-effective system and can be made self-sustainable with a nominal service charge.
(h) The eSagu system enables farmers (marginal and poor) to cultivate with the same efficiency as agricultural experts.
(i) Most important, the system provides strong database to support decision making and documents success stories and new problems.
(j) The eSagu aids in successful implementation of crop insurance scheme by making farm as a unit of insurance. It also enables quick deployment of services during the times of crisis.
(k) The banking industry can pick-up by improving the loan recovery, coverage, and financial inclusion problems.
(l) The eSagu system capacitates rural livelihoods and generates rural employment.
(m) The system can be used to validate agriculture technology.
(n) It significantly reduces the lag period between research efforts and field application.
(o) Finally, eSagu system shows a great promise in the era of globalization, as it can provide the expert advice that is crucial to the Indian farmer to harvest different kinds of crops based on the demand in the world market with quality and assurance.