Mobile communications technology has quickly become the world’s most common way of transmitting voice, data, and services in the developing world. Given this dramatic change, businesses across industries have begun to explore how they can capitalize on the mobile channel to deliver information and services to customers in more personalized and cost effective ways. Applications in mobile banking, for example, have gotten a lot of attention in the last 5 years, popularized by the success of services such as mPesa in Kenya. Similarly, mobile healthcare initiatives have also gained some steam, lauded for their ability to deliver services to people in remote areas of the country with no access to hospitals.
One industry that has till date remained relatively untouched by the impact of mobility is agriculture. However, Uniphore works with some of India’s largest Agribusinesses to leverage voice and data technology on mobile phones in order to achieve more cost effective operations, automating the information and market channels prevalent in their operations.
Broadly speaking, there are three major functions that can be achieved by mobility in agriculture.
- Providing access to information: The most widely used mAgri apps are used by businesses who need to provide users with access to useful, relevant information. An example is where a farmer can get commodity prices in various urban markets through a simple request made on a mobile phone. Asymmetrical access to pricing information is a weakness of rural markets. Middlemen can buy farmers’ produce cheaply and sell it at high prices unless farmers have the same information about the prices for their produce in specific markets. These applications are especially relevant for governments and nonprofits.
- Providing access to extension and advisory services: Many businesses across the agriculture domain employ mobility solutions in order to enable timely extension and advisory services to the farmers with which they work. These applications often provide advice to farmers on problems and opportunities in agricultural production, marketing, conservation, and family livelihoods. Businesses in crop manufacturing have found that extension services over mobility enhance the quality of crops from the farmers as well as the loyalty of the relationships with the farmers.
- Fieldforce automation: The primary communication channel for many agribusinesses is a network of human agents, known as a fieldforce, who continually visit farmers and collect their relevant updates. In addition to collecting data for the businesses, these agents are also responsible for providing information and services to farmers. Currently, a lot of information that is captured and transmitted is written on pen-and-paper forms, then sent back to the head office in regular intervals. This causes significant delays in business processes and suboptimal communications across operations. Therefore, with enterprise mobility, agents are given smartphone applications in order to collect information on their mobile device, and immediately submit it to the office. This significantly reduces travel costs as well as expenses associated with pen and paper.
Together, these three types of application enable more efficient operations across the agriculture domain. In addition to bringing down operational costs, mobility applications also support the livelihoods of farmers, creating a win-win scenario across stakeholders.