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Vodafone India has launched an SMS-based information service for farmers called Kisan Mitr which will provide agricultural information such as crop advisory, weather information, pesticide composition and market price services. Speaking to the Economic Times, Vodafone India chief executive Sunil Sood said that service is available in 10 languages where farmers can sign up and get three SMS alerts every day. “This will also be an app-based service at a later stage, ” he added.

The report further added that the service is available on a trial basis and free but later would move to a subscription-based model with minimal charges as the company is not eyeing big revenue from the service.

This isn’t the first initiative to provide agricultural information via SMS and there were similar services which were offered to farmers for free. We also wonder why Vodafone is looking at a subscription based model. Vodafone in its report said that farmers in India on an average live on less than Rs 250 per day and we wonder why this information cannot be given free if they are not looking for revenue from it.

Similar services

Ministry of agriculture: In November 2011, India’s agricultural ministry had deployed a project to send SMS alerts to 2.8 million farmers informing them about sudden climate variations that can cause damage to their crops in 100 vulnerable districts in the country and had reportedly invested Rs 350 crores in the project. Following this, there were also reports of a voice-based service where farmers could get their agriculture and weather-related queries answered in a jiffy.

Intuit: Software firm Intuit had developed a pilot project in 2012 called Fasal, which is a free SMS based platform offering real time price information to farmers about their crops. The farmers would have to call a toll free number to provide personal information and other related information. Following the registration, Fasal will start acting as a facilitator between the farmers and the buyers. The call centre collects the demand and price information from buyers, matches it with relevant farmers and automatically sends text messages containing the market price and buyer information to the farmer.

Handygo: Mobile VAS solution provider Handygo Technologies had partnered with non-profit organization CABI with an intent to provide mobile based agriculture solutions to the rural population in India. Under this partnership, Handygo will provide technical solutions while CABI will offer region specific data from its Direct2Farm agriculture knowledge repository, including agricultural content, advisory and other information.

– BSNL: State-run telecom operator BSNL had also partnered National Fertilizer Limited to launch a pilot project offering crop information services, weather forecasts, soil testing as well as health information in local languages.