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Hyderabad, June 26

AN IT-based Agro Advisory that can reach the maximum number of farmers quickly at desired intervals and be useful for planners to evolve contingency measures is being contemplated.

The Hyderabad-based Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (Crida) is co-ordinating an effort in this direction.

The International Institute for Information Technology (IIIT), the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) and the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, all in Hyderabad, and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF) in New Delhi are expected to be key players.

According to Dr Y.S. Ramakrishna, Director of Crida, this consortium should be linked to the Crop Weather Watch Group, Krishi channels, and other media that reaches the maximum number of farmers. He said that the initiative could be launched in one State on pilot.

As a prelude to the project, Crida has, in collaboration with IIIT, executed a project in three villages in Andhra Pradesh.

The daily agromet advisory put out by Crida was sent to IIIT, which analysed it and posted it on the Web site.

The updated data was downloaded by progressive farmers in the villages and distributed to the others.

In the exercise, 10 volunteers were used and all actions closely monitored. In the end, it saved thousands of rupees to the farmers due to timely information.

However, the implementation costs were in the range of Rs 60 lakh, which was quite high, he told Business Line.

"Based on this experience, we have suggested a cluster approach for the IT-based agro advisory, so that we can reach more farmers at affordable costs."

Crida has held discussions with all the players proposed to be involved in the project.

It was felt that Agri Clinics could play a positive role in reaching the data to villages.

Similarly, the India Mission 2007 initiative of the Information Technology Ministry, which plans to invest Rs 1,300 crore to establish 60,000 ICT hubs in rural areas, could help in this advisory. Dr Ramakrishna said that Automatic Weather Stations were already being planned in villages.

The National Facility of Agromet at Crida, which is supported by the Department of Science and Technology, provides a good platform to build these initiatives, he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 27, 2005)
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