A 17-year-old Delhi-based student, Ekagra Garg, has come up with an agriculture marketing initiative, launching a website “Ameer Kisan” targeting farmers of Bihar’s Seemanchal region.
“ I started the digital initiative (which means prosperous farmer) as a not-for-profit one to provide real time agriculture and market insights to farmers so that they can make informed decisions about selling their produce and harvest,” the Shiv Nadar school student told businessline in an online interaction.
On his trips to his native place Begusarai and nearby Banmankhi, Garg used to hear farmers sharing their problems in farming with his father or grandfather.
“During Covid, I learnt about the problems and struggles of the farmers. With this in mind, I launched the website,” the Plus-2 student said.
Garg launched the website on June 8 this year. The website updates prices of maize, wheat, paddy and jute everyday. The prices listed are of markets in the Seemanchal region. It also lists the prices that private companies are willing to offer for maize on the condition of meeting their specification and requirements.
The website attracted 70,000 visitors within three months of its launch with 17,000 farmers signing up, claims Garg. During the off-season, the views on the website are around 600 but during the arrivals season, they increase to 2,000-2,500.
The student says he single-handedly manages the website, though he has volunteers from the Seemanchal region, who help him by providing the market rates.
“They are like-minded people, aged 25-28, who have come forward to help me,” he said, adding that he has spent money from his own pocket to start the website.
Initially, when Garg started the product, he did not know how to get the market rate as there was no way to connect the markets from Delhi. “But we knew people, who really liked the project when we explained. It would not only help farmers but also the financial economy of the community. When we sought their help, they readily agreed,” he said.
Garg has mostly been working single-handedly on the website. “But, I have been working with a designer to help me with the website. I have also been asking my dad whenever I need help,” he said.
One reason for Garg to focus on the Seemanchal region, mainly the Gulabagh market, is that it is prone to floods and farmers plant crops only during the rabi season. “Therefore, it is necessary for farmers to get the best price for their produce,” he said. Maize is the main crop grown followed by wheat.
One of the features of the website is that it offers details of the prices offered by 85 companies apart from agricultural produce marketing committee (APMC) yard rates.
Bridge for farmers, companies
“When we launched, we had 12 companies, who I contacted personally. After a while, as more people visited the website, more companies contacted us. We are now collaborating with them to provide the best information to the farmers,” said the student, who plans to pursue environmental and industrial engineering.
For Garg, his father being a businessman dealing with wood and their seeds helped. “Our family and friends have been very supportive. My dad helped me with this project as he knows how things work. So when I was establishing the website, he told me the intricacies that I should do this or that better. That helped me improve the website,” he said.
Garg is also helped by his mother with updating the website, while his paternal grandfather helps him with his contacts in the Seemanchal region.
“The website is not just an initiative to help farmers make informed decisions. We are trying to bridge the gap between corporates and farmers to provide better rates,” he said.
Garg said details of corporates looking for produce are provided on the website along with contact numbers as they look to approach farmers directly. “This way, farmers can contact corporates and vice-versa,” he said.
For now, the website provides details of prices in the APMC yards from the six districts in the region. It plans to get the rates from other market yards as the website attracts more visitors.
The website provides details of weighing houses where farmers can weigh their produce and warehouses. It has been specifically created for the farmers.
Using blast message
“We are using only a very small bandwidth. So, even with the lightest 2G or 3G, farmers can use the website and it is in the local language. When you open the website, you directly see the rates, which is helpful to the farmers,” Garg said.
On his plans for the website, Garg said he wants to make it sustainable. “As we go further, we will approach companies. We will also approach the governments (Union and State) and seek their help,” the student said.
On how he made farmers aware of his website, he said he chose “blast messages” on Whatsapp. “Every farmer has at least one smartphone in his home with 4G connectivity. We started blast messages with 1,000 farmers and then increased it,” Garg said.
The website is not adding any new feature as it is currently focussing on just one region. “But as we grow, we will look at artificial intelligence-based prediction. Rather than depending on outside forces to put up rates, we will work on AI that will predict based on our data or old database,” Garg said.
The website will also look for natural language processing systems. Garg doesn’t find the work for the website affecting his studies. “We need a lot of inputs but it was during the school’s summer break. Now that it has been established, I only need to check the rates every morning and upload them. It does not take more than 20-30 minutes,” the student said.