Agri Business

How Qualcomm mobile apps help Indian fishermen, farmers

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on June 26, 2021

Launched through its wireless programme, Fisher Friend and Farm Precise apps have about 90,000 users.

When should a fisherman venture out for fishing? Will he get ample catch if he spreads his net in a particular area of the sea? Is he within the international borders of his country?

Or can a farmer expect rain today? Should he apply fertilisers for his crop now? What are the farmers’ chances to get a reasonable price if he decides to sell his produce today?

These are questions of daily concern that Indian fishermen and farmers need solutions. But there are 60,000 fishermen and 30,000 farmers who are not worried about these aspects.

For them, US semiconductor and software firm Qualcomm Inc mobile applications - Fisher Friend and Farm Precise - have come in handy to make a decision and improve their way of life.

2006 launch

The San Diego-based firm has tapped into its Wireless Reach Programme (WRP) to develop the mobile applications that have come in handy for Indian farmers and fishermen.

“We launched the WRP in 2006 and began funding programmes in India in the fields of health, environment and social progress from 2007,” said Angela Baker, Head, Corporate Responsibility, Qualcomm Inc.

In India, these mobile applications have been launched with Chennai-based MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and Watershed Organization Trust.

The application for fishermen called Fisher Friend helped save at least 400 fishermen in Tamil Nadu when they were caught in a cyclone Ockhi in 2017.

Longest running project

“The Fisher Friend is the longest-running programme globally for Qualcomm. We have formed an excellent partnership with MSSRF to help the coastal community,” Baker told BusinessLine in a phone interview.

“Globally, the WRP has touched 20 million people across 48 countries through partnerships. We have partnerships with 650 organisations, including governments, non-governmental organisations and universities,” said the Qualcomm official.

Fisher Friend has gained significance since the 2004 Tsunami that wreaked havoc on various parts of southern India. “The Tsunami has made traditional fishers’ knowledge obsolete. A new generation of fishermen have come up using mobile applications. For the Fisher Friend app, they use their own mobile phones,” said Baker.

Saving fuel, money

The app for fishermen provides information such as the fishing zone and weather information some 100 km from the shore. “It helps fishermen to identify the best places to fish, and its GPS facilities can help them take the shortest route to reach that place,” she said.

This helps fishermen to save precious fuel and money. The app also helps stranded fishermen in the sea by helping coast guards locate them. Indian fishermen from eastern and western coasts have downloaded the app, and during the recent cyclone Tauktae, it helped us coordinate activities with the Fisheries Department,” Baker said.

The app also has two unique features that help fishermen to save time and earn money. “The app can help fishermen to spread their nets in a particular place in the sea and return exactly to the place the next morning without having to wait overnight,” Baker said, adding that the other feature was it could help them decide on the prices for their catch.

The app has also made fishermen avoid using environmentally harmful nets, she added.

“The Indian Fisher Friend programme has spurred similar ones in Brazil, Senegal and Columbia. We have taken lessons from India and created programmes suiting local conditions,” Baker said.

New farming methods

Like the fishermen, Indian farmers also need access to information on new farming methods and the impact of climate change, moving away from traditional methods. This is where the Farm Precise app, launched two years ago, comes into play.

“We have partnered with Watershed Organization Trust with a focus on creating farm-specific advisories that will provide information on climatic conditions and hydrology,” the Qualcomm official said.

The Farm Precise app provides tailor-made advisories for 25 crops on weather, weather-based fertiliser applications, prices of crops in different markets. “The weather advisory is given from India Meteorological Department and Open Weather,” she said.

Community forum

The Farm Precise has provisions for farmers to interact through the community forum, where peer to peer doubts are cleared. Information on technology, pesticide and even calculation of fertiliser are discussed on the forum, Baker said.

About 1,400 posted their problems on the forum and received 3,500 responses.

The app is available in four languages - English, Hindi, Marathi and Telugu - across three States, and over 90 per cent of the user-farmers have added the crops they cultivate to their profile.

Qualcomm is working on a pilot project on precise farming for crops such as onion, maize and pomegranate, among others using. It will also use artificial intelligence and machine learning, and at least two universities are part of the pilot.

“In the project, the photos of pests attacking crop can be uploaded that machine learning will help identify them,” Baker said.

Qualcomm is spending two per cent of its profits on corporate social responsibility projects, but the WRP is outside of CSR, she added.

Published on June 25, 2021

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