Covid-19 crisis could kick starts a digital revolution in agriculture. It is because digital technologies provide the agricultural industry with tools and information to make correct decisions timely and improve productivity. Digital technologies make it possible to run agricultural enterprises while following lockdown measures. E-commerce, produce delivery and equipment sharing platforms all enable continued production and distribution, while upholding social distancing measures. Availability of real-time data using remote sensing tools such as drones and satellites, coupled with mobile telephone and internet access can be the key enablers of agricultural change in the post Covid-19 period.
Digital agriculture can change economic activities by lowering the costs of replicating, transporting, tracking, verifying, and searching for data. They expand farmers’ access to credit, insurance, and bank accounts for a number of reasons. Due to these falling costs, digital technology will improve efficiency throughout the agricultural value chain. They can improve the allocative efficiency of physical capital within and between farms. They improve labor productivity through improved farmer knowledge. E-extension (electronic provision of traditional agricultural extension services) allows for farming knowledge and skills to diffuse at low cost.
However, rural network coverage plays an important role in the success of digital agriculture. Even when countries overcome infrastructural challenges, the price of network connectivity can exclude smallholders and poor farmers. Similar accessibility and affordability issues exist for digital devices and digital accounts. According to a 2016 GSMA report, of the 750 million-plus farmers in the 69 surveyed countries, about 295 million had a mobile phone; only 13 million had both a mobile phone and a mobile money account.
Smart Krishi, one of the best agriculture apps in Nepal, has incorporated a wide range of information from cereal crop production to vegetable cultivation, cash crops, fruit crops as well as non-timber forest products. Furthermore, pest management of various crops, commercial goat farming, boar goat farming, buffalo and cow rearing, fish production technologies are also available in details.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak and the lockdown, seed market has not functioned steadily. A new digital seed information system is likely to change that, as it will enable all value chain actors to access information on seed demand and supply in real time, confronting uncertainty through and beyond the crisis. Having already completed a user acceptance test, this web and Android-based information system is currently being adapted for validation as part of USAID’s Feed the Future Nepal Seed and Fertilizer (NSAF) activity.
Hamro Krishi is another Nepali agriculture apps having 25k downloads supported by Pilot Program on Climate Resilience (PPCR) project running under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. The app updates weekly weather-based agriculture bulletin for 26 districts of three geographic regions, which might also be applicable for other neighboring districts with similar topography and geographical region. Other features of this app are success stories, an update of market price, and information about agriculture insurance. The app also provides fertilizer calculation for most of the cereals, vegetables, spices, legumes and oilseeds, and other crops for different geographic regions. The bulletins are prepared in collaboration with NARC.
Other mobile agriculture applications are also available. NARC Krishi has more than 10K downloads and also provides authentic information that comes from the research. Many other agricultural institutions are also creating such applications which help farmers get all the information. The application shortens the gap between farmers, experts and traders.