According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes to 33% of Nepal’s total GDP. But, Agriculture remains to be the most vulnerable sector, as it continues to get affected by climate change, harsh weather conditions, pest infection, and migration.
The good news is that our world is advancing towards tech revolution and tech-savvy entrepreneurs like Bikram Nepali are taking farming alongside it.
With Agri-Augment, Bikram Nepali believes that farmers will now be able to diagnose and predict the diseases that their crops could potentially suffer from. This will be made possible using Augmented Reality and Deep-learning Technology, where farmers will be able to visualize any data and information about their crops. Sounds like an episode from Black Mirror? We feel the same.
Read our conversation with the founder of Agri-Augment, to know how close we are to using an integration of AR technology and Agriculture.
1. Could you tell us a bit about Agri-Augment and how you came up with this idea?
Today we face problems of over-population and climate change that have seriously affected the agricultural sector where arable lands have turned into residential areas and deforestation has increased at an alarming rate.
Modern commercial farming technology is an effective solution to solve the above-mentioned problems, but the people have not adapted to these agricultural techniques due to reasons like language barriers and illiteracy.
So, to address this issue, I have developed Agri-Augment, which is an augmented reality technology, that makes it easier for the farmers to use available information. We translate information to farmers in a visual form and enable them to make necessary decisions.
2. What stage is the company in?
We are currently developing a prototype for the product.
3. What social change can your product bring in society?
The majority of people in Nepal are involved in traditional agriculture. The adaptation of technology among farmers is very low.
Similarly, there are a number of private and government apps and software that are working to provide the farmers with the necessary information but the farmers do not know how to use them.
Thus, to ensure farmers get access to reliable and accurate information we have come up with Agri-Augment. It gives data that can predict and visualize pests and diseases that might affect crops.
So through Agri-Augment and AR technology, we will be able to increase the productivity of crops through sustainable farming practices. And, essentially improve the economic status of farmers by increasing crop productivity.
4. What is your current staff strength and how many people did you start with?
We have a group of 5 people working in this idea- Dharani Dhar Burra from Vietnam, Timothy Randall and Brittany Dhal from Australia, Grayson Caldwell from USA and myself.
5. How are you raising funds to start your company?
We are participating in a number of events to raise the money to start the company. In addition to this, we will be seeking investors and tying up with the stakeholders.
6. What challenges will you potentially face?
Since Agri- Augment is based on the mobile application, the major challenge I believe will be to reach out to remote places where people still do not have access to smartphones.
Similarly, changing the mindset of people may be another challenge. We will have to make people understand the benefits of using Agri-Augment over the old traditional way of farming.
7. How will you overcome your challenge?
Nepal is moving forward in the path of digitalization; mobile connectivity is expanding throughout the country due to which most of the farmers today at least own a mobile phone.
Similarly, we also conducted a survey in Kavre where we found that 3 of the farmers are using mobile applications to conduct the agricultural activity. So, considering these things, I believe somehow we will overcome some of our challenges.
8. Who are your target customers?
We will be targeting input suppliers, farmers, extension service providers and other stakeholders involved in the agricultural sector. We will also be targeting the youths because I believe that the use of AR will increase their interest in this particular sector.
9. How many customers (monthly basis) or client do you have?
We are planning to have around 10,000 customers in 6 months and then we are planning to grow the customer base by 5-10% every month.
10. What are the key needs of your company?
The key need would be human resources, especially AR (Augmented Reality) experts.
11. What are your future plans?
We are planning to tie up with the agricultural organizations and we already are in talks with some of them. Furthermore, after the completion of the prototype, we will move to the pilot phase where we will conduct surveys and identify the needs of the market. Based on this we will launch Agri-augment in the market.
12. Do you consider yourself as a Social Entrepreneur?
I am not sure if I can call myself one yet, but yes after Agri-Augment launches in the market and, after its success, I will definitely be one.
13. How will you measure the impact of your product/service?
We will use our database to measure the impact. We will use our farmer database to determine the number of farmers using our application.
We will also compare the before and after results on the basis of crop production, usability, comfort-ability, trust-ability, accuracy, and eco-friendliness.
Likewise, we may also tie-up with mobile service providers like Ncell and NTC to determine the number of people using our application. We will also use the rating system and constantly work to generate feedback from the users of our application.
14. Any other information that you would like to share?
I would like to say that the agricultural sector is a vast sector. When you plan on entering this sector don’t get demotivated when times get hard. It is normal to face difficulties because of this sector’s vast nature.
To get more information about Agri-Augment you can contact Bikram Nepali at firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Trishna Shakya and Edited by Shambhavi Singh