Agriculture is a vulnerable sector and we often hear news about loss occurred to farmers due to the outspread of current diseases. Unpredicted outspread of diseases have huge negative impacts on the small scale as well as commercial farmers who are cultivating crops to sustain their lives.
However, every risk has a pattern, and by mapping environmental factors and using a scientific model, an outbreak of diseases can be predicted and its impact minimized. Ashish Ghimire and his genius team have come up with Plant Disease Forecaster- an app that helps to forecast diseases in plants.
Read our interview with the co-founder of Plant Disease Forecaster – Mr. Ashish Ghimire to know about their entrepreneurship.
1. What is the social problem you are trying to solve?
The loss that occurs from crop diseases is very devastating to farmers. If we can forecast the disease that is going to occur, loss to farmers can be prevented. We are trying to save poor and marginalized farmers from economic loss and we are also trying to uplift their living standards.
2. Can you tell us about Plant Disease Forecaster and which stage is the idea currently in?
Plant Disease Forecaster is still in its ideation phase. It is a mobile application as well as software that helps to diagnose plant diseases that occur due to environmental conditions. Combinations of certain temperature range, humidity range, and other environmental factors result in an outbreak of diseases in plants. If we keep track of the environmental conditions then we can predict diseases before they occur.
We already have some established scientific models so, we will collect environmental data and formulate an equation. We will develop software through which the equation can be logged into a model. There are many data collection centers like weather stations that record data on weather intensity, humidity, solar conditions, etc. We will log those data into the servers of our software and will fit our data into scientific models, that the software will read, and to predict the disease.
By forecasting diseases, we can help farmers. Also, before launching the application, we will conduct a pilot project to see its impact.
3. How did you come up with the idea of Plant Disease Forecaster?
I am currently pursuing M.Sc. Agriculture on Plant Pathology. I was always interested in plant disease forecasting but there is not much work done on forecasting in Nepal.
Similarly, poor economic conditions of smallholder farmers and market problems that they face have never been fully addressed.
After recognizing this gap, I wanted to use my skills and interest to help farmers. And, this is how this idea came.
4. How are you planning to raise funds to develop this application and what will be your business model once the app develops?
We will invest personally to develop an application. After the app develops, we’ll open our platform to different agro vet companies and dealers for crop vitamins such as fertilizers and pesticides to advertise their products. From the advertisement, we will gain some revenue.
Likewise, when the app is validated and people trust our app, we are planning to provide a subscription system such as a monthly subscription to our users from which revenue can be generated, the subscription fee will be nominal.
5. What are some of the challenges you are facing or might face?
Currently, we are having problems establishing the app itself so we’re still working on the software. Once the app launches, we think that it would be hard for people to adapt to it as it’ll be new. There might be difficulty in convincing the farmers to download the app and to establish the customer base.
6. How are you dealing with your challenges?
We are involved in various research related to plant diseases and the software. We are in conversation with the Nepal Agriculture Research Council(NAREC), who seems to have a positive response to our idea. By collaborating with them, we can get the daily data to validate the system. Similarly, the farmers will also trust us, as it is a governmental body. We exploring ways to collaborate with them.
7. Who will be your target customers?
Our target customers will be farmers who are involved in harvesting food crops as well as cash crops, and the industries involved in commercial agriculture of cash crops. Other potential investors in agriculture will also be our customers. Basically, anyone involved in the agricultural sector will be our target customers.
8. What are your future plans?
We are currently focused on diseases that affect potatoes. We plan to look for another disease of different vegetables/plants. Our future plan is to explore diseases on other plants as well. Along with that, we are planning to work on detailed cultivation practices for different plants/vegetables from which farmers and others interested in farming different crops can benefit.
9. How many people are in your team? Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
We have 5 team members; Sudip Poudel, Bibek Pandey, Gopal Thapa, Manish Ghimire and myself Ashish Ghimire. We are a group of agriculturist, computer engineers, and mechanical engineers.
Yes. Because we have a self-sustaining business and we are impacting the lives of farmers through us.
11. How will you measure the impact of your product?
We will be involved in taking surveys and feedbacks. We’ll also find out the improvement in revenue of the farmers and the reduction of loss to measure our impact.
For more information about Plant disease forecaster, contact Ashish Ghimire at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Sadikshya Shrestha and Edited by Shambhavi Singh