To make matters worse, the company used ruddy Excel sheets to track the cycle of marigolds. The agents would go to the field, note down the stage that a particular farmer's marigold was in, and the amount of time it would take for him to harvest it. The agent would then go to the office and update it on Excel sheets which would then be viewed by agricultural scientists who would provide inputs on the maturity of a farmer's marigolds. For instance, at the end of six weeks, marigolds should have turned a certain shade of yellow. If they haven't, scientists would input their suggestions on the Excel so that the agents can then inform farmers to take corrective action to get the cycle back on track.
Because this process wasn't real-time, it led to erratic harvesting schedules. For example, the company would witness weeks without any produce and the very next week it would have to deal with 25-30 tonnes of marigolds. "The erratic schedules were a cause for concern. We could not possibly process the entire produce in one go and as a result, we ended up losing business," says Ahmed.
Omnikan knew it had to make the process real-time and get rid of erratic schedules. There was only one way to do that: Set up a farm management system (FMS) on a private cloud.
Sitting on the cloud, the FMS provided agents and scientists with an interface that could be logged into from different locations in real-time. The FMS was a one-stop shop for agents, scientists, and accounting teams as it covered the entire cycle from registering a farmer to paying the farmer for the produce.
Agents had to update the data weekly for scientists to provide their inputs. Missing the weekly deadline would trigger a reminder SMS that would be sent to agents' phones.
But the agents sprung a surprise on Ahmed. It was imperative for agents to physically go to the field to check the development of marigolds but they were sitting at home and updating the FMS from their smartphones. "We didn't realize that the Web-based solution would work on phones and expected agents to enter the data from our office. We got thinking and realized that even though implementing a solution on the smartphone could be a security risk, it would work if we put in some checks and balances and use it to our advantage," he says.
Omnikan decided to take the plunge and build an app in-house based on the Android platform for the agents and farmers. For starters, the company decided to provide agents and farmers--who had more than 5 acres of land to their name--with Huawei smartphones. Providing phones to the farmers simplified the overall process as now they could update the FMS themselves.
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