The project has received international recognition. It was awarded the U.S. Data-Driven Farming Award in a global competition with entries from over 60 countries and got a cash prize of $100,000, which Bajracharya has ploughed back into his company for use in agricultural research and development.
Rajan’s team translates scientific data and research into inputs that ideally can reach real beneficiaries of that information. Although the share of agriculture in Nepal’s economy has fallen to 30%, some 65% of the population is still dependent on farming. Much of this is subsistence agriculture, which is rainfall-dependent and low in productivity.
Nepal must aim for self-sufficiency and surplus in some agricultural products, but for that farmers need data. There is no scarcity of research on how mechanisation or changing crop rotations and cropping patterns could help, but that information much reach where it is needed most.
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“If we do not work on information delivery mechanisms, even the best information will be of little use,” explains Bajracharya. “The information must reach real end users and be packaged in a way that they can understand.”
In trying to bridge this information gap, Bajracharya and his team found that creating a mobile app was not enough, as many farmers did not have access to the internet or to smart phones. So they established call centres in Salyan and Surkhet, where farmers can call in and ask for advice from experts directly. In more remote areas, the company seeks to connect farmers to local “heroes”, highly successful farmers who are already well-respected locally and whose advice counts for something.
GeoKrishi also provides farmers with low-cost equipment for measuring soil fertility and advisory services on what unfamiliar crops to grow at what time. This is important given disruptions to seasonal farming practices because of the climate crisis.
Because farming doesn’t offer quick returns, non-farmers are often reluctant to invest in agriculture. However, Nepal has tremendous potential to export niche products. The country’s geographical diversity and altitude variation give it subtropical and tropical regions, mountains as well as river basins, and different micro-climates across the country during the same season. This is nature’s gift to Nepal.
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“There are no limits to innovations in this sector. And it is time for tech companies to not just focus on products but on creating platforms that reach out to the most neglected communities, like the farmers,” says Bajracharya. These platforms are important to create functional connections between farmers, agro-based vets, traders, marketers, scientific communities and consumers.
For now Bajracharya is not making a huge profit, but as a social entrepreneur he believes the company’s value is not just based on cash returns but on its ability to help millions of struggling Nepali farmers to benefit from their hard work.