Forewarned is forearmed - pest-diseases warning for farming app launched

Chennai, November 5, 2019: IT and agriculture came together on Tuesday, as over a hundred farmers and a dozen corporate volunteers participated in the launch of a new mobile app for pest-disease warning and other farming information. The app and a portal providing geo-based agriculture information were launched by ministers of Tamil Nadu Thiru R B Udhayakumar, and Thiru R Doraikannu at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here today.

The app called PANNAI, (Pest- disease advance Notification and Need –based agriculture information) has been developed by MSSRF with support of Oracle CSR and technical inputs from Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU). It provides advance information on pest-diseases so farmers can protect their crops with. Advisories, market information and farm-specific weather advisories are also available, something that is usually available only at district level. It also uses integrated information from the Uzhavan app of the Govt of Tamil Nadu.

Speaking on the occasion, Thiru R B Udhayakumar, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management and Information Technology spoke of the digital initiatives by Tamil Nadu. “Technology is for the small farmer is what this event is reinforcing. The dream of our leader Dr Jayalalithaa is coming true,” he said recalling how the former chief minister had provided laptops for students. “This app should not be used just just in one place but scaled up so agriculture and technology works together for all of us” he said.  

Minister for Agriculture, Tamil Nadu, Thiru R Doraikannu emphasized that technology and pro-farmer policy could boost incomes.  It was a matter of pride that the state had been awarded ‘Krishi Karman’ award for the fifth time. “The government of Tamil Nadu’s ‘Uzhavan’ app with integrated information was a historic step for agriculture, linking science and farmers. I appeal to farmers to use ‘Pannai’ and ‘Uzhavan’ apps so they can benefit,” he said.

Earlier, Founder MSSRF, Prof M S Swaminathan said digital technologies were very important to support small farmers and applauded the efforts made by this project. The Executive Director of MSSRF,

Dr Anil Kumar said the present-day agriculture was in the midst of a ‘digital agriculture revolution’. “Over the next 10 years, agriculture is going to be revolutionized with this mode of agriculture. Our interest is in how best we can help smallholder farmers improve productivity, decrease chemical fertilizer use and manage water resources, moving from Green to Evergreen Revolution.”

Mr Ramesh Venkatachari, representative from Oracle said “While working in IT, for us, this might have been just another app, but we feel the amazing conglomeration of people and ideas here today. It can be a model for other such initiatives in the future and we can learn from the farmers, scientists and from one another. You can make this reach your places and we will try to ensure that we can help you understand the technology from our side,” he said.

Presenting the features of the app, Mr R Nagarajan, MSSRF and Head of the Project, said the team first collected data from the field along with GIS technologies for micro-level detailed field-level information and set up automatic weather stations. Farmer Balasubramanian from the region spoke of how traditional knowledge had to go alongside technology to make farming more productive.

The group of farmers was provided tabs along with the app and the portal besides training on how to use it. Oracle volunteers spent a good part of the afternoon after the launch event, training farmers from Vedaranyam on usage of the tabs.

Estimates have shown that farmers in the region can lose upto 40% of their crop to pest-disease attacks. The project is being rolled out in six villages, reaching around 3,000 farmers in the Vedaranyam block of Nagapattinam district and indirectly benefiting around 10,000 farmers. As a unique feature it contains farm-level digitized land records and has automatic weather stations installed as part of the project.