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  • Vikas Birhma

Understanding Three Years of Gramhal Through Nine Experiments

Gramhal is a tech non-profit developing a suite of digital solutions for smallholder farmers. We aim to end the data divide for farmers and provide them with the agency to make better decisions and have a sustainable source of livelihood. Our mission is to improve the livelihoods of 50 million farmers by 2030 and, in the process, develop models that are transferable across developing countries. We currently work with over 250,000 farmers across 3 states in India.


We have reached here through multiple iterations and experiments over the years. The guiding principle for our research and development is to find a solution at the intersection or maximum overlap of the golden mix: Impact, Scalability, and Financial Sustainability. We undertake agile product development and rapidly iterate our product or make pivots after incorporating feedback from the field. The goal is to remain responsive to the feedback from the community and keep navigating the problem landscape without being fixated on any one solution.


Following is a list of all solutions Gramhal has tried and tested. Each solution includes the insight that was drawn and is marked across the three indicators of impact, scalability, and financial sustainability.




1. FARMGATE SALE

Description: To understand price gains by disintermediation of the supply chain, we undertook trade with farmers at the farmgate and sold the crop directly to the industrial buyers. Insight: In the agri-supply chain, the farmgate node has the maximum unfair price markup. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


2. INFRASTRUCTURE BUILDING

Description: To understand the impact of village-level warehousing facility on the farmers’ income, we built a small 100 MT warehouse in a remote village where there was no storage facility. Insight: Farmers avoid spending money on post-harvest activities. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


3. WAREHOUSE FINANCING

Description: To understand seasonal price gains, we provided farmers with storage, post harvest credit, and market linkage. Insight: Farmers used our price and quality information to negotiate with traders. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


4. PORTABLE QUALITY INSPECTION KIT DEVELOPMENT

Description: To provide farmers with doorstep quality inspection, we designed and developed a portable crop quality inspection kit and trained rural youth as micro-entrepreneurs through digital and in-person training methods. Insight: Rural youth aspires for a sustainable and consistent source of income instead of uncertain micro-entrepreneurial business activity. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


5. PERSONALIZED PRICE INFORMATION

Description: To understand the impact of price information on the farmers’ income, we provided farmers with doorstep quality inspection service and real-time personalized price information. Insight: Village Level Aggregators questioned the authenticity of the quality receipt & price information. Impact: Unsure Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


6. QUALITY INSPECTION AT MANDI

Description: To understand the role of crop quality in price discovery during the auction at the APMC mandis, we undertook 200 paid quality inspections and displayed the results on the crop lots before the bidding process. Insight: Traders who participated in the auction at mandi lacked the understanding of the crop quality inspection and parameters. Impact: Unsure Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Unsure


7. CROP LISTING PLATFORM

Description: To understand the role of connection with multiple buyers on the farmers’ price gains, we developed a digital platform to connect farmers with buyers directly. Farmers listed 50000 MT crop details on this platform, and 100K messages were exchanged. Insight: Farmer and traders ignored the quality service and used the platform for sharing crop details, price information, and contact numbers. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Yes


8. DEVELOPMENT OF LOW-COST QUALITY INSPECTION TOOLS

Description: To ensure every farmer has access to a crop moisture meter, we designed and developed a low-cost IOT based moisture meter and a machine-learning based software to do physical parameter quality inspection of Maize crop. Insight: Adoption of even low-cost quality inspection tools will be a challenging as their credibility will be questioned by the buyers. Impact: Unsure Financial Sustainability: Yes Scalability: Unsure


9. CHATBOT FOR LOCALIZED PRICE INFORMATION

Description: To enable farmers to quickly access and consume localized and real-time information, we developed a WhatsApp-based chatbot. Insight: Understanding the existing digital behaviors of farmers is critical to building a scalable solution. Impact: Yes Financial Sustainability: Unsure Scalability: Yes




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