Cropfit — An app of the farmers, for the farmers, by the farmers; bidding below MSP not possible

While other apps mainly focus on the traders and how they can benefit them and the mandis, Cropfit's prime focus is on the farmers and their benefits because the app is being developed by farmers. It will have an algorithm such that no bidders can bid below MSP.

Cropfit — An app of the farmers, for the farmers, by the farmers; bidding below MSP not possible
Kannaian Subramaniam and Aswini G from Thalavady Farmers Foundation

When an app is designed for farmers to “profit from crops”, what do you call it? It is called “Cropfit”. This app will ensure that farmers do not find themselves at the receiving end when they sell their crops. Its algorithm will be such that no bidder can bid below the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Says Aswini Ganesan, a Co-Founder of the Thalavady Farmers Foundation that is coming up with the Cropfit app, “This mobile app is about linking the farmers and the traders and creating a very healthy ecosystem. The farmers are the stakeholders.” Cropfit is a mobile application that can run on both Android and iOS.

Planned to be a multilingual application, Cropfit is initially being launched in two languages — English and Tamil — in January 2023. And by April the developers plan to bring it to a pan-India level. The app is being developed by the Thalavady Farmers Foundation in collaboration with its IT partners in Coimbatore on a pro bono basis.

What makes the app unique? Says Aswini: “There are a lot of applications. But other apps mainly focus on the traders and how they can benefit the traders, mandis, etc. We are mainly focusing on the farmers and the benefits of the farmers because the app is being developed by farmers.”

Kannaiyan Subramaniam, the other Co-Founder of the Thalavady Farmers Foundation, expounds on the app: “There are hundreds of apps like this. But this is unique. We are trying farmers to list whatever they produce. The farmers are not always sellers; they are also buyers. We promote one farmer buying from another. Besides, crops, cereals and livestock are all there in one app.”

Says Kannaiyan, “This app will have bidding also. That is a unique feature. And the bidding will start from the MSP.” Aswini adds, “The algorithm works in such a way that none of the bidders can bid below the MSP.”

Transparency, feels Kannaiyan, is another plus point of this app. “We would like to add features in the future to keep records of the transactions by the farmers. At present, the farmers do not get any sort of billing vouchers properly. In many places, trading is done without any records as it is not taxable.”

There will be another kind of transparency, too. At present, “who is having what is not known to the next door. Even the farmers do not know what their co-farmers are producing. As a result, middlemen come in and the costs go higher. This app will address that gap.”

Besides, it will be possible to transact with the banks through the Cropfit app. The payments will be done online through a payment gateway.

Thalavady Farmers Foundation is a non-profit organization under Section 8 of the Companies Act. The mission of the Foundation is to provide various kinds of support to the farmers and the traders at large. Aswini G and Kannaiyan Subramaniam are its Co-Founders. Subramaniam, who is also the Convener of the Foundation, is the General Secretary of the South Indian Coordination Committee of the Farmers’ Movement.

Aswini has an experience of a dozen years in IT services. In 2019, however, her passion for agriculture made her leave her comfort in Copenhagen. And she moved to India. She came to know that farmers with small landholdings and tenant farmers were still in a pitiable situation. Wanting to be a part of the solution, she believes that the advancement of technology along with digitalization can make agriculture more profitable for producers.   

Cropfit will be run in a pilot mode in Thalavady, a taluka in Erode district of Tamil Nadu, and a few districts around it in western Tamil Nadu. The app will be scaled up later.

How does the app link the farmers and the traders? “We are creating buyers and leads and giving advisory services to farmers. There are credit options for buyers. We are also planning to bring in selling livestock online.”

Of course, funding and investment are important, admit the developers. But this app is again different. Other apps get a lot of angel investment and other private investments, but then that is for profit. Cropfit also looks for support from business houses, government and non-government foundations but not with a profit motive.

“As of now, we have got a little support from the Agro Ecology Fund for the Thalavady Farmers’ Association (of which the Foundation is an outgrowth) and partly we use that and partly we are supported by the tech partners. They are also voluntarily investing their time and things.”

Will the app also help the farmers on the input front? Says Kannaiyan: “As of now, we don’t want to bring in so many things. There is an impressive network of input dealers across the country. Both synthetic and non-synthetic things are there. But we would like to exchange organic inputs. For example, a poultry farmer who has organic manure can list his produce and farmers can buy it.”

The developers of Cropfit also want to create a category where farmers can exchange seeds among themselves and also exchange knowledge on the community platform. “This is our comprehensive plan.”

Efforts are on to link farmers to the Cropfit app. The Thalavady Farmers Foundation is physically going to the farmers, deploying volunteers to reach out to the farmers, download the application and commission it. It goes without saying that Kannaian’s own influence will also help increase the number of subscribers to the app. He is well-connected with farmers in South India and even the rest of the country.