Diversified conglomerate ITC will have over a 1,000 farmer producer organisations (FPOs) connected through its super app — meta market for advanced agricultural rural services (MAARS) — by March 2023, up from 800 now.
According to S Sivakumar, group head – agri and IT businesses at ITC, the app will cover as many as 4,000 FPOs, practically all such organisations in the nine states where the company has extensive agri business presence, by 2030.
ITCMAARS provides assorted agricultural and allied services to farmers on the digital platform. The supply of seeds and fertilisers and services like soil testing, weather forecast and marketing are being carried out via the facility.
At present, around 800 FPOs across nine states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are connected through the super app which was launched in April 2022.
ITC is promoting the app as a ‘phygital’ model, as it also involves engagement at the physical level through FPOs and the use of digital technology for providing personalised farm solutions.
Farmers registered on ITCMAARS through FPOs get access to services such as customised farm inputs like seeds, crop nutrients and fertilisers, loans through partnership with banks and technology-based services such as drone-based application of fertiliser through tie-ups with agri tech partners and a platform to sell their produce.
Sivakumar said small holder farmers benefited by such an aggregation model – both at the FPO level as well as through the super app, which is a “solutions integrator”.
Currently, several stakeholders such as State Bank of India and IDFC First Bank, as well as seed and fertiliser majors such as Syngenta, Corteva Agrisciences and Coromandel, have come on board the super app.
Stating that the objective of the super app is to expand farmer outreach and penetration as well as deepening the range of agri solutions, Sivakumar said “within the existing catchments, the aim is to expand reach to 10 million farmers from 4 million at present”.
ITC had launched ‘e-Choupal’, internet-based rural kiosks in 2000 and has currently reached 4 million farmers growing several crops such as soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses — in over 35,000 villages through 6,100 kiosks located in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Through the super app, ITC is also working on offering personalised climate smart advisory to farmers besides a range of products and services that will continue to evolve over time.
“Currently, we provide medium & longer term forecasts for a region. However, there is capability to do that at the hyperlocal level. Therefore, over time, the objective is to offer climate-smart solutions for various crops instead of just routine crop advisories,” Sivakumar said.
In July last year, on the rationale of launching the app, Sanjiv Puri, chairman and MD, said: “There are about 140 million farmers in India with fragmented land holdings and we need to bring them together to be able to make an impact at scale. The government’s intervention or the policies to promote FPOs is truly far-sighted and that’s what we are leveraging.”