Farmbook: An app to re-empower farmers

Nov 01, 2012 by Alexandra Walther
Credit: Farmbook

A cell phone application enables Indian farmers to better negotiate the sale of their harvests. Farmbook is designed for use by this population segment, where illiteracy is very common.

What is the current market price of rice or peanuts? Is now the right time to buy or pesticides? These are some of the crucial questions that Indian farmers ask themselves. However, many of these farmers cannot read or write. With their cell phone, however, they can connect to one another and exchange this information. This is the wager being made by the application FarmBook, which uses icons and a text-to-speech system.

Using pictograms to communicate

Farmers trust their experience in the field as well as that of their fellow farmers. "Contrary to what one might expect given the illiteracy rates, many farmers actually own a cell phone. It is a good start to sharing information. However, farmers needed an application designed for their specific needs", explains Hendrik Knoche from the EPFL's Media and Design Laboratory FarmBook works with Android based smart phone models that are accessible in terms of price. The application is intended to facilitate the real-time transmission of their advice and tips. To accomplish this, the application relies on a system of invitations, text-to-speech and a series of pictograms that enable illiterate people to locate and .

Credit: Farmbook

Negotiating from a position of strength

Farmbook provides essential data that farmers need in order to properly organize themselves like the weather forecast. However, the application offers much more than this. Users on the network can share information almost in social network-like fashion. If diseases affect crops in a neighboring region, for example, farmers can anticipate the possible need for treatment.

Finally, farmers can also monitor on the market. Knowing what margin farmers can demand for the fruit of their labor is crucial. "Sharing this information places them in a position of strength during negotiations!", adds Oscar Bolaños, a student at the EPFL's School of Computer and Communication Sciences, who is also involved in this project.

In a small village called C.K.Pura, a three-hour drive from Bangalore, 15 farmers, half of whom are illiterate, are currently testing the application. For the moment, the audio feedback system works better than the pictograms, which will be redesigned to make them easier to visually comprehend. Initial tests also revealed that farmers feel more confident using FarmBook when audio prompts accompany the actions for each of the interface items.

Explore further: New tech aims to improve communication between dogs and humans

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Texting made possible for the illiterate

May 23, 2012

People incapable of reading and writing will have access to text messages from now on. A system using vocal synthesis, icons and contact management allows people to send and read text messages by those normally ...

What farmers think about GM crops

Feb 24, 2008

Farmers are upbeat about genetically modified crops, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Canadian farmers trust regulated dairy industry

Mar 06, 2012

Canada's response to the "milk wars" in the United States in the 1970s was to establish a supply management system that both protects and restricts the income of its dairy farmers. A University of Illinois study examined ...

Seeds of hope amidst Philippine floods

Aug 14, 2012

Amidst horrendous flooding around Manila and major rice-growing across Luzon in the Philippines, some good news has emerged for rice farmers – Submarino rice – rice that can survive around 2 weeks of being under ...

Recommended for you

Method to reconstruct overt and covert speech

4 hours ago

Can scientists read the mind, picking up inner thoughts? Interesting research has emerged in that direction. According to a report from New Scientist, researchers discuss their findings in converting brain ...

Study says upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

Oct 29, 2014

The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study from the University ...

Walk through buildings from your own device

Oct 29, 2014

Would you like to visit The Frick Collection art museum in New York City but can't find the time? No problem. You can take a 3-D virtual tour that will make you feel like you are there, thanks to Yasutaka ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.