How Intel apps are helping small farmers boost crops—and incomes

Nisha DesaiThis post was written by Intel employee Nisha Desai, a writer who enjoys finding, shaping, and sharing great stories about Intel’s technology and people. She also manages a team of graphics whizzes dedicated to internal communications. Nisha joined Intel in 2008 after majoring in history and mass communications at UC Berkeley.


The Cambodian government recently created a lofty new goal—to triple its rice production and become one of the world’s biggest rice exporters by the end of 2015.

And a simple set of technologies—four farming apps from Grameen Intel—will be critical to the country’s plan.

In late September, the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) announced it would scale Grameen Intel’s farming apps, called the “eAgro suite,” across 210 locations in Cambodia, setting the country up to export over 1 million tons of rice a year.

An entrepreneur in the Surkhet District of Nepal tests soil using the mrittikā app to find a fertilizer recommendation.

An entrepreneur in the Surkhet District of Nepal tests soil using the mrittikā app to find a fertilizer recommendation.

The joint partnership with IFAD and Grameen Intel will not just drive greater food security, job creation, and long-term economic growth for farmers and their families in Cambodia, but will also help farmers in Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Macedonia.

Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO, and Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Peace Prize winner, started Grameen Intel in 2008. The joint venture partners Intel with Grameen Trust, a nonprofit devoted to fighting poverty, to create software applications that address specific social problems such as low agriculture output or lack of prenatal care.

Thirty employees, half of them software engineers, work for Grameen Intel, which is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Grameen Intel is also part of Intel World Ahead, an organization within the Sales and Marketing Group devoted to improving education, healthcare, and economic development using Intel technology.

“Today there are 7 billion people in the world, with 2.4 billion people below the $2 a day poverty line,” notes John Davies, Sales and Marketing Group vice president World Ahead general manager. “Grameen Intel uses its expertise to understand and solve real problems with the appropriate technology usage models.”

Farming solutions, like the eAgro suite, are developed by Grameen Intel and then introduced to entrepreneurs and farmers. So far, the eAgro suite has seen large success in India, where it was first deployed in 2011.

“Our mantra is local solutions that go global,” explains Grameen Intel’s Chief Technology Officer, Narayan Sundararajan. Grameen Intel works with entrepreneurs—often the offspring of farmers who want to start their own business—to spread adoption of the technology.

Grameen Intel trains these entrepreneurs working with partner organizations, sells them low-cost software solutions and devices such as Android phones or Windows PCs, and then the entrepreneurs set up shop. Farmers visit the shops to gain access to the technology.

Karna Bahadur Buda (center), an entrepreneur from Nepal, receives training on the eAgro apps. “This changes everything for farmers,” says Srinivas Garudachar, director of business development for Grameen Intel. Farmers who used to rely on borrowing money to run their farms are able to free themselves from lenders by using these apps to improve their crop yields.

Karna Bahadur Buda (center), an entrepreneur from Nepal, receives training on the eAgro apps. “This changes everything for farmers,” says Srinivas Garudachar, director of business development for Grameen Intel. Farmers who used to rely on borrowing money to run their farms are able to free themselves from lenders by using these apps to improve their crop yields.

Four simple apps improve crop production by up to 300%

The four farming apps created by Grameen Intel engineers have dramatically increased crop production, according to studies by eKutir. In the Indian state of Odisha, for example, farmers are seeing a 200-300% increase in crop production and an average of 50% increase in cash flow.

  • mrittikā, which means fertile in Sanskrit or Bengali, is like a blood test for soil. It tells farmers about the health of their soil and what fertilizers they should use. Using a portable chemical kit, the farmer takes a fistful of soil, mashes it up, and adds chemicals to his soil. The soil will change color and the farmer enters his soil information into the app and out pops a recommendation;
  • ankur, which means seed, is an app that tells a farmer what to plant based on his soil type and condition. “Farmers plant what their grandfathers planted, but that may not be the best crop for the land,” explains Sundararajan. “This tells farmers what seeds are best to plant in their particular soil”;
  • protikar, meaning remedy, focuses on pest control. Farmers enter information like crop type, region, crop symptoms and the app spits out a recommendation as well as a list of locations for farmers to obtain specific pesticides; and
  • vistar, which means expansion, is an app that helps farmers find the best price for their crops. After entering in crop type and various expenses, the app calculates a margin and identifies traders willing to exchange for a price that works best for the farmer. “It’s like a matchmaking app,” laughs Sundararajan. “It’s an open portal where traders can also sign up for the app.”

Simple apps like these are making a world of a difference for small farmers in developing nations. And they offer a unique lens for Intel too.

“As the cost of our devices decrease, they become more affordable for more people,” says Kazi Huque, CEO of Grameen Intel. “This is an opportunity for Intel to understand what the use cases are for the rest of the 4 billion people who are not yet connected to technology.”

One Response to How Intel apps are helping small farmers boost crops—and incomes

  1. Kyle Burkhardt says:

    CSRadmin,

    Wow what an interesting article involve Intel’s worldwide communication and technological advancements. This really proves how Intel can have an impact in a number of ways, while helping those in more impoverished countries by enabling them to create more yield. I look forward to seeing Intel becoming more involved in a number of different fashions and proving the overall good of technology and global communication.