Rainmatter Foundation demands “fair” advice on AgriStack

The Rainmatter Foundation, a nonprofit initiative by the team behind stockbroker Zerodha, has called for a “fair and transparent” public consultation process for India’s ambitious plan to introduce technology into the country’s burgeoning agricultural ecosystem Trickypedia showed.

The Rainmatter Foundation focuses on climate and environment-related projects and, through its subsidiary Rainmatter Capital, also invests in companies that are active in these areas.

Rainmatter’s feedback appears to reflect the concerns of many critics of the project. In short, the proposed AgriStack appears to be aimed at providing information and data to stakeholders other than farmers themselves, especially smaller, marginalized farmers. Including information that could be used for exploitation or sale to farmers.

The project is part of India’s comprehensive plan to create the AgriStack, which will serve as the backbone of the various technology-based interventions the government is seeking to introduce into agriculture.

To put the plan into action, the Indian government had one approval Start a pilot project with the software giant Microsoft in a few hundred villages across the country in April to create a “Unified Farmer Service Interface” via its cloud computing services.

The government later also signed agreements with Star Agribazaar, Patanjali Organic Research Institute, Amazon Internet Services and ESRI India to carry out various parts of the project. Each of these companies has a different responsibility for setting up / running pilot projects.

While Star Agribazaar’s focus is on building a strong level of advisory services based on pre- and post-harvest measures, Patanjali is expected to build a mobile application and training that can be used on inputs about soil nutrition, quantification of yield, etc. Amazon, of course, provides the basic level on which solutions can be built, while ESRI is tasked with providing GIS tools to build the data hub on a GIS platform.

But it wasn’t until June, about two months after signing the agreement with Microsoft, that the government published a draft entitled “The India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture” (IDEA) a proposed framework for the project for public feedback by June 30th.

In his comments on the draft consultation paper, Rainmatter said the chronology of the draft publication was “incomprehensible” and requested that the draft paper be kept pending a fair consultation.

“The administration has the MoU. signed [with Microsoft] in April and then asked for a public consultation on June 1st. This chronology is incomprehensible. The MoU must be kept pending until a proper, fair and transparent public consultation process has been completed, ”stated Rainmatter in his comments on the draft paper.

The RTI was submitted by Srinivas Kodali, an independent security researcher, who shared it with. shared Trickypedia exclusively.

We asked Rainmatter for a comment and will update the story if they reply.

By seeming to ignore its engagement with the agricultural community and civil society, the Agristack Project drawn fire also from them. They said the government started their pilot project without consulting Microsoft.

In May, more than 50 organizations, including the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and the Internet Freedom Foundation, wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture calling for more transparency and participation in the development of AgriStack.

Again and again criticism and fears have been expressed that Agristack will only support the socialization of agriculture, concerns about data protection and consent aside.

As part of the project, the government wants to offer all farmers in the country a unique pass, but Rainmatter wasn’t that enthusiastic about the idea. “Why is there a need for unique farmer IDs when Aadhaar already serves as a unique identity,” asked the organization.

In their paper draft, the government also suggests using digitized land registers, but Rainmatter said that digitized land registers “have been riddled with errors in the past”.

“Given that the majority of farmers are small and marginal landowners and a large proportion with lease rights, the paper offers little information about the digitization process. There is no question of remedial measures in the event of inaccuracies, ”says Rainmatter.

Regarding the use of technological measures in agriculture, Rainmatter warned that IT in agriculture needs to be complemented with an offline, affordable, timely, easy to understand, smallholder and agricultural ecosystem.

“IT, ITES and IoT need the provision of information services on the last mile and, most importantly, the support of farmers to process this information for a better decision, then turn that decision into actionable points and have an ecosystem around those actionable points to be up and running in their area within a very short time, ”said Rainmatter.

To update: The title of the story has been changed.