The journey of Plantix, AI-based image recognition App for Farmer
07th, July 2020 - Startup
S J: An App for testing in the agriculture field is not common; many people tried their luck and failed. Can you tell us how you convinced your customer to download and use?
Plantix: There has been a quiet but fundamental shift in rural consumer behavior in the last decade led by the increased smartphone and internet penetration. The new generation of farmers are tech-friendly and are open to trying new tools. We saw a strong organic uptake of the Plantix app since the benefit of health check can be immediately experienced and the risk barrier in trying it out is low because Plantix only provides advisory (which can be tested through other means as well). Plantix also benefited from strong word-of-mouth referrals since the health check solves a key problem in the life of a farmer i.e. crop advisory and disease diagnosis.
S J: How you are integrating AI and ML concept in the App which helps the former with accurate information?
Plantix:: We are using state of the art AI models to power image recognition in Plantix. At the moment, we can automatically identify more than 400 pests, nutrient deficiency, and diseases on more than 40 crops. We have more than 20 million images (2 crores) in our database to train the Deep Neural Networks that we are using and can analyze images in a blink of an eye. Plantix is also smart enough to identify thousands of objects in case farmers send us images that do not show a plant. This enables us to identify the issue for the farmer in a couple of seconds and provide him or her with detailed information on how to treat it in more than 17 languages.
S J: How unique is your model compared to others in the market?
Plantix: There is no mobile application for farmers in India (or the world) which has a comparable depth of disease coverage and accuracy of recognition. Plantix can diagnose 350+ diseases across 66 crops with an accuracy of >90%. Our algorithm is the biggest differentiator with any other crop advisory platform, which are generally based on human agronomists diagnosing disease. The competition’s approach is not scalable, prone to errors, and has a long response time.
Further, Plantix’s retailer network of 10K+ retailers is unrivaled in India. No other distributor has this kind of reach across India.
S J: What is your business model and how are you sustaining?
Plantix:: Plantix is free for farmers to use and will always remain free. We believe that smallholder farmers in India seldom have the financial power to pay for advisory services. Hence, we have entered the agri-input distribution business. Plantix now serves as a digital distributor to its rapidly expanding network of 10,000+ agri-input retailers. These retailers buy their inventory from Plantix and we monetize that transaction.
S J: You have raised $15 million through VCs and grants. Can you tell us where you invested/spent the amount?
Plantix: The company has invested its funding in primarily building the AI-based image recognition, the mobile app, marketing, and building out the team in Berlin and India. Going forward, we will deepen our reach in India by reaching out to more farmers and retailers.
S J: What was your experience Pre and during COVID19? Post COVID19 what is your expectation in terms of market reaction.
Plantix:: Agriculture was hard hit due to the Covid-19 lockdown because of agri-input supply chain disruptions and farmer’s inability to take their produce to the markets. However, since Plantix is completely digital and works without any manual intervention, we continued to see strong engagement from our farmers. Farmers were going to the fields, the fields had crops, the crops had diseases and hence the farmers continued to use Plantix.
We believe that the lockdown restrictions have significantly accelerated the digital adoption by retailers. Many of them were reluctant to try a new digital approach to buying their inventory earlier but since now traditional distributors are not operational, we have seen multiple new retailers signing up on our platform.
S J: Where do you see the Agri-tech sector in 2025.
Plantix:: By 2025, agri-tech will be the dominant way of doing agriculture in India. There is great work being done on all aspects of the agriculture value chain - precision farming, disease diagnosis, supply chain efficiencies, farm-to-fork linkages. We have also seen a new wave of talent enter the industry, which is a very healthy trend since the majority of India is still engaged in agriculture.
S J: Your app has nearly 25 million downloads. How did you able to reach this number. What are the marketing strategies you have used?
Plantix: When marketing a product like Plantix, which offers users real added value, there are only a few things to consider to scale up: Identify the problems of your target group, tell them how to solve this problem with your product, and find the right channel to communicate this. But it's not just a matter of appealing visuals and a well-chosen outlet for spreading this message. It's also about providing content in local languages, maintaining precise targeting, and the usage of all of our farming knowledge we have in the company.
S J: In India, we see a lot of uncertainty in climatic conditions. How and what kind of customer queries you get and how do you resolve?
Plantix: Uncertain and changing climatic conditions lead to a shift in plant diseases and pests. With the Plantix App, farmers only need to take a photo of their crops and can quickly check if their plants are sick or not. Furthermore, by providing preventive measures and sending out disease/ pest alerts for upcoming diseases we help our users to adapt and give them scope for action. In the Plantix app, our users can also find crop advisory information on how to farm in a climate-resilient way - For example, we give advice on how to cope with long periods of dry spells.
Link to Playstore: https://bit.ly/SUJ_Plantix
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