Digitization of agriculture sector is getting ground with launching of various apps and computer-based information centres at important places across the country.
According to the Agriculture Information Service (AIS), the agriculture department has also been in the process of developing and introducing more mobile-based apps for providing farmers with important services.
Officials at the AIS said a number of apps, introduced over the last few years, have already been proved significantly beneficial to the farmers, particularly in providing timely information for farming and ensuring better prices of their produces.
One of the major apps to name is the digital e-purjee, which was introduced in the sugar mills a few years back for ensuring faster delivery order to the sugarcane growers, the officials said.
The 'e-purjee' is the system where farmers get the order of buying sugarcanes by mill authorities through SMS in their mobile phones instantly after issuing the purjee by computer software.
The officials said the major breakthrough in digitizing agriculture is the establishment of Agriculture Information and Communication Centres (AICCs) across the country.
"The AIS of the government has set up 499 AICCs in 10 agro-ecological regions of the country to provide farmers with updated information on agriculture," Director of AIS Dr M Jahangir Alam told BSS.
He said setting up of another 150 AICCs is in progress to take the advantage of the tech-based agriculture services to all corners of the country.
Dr Alam said the information centres disseminate necessary information on agricultural and modern agro-technologies to meet the requirements of the farmers and others concerned at the field level.
"From these centres agriculture-related information and experts' opinions are being disseminated to the farmers through online video conference", the AIS director said.
He further said if the farmers are unable to describe the actual problem in written or verbally, they can get advices by sending pictures of the affected crops or food-grains to these centres through email or any other social media. AIS has already signed an agreement with a2i (Access to Information) of the Prime Minister's Office and Banglalink to take the agriculture services to the farmers through mobile phones.
Dr Alam said the AIS and UK-based NGO Practical Action jointly established a call centre (16123) to provide instant advice to the farmers on agriculture.
Apart from the agriculture, the service-seekers can also get advices about fisheries and livestock, forest, environment and nutrition from any corners of the country from 9 am to 5 pm except Friday and other public holidays.
AIS also signed 50-year deal with Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television to telecast the agriculture related information to accelerate the services countrywide.
Dr Alam said people can also get information from the Community Rural Radio (FM 98.8) and using two mobile apps - 'Krishikotha' and 'Agricultural Information Service' - those are available at Google Play Store.
Besides, an agricultural website www.ais.gov.bd has also been launched for supporting farmers online.
The AIS is also providing training to the farmers, development workers and officials through 10 ICT laboratories in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Chittagong, Comilla and Mymensingh districts. Along with the government's drive, some international and local organisations have also been working on providing digital support to farmers.
A digital farming tool called Intelligent Decision Support System (IDSS) are planned to be introduced in 2018 for farmers. The Agriculture Extension Department (DEA), ACI Limited, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Netherlands Space Office are working together to support farmers to use the tools and get benefit out of it.
The IDSS is designed to provide crop-specific information and advices to farmers so they can use fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and other agro- input effectively. The system will also give farmers forecast about rainfall, draught or flooding.
Farmers can have access to the information and advices using the smartphone to connect the IDSS. Initially, around one million farmers in 12 districts are supposed to get five major information on farming.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in association with Global Compact Malaysia in September 2017 launched a campaign to arrange necessary fund for providing digital support to 10,000 small-hold farmers for ensuring them better market access.
At the end of the campaign, the farmers will have access to mobile devices and technology to connect to local markets and value chains and to manage their finances. This innovation will transform small farmers into entrepreneurs.
A few years back a good number of farmers in Bogra district adopted Tegra technology for rice farming. Tegra, a brand name developed by Switzerland- based multi-national company Syngenta, is a farming package comprising of sowing seeds, raising seedlings, transplanting and using herbicides besides advisory on agronomic practices.