SLCM (Sohan Lal Commodity Management) Pvt Ltd has developed a mobile app that can help assess various quality parameters of agricultural commodities within minutes and it will likely be launched by this month-end.
“This will be a game-changer and a defining moment for India. The app is based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). It is the result of over four years of research carried out by us,” said Sandeep Sabharwal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SLCM group.
In 2018, the firm applied for a patent for the app. It would be available for downloading at the end of the month on smartphones or tablets.
Free of charge, initially
“Initially, the app will be available free of any charge. Then, it will be subscription-based,” Sabharwal told BusinessLine.
The app will check various quality parameters in a variety of foodgrains and pulses besides guar in no time with 90 per cent accuracy compared to tests conducted by labs. The results provided by the app will be automatically compared with pre-fed data in the firm’s back-end system that will regularly update itself through ML on a real-time basis, the SLCM Ceo said.
“We received a technical assistance grant of €125,901 (₹1.11 crore) from the Technical Assistance Facility of Incofin agRIF fund and the Smallholder Safety Net Upscaling Programme (SSNUP) in Europe towards the development of the app’s quality application for foodgrains and pulses,” Sabharwal said.
The advantage of the app over the traditional quality labs or some of the new systems that are coming in helping to provide quality reports quickly is that it does not need to be set up in any place or any manpower or power to scan the commodity.
“The mobile itself is an instrument, which is independent of any mobile network. It will be part of our AgriReach, which is an aggregator-based scientific warehousing model to store any crop agnostic of infrastructure, location, weather or geography,” Sabharwal said.
Once the app is launched, its on-ground utilisation will help to improve quality checks of agricultural commodities and disseminate the instantly obtained quality control results in a secure and transparent environment, he said.
SLCM was founded in 2009 by Sabharwal and four others with a meagre investment of ₹6 lakh. Its “grandparenting firm” was involved in milling of pulses for decades. “We realised that agricultural management services were lacking with a handful of millers and arthiyas (commission agents) only having infrastructure such as warehouses,” the SLCM CEO said.
With the country being one that had multi-crops and seasons, people were not fully aware of what crop was grown, when and where. “Nor were they backed by proper storage infrastructure of finance,” he said.
This led to the firm opting for an algorithm-based software and named it AgriReach. “It is our proprietary system for which we have sought patent,” the SLCM CEO said, adding that AgriReach helps reduce post-harvest losses through smart infrastructure management.
“The software combines a series of processes, audits and real-time tracking of facilities to give updates on which crops can be stored, where and when. It uses techniques like geo-fencing, real-time tracking, bar-coded storage receipts to avoid thefts or pilferage and internal audits with a maker and checker policy at each level of operation,” Sabharwal said.
From April this year, SLCM has begun using another proprietary solution “AgriSuraksha”, which is an internet-based surveillance technology that helps real-time monitoring of storage warehouses. “This incorporates satellite communication in locations where there are no proper power connections or lights,” he said.
As of August 2021, SLCM tracks 200 warehousing facilities using AgriSuraksha. By the close of the current fiscal, 80 per cent of its warehouses will be brought under its coverage.
Sabharwal said a major change that SLCM has brought into agricultural financing is treating “crop as collateral”. For this purpose, it bought a Chennai-based non-banking finance company (NBFC) and renamed it Kissandhan.
“Our NBFC extends finance to farmers treating their crop as a collateral. So far, we have financed 5.02 lakh farmers with our disbursements totalling ₹2,24.33 crore till August 31,” he said.
Currently, New Delhi-based SLCM is present in 7,157 locations across the country possessing 102.54 million sq ft of storage, including cold storages. It has handled 1.75 billion tonnes. “We handle 959 commodities in India. By 959 commodities, we include different varieties within a crop,” he said.
The firm also manages a network of 255 industrial zones in Myanmar, handles 525 commodities, possesses 6.91 million sq ft of storage space and has handled 11.64 million tonnes of agricultural goods.
“We have made a positive impact in the livelihoods of over 3.86 crore people besides another 19.34 crore. We ply 10,000 trucks every month carrying 7.5 million tonnes of agricultural commodities and other goods across our networks in India as well as Myanmar,” Sabharwal added.
“Even during Covid-19 shutdown, our workers carried essential commodities across the country to ensure timely delivery,” he said.