31 Aug Smart Farming
The government is promoting the adoption of smart farming methods through the use of technology and innovation in the agriculture sector in the country. The government is implementing a Digital Agriculture Mission (DAM) which includes India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA), Farmers Database, Unified Farmers Service Interface (UFSI), Funding to the States on the new Technology (NeGPA), Revamping Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Center (MNCFC), Soil Health, Fertility, and profile mapping.
Under the GPA program funding is given to State Governments for Digital Agriculture projects using emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, etc. The adoption of drone technologies is being done. To promote smart farming, the Government promotes Startups in the Agriculture sector and nurtures agri-entrepreneurs.
The Per Drop More Crop component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana (PMKSY-PDMC) aims to increase water use efficiency at the farm level through micro-irrigation technologies, i.e., drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. The GoI started eNAM (National Agriculture Market), an electronic trading portal that creates networks between the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for the farmers.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) promotes innovation, extension, and education in agriculture. A total of 1575 field crop varieties were released for different agricultural crops during 2014-21. During 2014-21, 91.43 crore agro-advisories were provided to farmers through mobiles. ICAR developed 187 mobile apps on different farm and farmer-related services during 2014-21. These ICAR apps are now integrated into one common platform called KISAAN. The Farmer FIRST (Farm, Innovations, Resources, Science and Technology) initiative was launched during this period by ICAR with an enhanced farmers-scientist interface to move beyond production and productivity.
This information was given by the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.
INDIA’S SMART FARMING STRATEGIES
India’s Agriculture Sector
The agriculture sector plays a vital role in enriching India’s economy. Agriculture accounted for almost 17.8% of India’s Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2019–20. According to the World Bank’s collection of development indicators, the employment rate in the Indian agriculture sector stood at 41.5% in 2020. From a socio-economic standpoint, agriculture is a vital sector that requires focus and awareness at all levels.
In recent years, the agriculture sector has been facing various challenges such as yield plateaus, soil degradation, water stress, high imports of oilseeds, nutrition deficiency, volatile prices, inadequate infrastructure linkages, post-harvest loss, and information asymmetry.
However, adverse climate changes remain one of the most significant issues faced by this sector. According to a report, India lost approximately 5.04 million hectares of crop area due to cyclones, floods, cloudbursts, and landslides until November 25, 2021. Such calamities have had a severe impact on farmers, especially small farmers who constitute close to 85% of the total farmers in India.
Thus, there is a dire need for smart agriculture in India. The Indian government has taken several measures for developing the sector, considering its importance. Notably, the government is exploring ways to enhance the agricultural efficiency and profitability of farmers and to help farmers double their incomes by 2022 compared to the base year 2015–16.
Smart Agriculture in India
Smart farming has emerged to be the need of the hour for the Indian agriculture sector. It is much more efficient than the traditional methods of farming. Smart farming, which involves the application of sensors and automated irrigation practices, can help monitor agricultural land, temperature, soil moisture, etc. This would enable farmers to monitor crops from anywhere. Moreover, smart farming can help integrate digital and physical infrastructures which would benefit small farmers.
The small and marginal farmers of India find it challenging to integrate digital and physical infrastructures which hampers their revenue growth. Agro-based start-ups can reach out to the farmers and help them gain access to such viable and cost-effective solutions. According to a report published by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in 2019, there were more than 450 argo-based tech-driven start-ups in India 2019.
This number has skyrocketed in the last two years as the sector witnessed a surge in investments and funding. Agri-based tech-driven start-ups have been very innovative in assisting farmers and revolutionizing farming techniques. They have also addressed one of the most powerful headwinds (climate change) through climate-smart farming.
The rising population and changing diets have created huge pressure on land in India. Farmers are struggling to keep up as crop yields level off, soil degradation rises, water shortage increases, biodiversity declines, and natural calamities become more frequent. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for almost 14% of India’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can help transform agri-food systems in a responsive manner and mitigate the devastating effects of climate change while producing food and energy in a sustainable manner. Farmers in India are gradually realizing the benefits of CSA. CSA is an integrated approach to managing cropland, livestock, forest, and fisheries. CSA also addresses the interconnected challenges of food security and rapid climate change. CSA can help India in achieving the following outcomes:
- Enhanced productivity: CSA can help in producing more food without compromising the quality which would promote nutrition security and boost growth in income among farmers, especially the poor and marginal groups.
- Improved resilience: CSA can reduce vulnerability to pests, drought diseases, and climate-related shocks and risks. It can also help farmers nurture and develop the long-stressed and unfavorable environment.
- Reduced emissions: One of the most important benefits of CSA is expected to be emission reduction. Automation leads to less labor-intensive activities which would help reduce emissions per calorie of food produced, prevent deforestation, and reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This will lead to a human power reduction from non-environment-friendly sources.
India is slowly adapting to climate-smart techniques of farming which will help to change the environment of India and reduce greenhouse gasses from agricultural practices. For instance, the farmers of Dhundi village in Gujarat have started using clean energy sources like solar power for irrigation. The solar power program benefits farmers in two ways:
- Under the program, farmers transfer electricity to the local grid; for this, they are provided incentives.
- Smart farming enables crop diversification which helps farmers reduce their dependence on monsoon for water.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the government is taking various smart agriculture initiatives such as:
- Crop yield prediction model using artificial intelligence (AI): In 2018, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) partnered with IBM for developing a crop yield prediction model using AI. This helps in providing real-time advisory to farmers.
- AI sensors for smart farming: The Indian government has partnered with Microsoft for empowering small-holder farmers in India. The partnership seeks to increase the income of the farmers through greater crop yield and superior price control using AI sensors. The partnership would help boost the adoption of AI in farming.
- Drones for monitoring soil and crop health: The government has launched a project, Sensor-based Smart Agriculture (SENSAGRI), involving six institutes. In this project, drones would be used for smooth scouting over landfills, for collecting precious information, and for transferring the data to farmers on a real-time basis. The project would be funded by institutes such as the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), the Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA), and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Impact of Budget 2022
Budget 2022 focuses on smart and modern agricultural practices. According to the Prime Minister of India, agricultural loans have surged 2.5 times over the past seven years. These loans will help modernize agriculture significantly and enhance natural farming, with a prime focus on Agri-waste management. Furthermore, under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, US$ 26.4 billion (Rs. 2,00,000 crore) has been disbursed to 11 crore farmers. Also, the government’s efforts towards promoting the use of organic products have driven expansion in the organic products market to US$ 1.5 billion (Rs. 11,000 crores). The government is also providing financial support to Agri-tech startups and promoting the adoption of AI to revolutionize agricultural and farming trends.
Climate change majorly affects the poor and marginal farmers who make their livelihoods from agriculture. Technology and smart practices can help mitigate risks caused by climate change, among others.
India is constantly making efforts to formulate and implement policies to make agriculture more sustainable. AI has the potential to completely revolutionize the existing trends in agriculture and farming. Given India’s vibrant corporate structure, partnerships between the corporates and the government can help create a smart agriculture industry.
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