Budget 2022: AgriTech & Natural Farming: Drivers for Agricultural Sector
Agriculture has for long enough remained the backbone of the Indian economy. Even during adverse times in the previous financial year the agricultural sector was among the few sectors of the Indian economy that managed to pull through and remain robust. The same was on account of AgriTech assisting in improving the yield, efficiency and profitability of agriculture. Through the course of the last fiscal year the AgriTech sector had specially flourished with greater adoption of technologies in the market and increased investments. The government’s support through the Union Budget 2022 to the agriculture sector in general and AgriTech in particular will be pivotal to ensuring sustained growth of the burgeoning AgriTech ecosystem. Pre-budget expectations of experts in the AgriTech sector revolved around budgetary support being given to Research and Development (R&D) incentivization, automation, mechanization of farms and supportive inputs for start-ups. It is to the credit of the government that the budget has been successful in addressing all of the above effectively. Infact, the budget has come as a ray of hope for providing impetus to logistics, shifting to tech enabled services and adopting a holistic approach to empowering a massive chunk of the rural workforce, that is the farmers.
The need for investing in AgriTech has been felt recently as the traditional methods of agricultural were not able to achieve food security for the rapidly growing population while maintaining a low carbon footprint and a healthy lifestyle. In order to sustainably tackle this issue the Agri-Tech sector acts as a game-changer.
In his address on February 2, 2022 Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of making Indian agriculture 'technology based' and 'chemical-free' and referred to 'Kisan-Drones' being the new friends of the Indian farmer. The use of drone technology has been highlighted in the Union Budget 2022 in that Kisan Drones would be used for promoting crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides, and nutrients. The use of drones is reflective of the governments increased interest in technology and opens up the possibilities for further application of Internet of Things (IoT) in the sector. The government has also focused on farm produce value chain as an area for capital infusion. Thus a fund with blended capital, raised under the co-investment model, will be facilitated through NABARD. This would be utilised to finance startups for agriculture and rural enterprise, relevant for farm produce value chain and will bring in much needed seed capital in the agricultural space. The activities for these startups will include, inter alia, support for Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), machinery for farmers on rental basis at farm level, and technology including IT-based support.
In addition to making agriculture technological sound the focus is also to bring agriculture back to basics or back to its traditional roots of ‘natural farming’. In line with this, states would be encouraged to revise the syllabi of agricultural universities so as to meet the needs of natural, zero-budget and organic farming, modern-day agriculture, value addition and management.
In its vision to take natural farming forward, the government has also announced the launch of a one of its kind 'Natural Farming Corridor', a five-kilometre wide corridor along river Ganga. The Prime Minister in the above mentioned speech said that this natural corridor will provide a holistic ecosystem for agriculture and it has the potential to become an epicentre for agricultural development. With the growth of global demand for organic products the shift to an all organic and natural form of farming would prove to be very beneficial for India. Not only this, the shift to natural farming can also help in controlling the levels of chemical fertilizers being released in the river Ganga, thus also being beneficial on an ecological front.
There is no doubt that the government has shown a clear and positive intent at backing the agriculture sector. Towards this end, besides others, AgriTech and Natural Farming would be the drivers that would enable the government to meet its commitment of doubling farmers’ income.