Emerging Technologies Transforming Agriculture
It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of agriculture in India when it accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s GDP and employs about 45 per cent of its workforce. A new wave of revolution in agriculture will be driven by the use of advanced data analytics in decision- making. Aligning with India’s vision to achieve Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Climate Action (SDG 13), and Life on Land (SDG 15) by 2030. Disruptive technologies involving artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things are being employed to catalyse precision agriculture and climate smart farming. Several startups have taken the initiative to provide intelligent solutions to farmers using real-time data on crops. This can help in accurate and timely decision-making. Use cases involve evaluation of soil health and remote monitoring of crops, automatically controlled watering enabling water use efficiency and drone use for spraying pesticides and fertilizers.
The government in the Union Budget 2022-23, has also given a push for Kisan Drones. They will be used for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients. With special focus on emerging technologies, a component called “Innovation and Agri-Entrepreneurship Development” has been piloted under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY-RAFTAAR) in 2018-19 with the objective of promoting innovation and agri- entrepreneurship by providing financial support to incubation ecosystem. Through this program startups innovating in drone technology will be assisted in resolving issues faced by farmers and allied sectors. Telangana has also partnered with World Economic Forum to develop innovative high-use case technology solutions in agriculture that are inclusive, sustainable, and scalable. Their agriculture budget mentions that Artificial Intelligence would be utilized to monitor the pest and disease infestation in crops coupled with SMS alerts for instantaneous disease management.
However, several challenges needle the path ahead. Approximately 80% of land holdings in India are small and marginal (Source: Agriculture Census, 2015-16). Technology solutions must be economically viable for scalable impact. Digital literacy and digital infrastructure are another roadblock. Capacity building of farmers, to adopt, maintain and update innovative equipment must be enhanced. Issue of data standardization also occur with India having 130 million farmers speaking around 800 languages in 15 agro-climatic zones. Juxtaposing several datasets in an interoperable and across geographies slows down adoption of new technologies as well.
According to a FICCI-PwC report, the market size of emerging technologies in agriculture is expected to reach $ 8.4 billion by 2030 from $ 0.85 billion in 2019.That reflects exponential growth potential. The government is adopting swift measures to ride the new wave. PM Narendra Modi has signed agreements with US giants Amazon, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems to incur data analytics services to improve water use efficiency, improve soil health, and supply chain management including temperature-controlled warehousing and refrigerated trucks. Besides, the Digital Agricultural Mission 2021-2025, aims to utilize AI, block chain, remote sensing, and GIS technology and use drones and robots for Smart Agriculture. To further improve agricultural productivity timely support to early-stage startups, a collaboration between AgriTech businesses and government to establishing toolkits and frameworks through evidence- based learning from pilots on ground and accelerated research coupled with democratization of dataset would help double farmers' income and boost the rural economy.
History walks a full circle, and we ought to take lessons from the past. Change is often countered. In India, there would be concerns around emerging technologies replacing unskilled labour. Data aggregation, maintenance, storage, standardization and the cost of internalising emerging technologies will also be huge. However, resistance to technology is fatal. Since early adopters are rewarded with first mover’s advantage. We walk on a thin line; balancing will be essential. Emerging technologies can be facilitated such that they provide increasing yields, sustain prosperous rural livelihoods and ensure food security for us. The youth can assist in serving, facilitating and managing state of art technologies, further bringing us closer to the New India. Continuous reskilling in constantly evolving technologies along with data strength will inch us closer to a vision where innovation becomes to India what quality was to Japan.
This article is written by Nikita Agarwal and Prakarsh Mishra from Artificial Intelligence vertical of Innovation Management team under AGNIi Mission.
- National accounts statistics, Central Statistical Organisation, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation; Report on fifth annual employment-unemployment survey, Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2015–16
- https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/mar/20/tamil-nadus-plan-to-use-artificial- intelligence-in-tackling-pests-lauded-2432214.html
- (Committee on Doubling Farmers Income–Vol XI, 2017)
- https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/amazon-microsoft-cisco-swoop-in-on-24- billion-india-farm-data-trove-121091700108_1.html