Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy. It contributes nearly 66% to the overall employment opportunities in the country. However, traditional methods of agriculture are not sustainable and cannot help the sector survive and thrive. As the human population grows and arable land decreases, the agriculture sector will be under a lot of stress to feed this exploding population.
Agri-tech: Smart farming that leverages technology
Technology can be a powerful enabler not only when it comes to overcoming the hurdles in the supply chain, but also to improve the yield and revenues. Enter agri-tech, which leverages the power of technology to improve farming-related activities. Agri-tech holds immense promise when it comes to helping improve the yield and profitability for farmers with greater efficiency.
Niche agri-tech startups are leveraging the latest technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, blockchain, drones, GIS, and Internet of Things (IoT) to solve pressing problems that have been plaguing the agriculture industry in India. From supply chains to more basic issues such as the quality of seeds or soil, scarcity of water, lack of storage facilities, and poor access to market, the agri-tech startups are helping the Indian agriculture sector overcome these hurdles. Apps using IoT and sensors help determine wind speeds as well as moisture content of the soil. Further, they help monitor the health of the crops.
A sunrise sector with impressive growth potential
Agri-tech is a fast-growing sector with great potential to benefit Indian agriculture. In India, there are over 450 technology startups focused on agriculture—also known as agri-tech startups—that are growing by 25% every year, says a 2019 NASSCOM report. The report further says that by June 2019, the agri-tech startups had already enjoyed funding worth $248 million. Globally, the smart farming market is projected to reach $23.14 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 19.3% from 2017, says a BIS Research report.
Support coming in from the union government
The agri-tech sector in India is also finding support from the central government that is working to double the farmers’ income by 2022. To this end, the NITI Aayog is collaborating with companies like IBM to pilot technology-driven solutions for the agriculture sector. This is with a view to provide real-time advice to the farmers. For instance, artificial intelligence is being leveraged to develop crop-yield protection models.
In addition, to benefit cooperatives through the use of technology, the Government of India plans to computerize the Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) with a grant of nearly INR 2,000 crore. Other government initiatives to support smart farming in India include establishing the National Centre for Management of Agricultural Extension in Hyderabad (MANAGE), the introduction of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), One Nation One Market, and mentoring the agri-tech start-ups.
Make tech-enabled solutions affordable for farmers
If smart farming practices and the tech-enabled support is not affordable, farmers will be reluctant to adopt and accept them. This is because most farmers in India have meager incomes, which may prevent them from reaping the benefits of this digital revolution in agriculture. Therefore, agri-tech start-ups must tailor their services and products in a way that the benefits can reach the farmers and they readily embrace the change.
The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant
She can be reached on LinkedIn.