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Authors

Colin Shah
Colin Shah
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Alok Kirloskar
Alok Kirloskar
Pragati Khare
Pragati Khare
Devang Mody
Devang Mody
Vinay Kalantri
Vinay Kalantri
Varun Aggarwal
Varun Aggarwal
Erich Nesselhauf
Erich Nesselhauf
Ghanshyam Lal Vyas
Ghanshyam Lal Vyas
Mr Siddhartha Sacheti
Mr Siddhartha Sacheti
Satish Kannan
Satish Kannan

India’s Smart Agriculture Strategies

India’s Smart Agriculture 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, employment rate in the Indian agriculture sector stood at 41.5% in 2020. From a socio-economic standpoint, agriculture is a vital sector which requires focus and awareness at all levels. In the recent years, the agriculture sector has been facing various challenges such as yield plateaus, soil degradation, water stress, high imports on 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 agricultural efficiency and profitability of farmers, and to help farmers double their incomes by 2022 compared to the base year 2015–16.

Sector-wise GDP in India


Source: Statistics Times

Share of Agriculture and Affiliated Sectors in the GVA of Total Economy


Source: Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare

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 argi-based tech driven start-ups in India as of 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 revolutionising farming techniques. They have also addressed one of the most powerful headwinds (climate change) through climate-smart farming.

Climate-smart Agriculture
The rising population and changing diets have created a 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 changes while producing food and energy in a sustainable manner. Farmers in India are gradually realising the benefits of CSA. CSA is an integrated approach of 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 unfavourable environment.
  • Reduced emissions: One of the most important benefits of CSA is expected to be emission reduction. Automation leads to less labour-intensive activities which would help reduce emissions per calorie of food produced, prevent deforestation, and reduce emission of greenhouse gases 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 greenhouses gases from agriculture practices. For instance, the farmers of Dhundi village in Gujarat have started using clean energy sources like solar power for irrigation. The solar power programme benefits farmers in two ways:

  • Under the programme, 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.

Government Partnerships
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 land fields, for collecting precious information and transferring the data to farmers on a real-time basis. The project would be funded by institutes such as Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA) and 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 modernise 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 crore). The government is also providing financial support to Agri-tech startups and promoting the adoption of AI to revolutionise agricultural and farming trends.

Conclusion
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 revolutionise 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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