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.
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:
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:
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the government is taking various smart agriculture initiatives such as:
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.
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.