The tech-driven future of Indian Agriculture
It’s easy to take technology for granted when we have access
to some of the most powerful information tools in our pocket and the
Intelligence tools that makes it easier for us to access that information. But
there are sections of society that need technology in order to survive. In this
article we want to focus on one such section, the farmers and the agriculture
sector of India.
Issue At Hand
In the US the average farmland size is 445 acres (180
hectares). In China - the average farmland was 0.96 acres till 2010, which
increased to 1.6 acres in 2016 after the land redistribution scheme, and in
India - 93% of the landholding is below 1 acre while 4.9% of the farmers own
32% of India’s farmland. The farmers and farming operating agricultural
processes in farmland less than 5 acres are called marginal farmers - and
marginal farming has been super inefficient.
The inefficiencies of marginal farming can be overcome with
techniques of modern agriculture and has allowed the US to produce its
agricultural output of $164 billion with only 2.4 million people working
directly on-farm and India’s reliance on manual farming has allowed us to
produce Rs. 32.5 Lakh Crore worth of agricultural output annually while
employing 232 million people.
According to a report India can increase its agricultural
output to $830 Bn with an investment of $230 Bn in aggrotech.
Precision farming is a three-step process. First, data is
collected with high spatial and/or temporal resolution. Second, data are analysed
and related to treatments or manipulations that are specific in location and/or
timing. Third, prescribed treatments are implemented using systems capable of
precise control, tracking, or handling.
How can Technology Help?
Factors such as soil moisture, chemical composition and soil
quality can greatly affect a crop’s output and yet they are either overlooked
or farmers lack the means to reliably measure these intricate properties of
their farmland. Specialized drone technology enables the farmers to measure
these variables which they can use in something called precision farming.
Companies like CropIn manufacture these drones which can measure the crop and
soil health. Farmers can then, for example, use this information to figure out the
patches requiring irrigation more precisely and save time & money.
Predictive AI models allow farmers to collect data on crop
yields, pests and diseases, and analyse that data to get recommendations on
optimal crop management practices. These models can predict crop yield based on
weather patterns, soil conditions, and crop variety allowing farmers to decide
when to crop, irrigate and harvest their crops.
There is a lot of information parity when farmers go to the
market looking to buy inputs for their crops or trying to sell their yield.
Indian farmers can leverage Big Data to identify the trends and patterns of crop
prices, weather patterns, and market demand. Farmers can use this information
to make better harvesting and investment decisions.
Blockchain is an emerging technology but has revolutionary
applications in supply chain management. The technology is being used by
farmers in India to bring transparency to the agricultural supply chain enabled
by cryptography. This ensures traceability and brings the trust factor in the
agricultural value chain where one can easily track where their produce
The Gaps in the technology adoption
Prof. Kadambini Katke from DSCASC, Bangalore interviewed 203
farmers from the Tumkur district of Karnataka to find out what are some of the
most common reasons behind India’s continuous reliance on obsolete farming
The modern farming techniques require skilled hands &
demand a thorough knowledge of how to most effectively use the technology.
Indian farming being characterized by largely uneducated workforce leads 77.83%
of the farmers to feel that the modern technology is complex and would be
difficult to use.
Lack of technical assistance and expertise is also an
obstacle for precision technology adoption. 86.69% of the respondents feel lack
of local technical support and training is a deterrent for adoption.
Incompatibility between different equipment and hardware device further add
Looking at US & China
China had a similar problem in 2010. The average land size
was 0.93 acres which went up to 1.6 acres, almost doubling the average land yet
they face an agricultural shortage. By 2017, 35% of all arable land was
transferred 56% of which was to farmers.
Private land ownership is banned in China. Under China’s
current Household Responsibility System (HRS), started in the early 1980s, all
rural land is owned by rural collectives. They allocate contract rights for
parcels of farmland to eligible households. The tenure of contract rights was
15 years in 1983, renewed for 30 years in 1997, and again by 30 years (i.e.,
starting 2027) in China’s 19th Party Congress in 2017 (NPC 2017). Farmers
cannot resist land transfer under the contract which made it easier for rural
collectives to enforce land transfer on the tenants.
The Department of Agriculture (USA) has a separate division called National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The NISA has several grants associated with it, one of which is called Precision, Geospatial and Sensor Technologies Programs. Through this program leadership and grants, NIFA emphasizes the use of information and precision technologies to deliver decision tools that improve management capabilities for agricultural, food, forestry, and community enterprises.