The Future of Food Security: Digital Tech Interventions Can Change India’s Agri Sector

Farm machinery is expanding, getting better and producing more. This is because of the role technology plays in creating a digital public infrastructure enabling more effective cultivation of larger areas, says Anjami Nayyar 

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About Author: Anjami Nayyar, Founder & CEO, Knowledge Network Solutions (Agri). One of the few Indian women working in the digital agri-tech space, Anjami Nayyar has worked across industries in different locations. watching the farmers and their problems from close quarters. As the Chief Transformation Officer for HyfunFoods, she oversees Hyfun’s end-to-end digitization to help it become a faster, stronger, and better company in the agri-food space. Anjami’s major responsibilities are strategizing and bringing in a comprehensive digital strategy aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Millions of farmers can reap the benefits of real-time agricultural data if contemporary and advanced agriculture technologies are applied simultaneously. Farmers need not spend too much time gathering such data when they can utilize early warning systems and climate information services, along with weather forecasts before any calamity strikes. Farming will become simpler, more accessible and more climate-adaptive due to the encouraging and developing technological trends, even though the role of technology in digital public infrastructure for agriculture is still developing Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), remote-sensing, big data, block chain and the Internet of Things (IoT) are among the digital technologies that are modernizing agricultural value chains. While many nations, including the US, Israel, Australia and the Netherlands, have effectively accepted and used digital technology to change agriculture, India is still in the early stages of this process. It is expected to foster the use of digital agriculture through public-private partnership (PPP).
A McKinsey reports says there are significant problems holding back India’s untapped potential. If resolved, a flourishing agriculture industry could both boost the economy and significantly improve farmer livelihoods and income. But collaboration will be crucial. While agtechs may facilitate better decision-making and replace manual farming practices, such as spraying, reducing dependence on retailers and mandis, existing systems remain important in the new ecosystem for R&D and supply of chemicals and fertilizers.
The report also says that agtechs have a unique opportunity to become ideal partners for companies seeking market access. In this scenario, existing agriculture companies are creating value for farmers by having more efficient and cost-effective access to the farmer vis-à-vis traditional manpower-intensive set-ups. This system builds and more the agtechs know the farmer, the better products they can develop.
India’s Future in Digital Agriculture
Remote-sensing, soil sensors, unmanned aerial surveying, market insights and other technological interventions enable farmers to gather, visualize and evaluate crop and soil health concerns in various phases of production in a practical and economical manner. They can serve as a first indicator to spot possible problems and offer solutions to address them quickly.
AI/ML algorithms can generate in-the-moment actionable insights to assist in soil screening, increase crop production, control pests and reduce farmer workload. With the help of blockchain technology, you can track your food and track tamper-proof, accurate data about farms, inventories and transactions. As a result, farmers no longer need to rely on files or paperwork to record and save crucial information.
 Advantages of Digital Agriculture
 By adopting the above-mentioned technology solutions in practice, farms may be managed and monitored effectively. Farmers can act accordingly and avoid using excessive amounts of pesticide, fertilizers and water since they can access a complete digital study of their farms in real time. Digital technology reduces production costs and increases productivity in agriculture and lowers chemical use in production. It inhibits soil degradation and encourages effective and efficient use of water resources apart from bringing down negative environmental and ecological impacts. It improves socio-economic standing of farmers and also improves workplace safety.
Digital Agriculture in India
A major reason for slow adoption of digital farming in India is that small-holder farmers are, basically, segregated which makes data collection quite difficult. The sector’s use of digital solutions has also been badly impacted by low penetration of mechanization tools and frequent natural disasters, such as drought, floods and excessive monsoon rain. Therefore, to implement digital agriculture on a typical Indian small farm, a customized method is needed. This can later be scaled up and made available to many Indian farms.
To make digital agriculture in India successful
Cost-effective technology: The perilous financial circumstances that a typical farmer in India operates in are explained by the poor income of farmers. So, lower technological costs will be helpful
Moveable hardware: Plug-and-play hardware has a greater chance in the Indian market because typical Indian farms are tiny. Moreover, agricultural land leasing is very common under different farming arrangements; so, a farmer may shift to another plot in the following season. Such farmers prefer to buy portable equipment
Platforms for renting and sharing agtech: Small agricultural plots and limited financial resources present an opportunity for online platforms that provide equipment renting and sharing services rather than outright purchases
Academic support: Through numerous locally run programmes and government initiatives, the local agricultural organization and academic institutions frequently interact with farmers. The availability of training resources from various academic institutions and agricultural groups will increase farmers’ embrace of digital technology
Future Outlook
Digital technology interventions in Indian agriculture have the potential to revolutionize the way farmers work and improve food production. By leveraging the technology, farmers can make more informed decisions, optimize resource allocation and increase productivity. It is an exciting development that holds great promise for the future of the country’s agriculture system.
Indian agtech businesses can play a crucial role in supplying farmers with these cutting-edge technologies since the Indian agriculture and allied sector is on the verge of adopting contemporary technology, such as AI/ML, IoT and drones for unmanned aerial surveys. There are currently few competitors in the sector, but serving the nation’s millions of farmers presents a significant opportunity for private and foreign businesses to increase their presence in the nation. The successes of digital agriculture in India will, however, be determined by several important aspects, including government policies that are supportive, low-cost technology, simple operations and access, as well as simple system maintenance.
To accomplish such goals as doubling farmer incomes and sustainable growth, it is in the national interests to adopt a holistic ecosystem approach in resolving the issues the country’s agriculture industry is facing. Digital agriculture, to be widely adopted, would therefore need a strategy involving many stakeholders, with the government enabling its spread and absorption into the ecosystem.

*This article was first published in the September 2023 edition of BioVoice News eMagazine. The views expressed by the author are her own.