Agriculture has come a long way since the first farm of Mesopotamia, created centuries ago. In recent years, technology in agriculture has rapidly changed the industry and by using innovative technology as a scalable and sustainable resource, farmers are now taking their agricultural practice to new heights, keeping the farm to fork in the future. Technology has provided farmers specific insights into predicting weather patterns, identifying crop diseases, analyzing crop inputs, identifying crop diseases, to help them reach to market directly. Now, the farmers are accessing new technologies and tools and maximizing their profits without relying purely on large trading companies to sell their produce. RECENT “e” INITIATIVES TAKEN FOR FARMERS: eNAM:

  • In 2016, the government launched ‘eNAM’ (National Agriculture Market), an online platform for helping farmers bid for the best prices across markets by-
    • Integrating agricultural markets online
    • Allowing farmers and traders alike to view all Agriculture Produce Market Committee-Related information and services
    • Commodity arrivals and prices, and buy and sell trade offers
IFFO iMandi:
  • IFFCO iMandi is the initiative launched in line with the Digital India initiative to promote rural digital revolution.
  • This Social Commerce app aims to benefit the farmers and to bring the digital revolution to rural India with the help of digital technology.
  • It is specially built for large communities with commerce, content and communication enabled in a simple, seamless and secure manner.
Export Inspection Council (EIC):
  • In order to promote ease of agricultural exports from India, the government launched digital initiatives by Export Inspection Council (EIC).
  • For this, three portals have been developed to reduce transaction time and cost in an effective and transparent manner:
    • For Safe Food Export Traceability
    • Single Laboratory for Accreditation and Approvals
    • For Monitoring Export Alerts from importing regulators
Export Inspection Council (EIC) is the official export certification body of Government of India, set up under Section 3 of the Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963, to ensure the development of export trade of India through quality control and inspection and for other related matters.
Artificial Intelligence in farming:
  • In 2018,  the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) received a Microsoft Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth grant to support the continued development of Artificial Intelligence solutions, focusing on sustainable agriculture in developing parts across the globe.
  • In India, this pilot project is implemented in the state of Andhra Pradesh where farmers have always relied on their guesswork to decide when to plant and a combination of ancient traditions.
  • With the objective to further the Digital India initiative, and bring technology to farmers, the government has launched a mobile application “Meghdoot”.
  • This app will help farmers by providing forecast relating to temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and how to take care of the crops and livestock.
KisanSuvidha and PusaKrishi Mobile App: Plantix: 
  • In 2018, the Karnataka government launched “Plantix”, an Android smartphone app which can smartly detect pests, plant diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.
Agricultural Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index (AMFFRI):
  • In 2016, NITI Aayog launched an index “Agricultural Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index (AMFFRI)”.
  • The Index ranked States/Union Territories based on the implementation of seven provisions proposed under model APMC Act such as special treatment to fruits and vegetables for marketing and level of taxes in mandis, joining the e-NAM initiative and others.
  • In the index, Maharashtra ranked first in the implementation of various reforms, Gujarat ranked second with a score of 71.5 out of 100, closely followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Budget 2019 and Water conservation
  • This year, the Budget 2019 stressed the need to increase efforts to conserve water, as the water level is decreasing and the cropping pattern is highly skewed in favor of those crops that are water-intensive.
  • The Budget stressed on the adoption of the following methods:
Information and Communication Technology (ICT):
  • Adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should become the backbone of smallholder farming in the country.
  • Its adoption is very effective especially in rural areas, where it has already impacted the way farmers get access to information on weather, soil health, and crop prices.
Zero Budget Farming:
  • Another major initiative was Zero Budget Farming, it refers to a set of farming methods, it relies on practices with no use of chemical inputs like fertilizers and pesticides.
  • The Economic Survey 2019 mentioned “climate-friendly” agricultural practices including Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) along with Home Farming, Cow Farming, and Vedic Farming. These practices can enable “elimination of chemical pesticides” and restoration of soil organic matter and fertility.
  • Remedial therapy: In India, where water crisis, desertification, crop pests, diseases and a persistent lack of infrastructure continue to threaten the agricultural sector, technological advancement is providing a much-needed lifeline to remedy the problematic situation.
  • Development of efficient methods: With significant advancements in the fields of robotics and sensing technologies, e-technology has led to the development of more sophisticated, effective and efficient practices and methods of undertaking agricultural practices.
  • Helpful in decision making: Farmer with all relevant information in their hand, can make a better and informed decision for their agricultural activities, for grains, communication channels, distribution, and other needs.
  • Effective planning: Technology can perfectly keep track of crops, predict yields, sowing season, need of the crop and others. These modern methodologies can enable farmers to have better control of their farming and planning accordingly.
  • Disintermediation: In the technological era, the farmer can adopt innovative technology in order to gain control of the changing dynamics and leverage market insight without relying on traders.
If India keeps the rate of technological evolution on par with agriculture innovation; more productivity, higher efficiency, and effectiveness from the sector can be expected in the future. WHAT’S STOPPING FARMERS? Below are the major challenges faced by the farmers:
  • Lack of infrastructure: The lack of information on farm inputs, unorganized credit, and absence of market linkages are the major hurdles faced by farmers in adopting new technologies.
  • Right inputs and advisory: Farmers lack enough knowledge regarding various resources available related to farming and the right advice on the way to use them.
  • Poor reach: In rural areas, the reach of e-technology is really poor, even the distribution of technology is uneven throughout the country.
  • Insufficiency & Illiteracy: In rural areas, insufficient connectivity, along with lack of basic computer knowledge, high costs for services and literacy hinder rapid development of electronic-agriculture.
  • Adoption issues: Despite the visible benefits of the new agricultural technologies, farmers either do not adopt them or it takes a long time for them to begin the adoption process and scaling up. But the truth is that the farmers did not really believe the new technologies.
  • Old behavior: Also, old-age farmers did not believe the new technologies, they only believe and rely on their own experience.
  • Financial constraints: Rich farmers are adopting the technology and utilizing their services but the small and marginal farmers are unable to afford the new technologies and they remain left out.
NEED OF THE HOUR:       All of the above challenges call for bottom-up, complementary investments in physical, human, and institutional capital, and farmer-friendly e-platforms and the following measures:
  • Digital literacy: Spreading digital literacy, by teaching farmers how to choose and use apps, which are, or soon to be, available in regional languages.
  • Outreach activities: There is a need to tap the vast network of Panchayats and local government to undertake awareness and outreach activities to achieve productivity, nutritional value, and enormous health benefits.
  • Proper monitoring: The government needs to monitor the actual use and impact of interventions on farmer’s lives by understanding adoption and adaptation processes.
  • Revolutionary reforms: The agricultural sector requires top-down policy and institutional reforms, where progress is real and constraints holding back greater success can be understood at every level.
  • Informative content: Also, for a diverse agricultural sector and to help stratified households shift to productive, knowledge-intensive agriculture, there is a need for generating reliable, up-to-date, location-specific message content.
KNOW YOUR BASICS: Precision agriculture (PA):
  • Precision agriculture (site-specific crop management) refers to the satellite farming management concept, which is based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.
  • Simply put, it is an approach to farm management that used information technology (IT) to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.
Information and Communications technology (ICT):
  • Information and Communications technology (ICT) is a broader term for Information Technology.
  • It includes all the technology used to handle telecommunications, broadcast media, intelligent building management systems, audiovisual processing, and transmission systems, and network-based control and monitoring functions, etc.
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include:
    • Learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information)
    • Reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions)
    • Self-correction
  • It is a constellation of technologies that enable machines to act with higher levels of intelligence and emulate the human capabilities of sense, comprehend and act.
  • In recent times, AI has made its way into a number of areas as given below:
    • Agriculture: The technology can help in increasing crop yield by providing real-time advisory, prediction of crop prices, and early detection of pest attacks, precision farming, and others. For example- CROPTIX to diagnose crop diseases in the field and alert rural farmers in Kenya and PEAT, a machine vision for diagnosing pests/soil defects.
    • Healthcare: AI has the potential to improve patient outcomes and also reducing costs. The technology can assist customers, to help schedule follow-up appointments or aid patients through the billing process, and virtual health assistants that provide basic medical feedback.
Internet of Things (IoT):
  • The internet of things (IoT) can be understood as a computing concept which describes the idea of everyday physical objects, which are being connected to the internet and being able to identify themselves to other devices.
Augmented Reality (AR):
  • AR is an enhanced version of reality created with the use of technology in order to add digital information on an image of something.
  • The technology is used in applications for smartphones and tablets.
Virtual reality:
  • Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment.
  • It may be an actual place that has been photographed and included in a virtual reality app or an artificial (animated scene).
  • Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of transactions of economic nature that can be programmed to record financial transactions and virtually (everything of value).
  • This system records transactions made in bitcoin or any another cryptocurrency.
  • The technology offers a way for untrusted parties to reach a consensus (agreement) on a common digital history.
To sum up, it can be said that today’s technologies can spur development, growth, equity, and sustainability of the agricultural industry. The recent scenario has proved that the future of agriculture depends on its digital transformation. Now the time has come to take advantage of the technology advancement that we have at our disposal to put food on the table and create peace of mind for our hard-working farmers in the country.