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AgriStack: e-Technology to the aid of farmer

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    30th Jun, 2021

Tech firm Microsoft will run a pilot for the agriculture ministry’s AgriStack in 100 villages in six Indian states to “develop farmer interface for smart and well-organised agriculture" aimed at improving efficiency and reducing waste.

Context

Tech firm Microsoft will run a pilot for the agriculture ministry’s AgriStack in 100 villages in six Indian states to “develop farmer interface for smart and well-organised agriculture" aimed at improving efficiency and reducing waste.

Background

  • A recent EY report has estimated that India's farm economy to grow to as high as $24 billion by 2025, on the back of agritech adoption.
  • The central government is preparing what is likely to be one of the largest publicly-funded digital databases to connect over 120 million farmers to a swathe of agri-related businesses from insurance companies, to credit card firms, to logistics outfits, supermarkets, and seed sellers.
  • Along the same lines the world’s first entirely machine-operated crop – a crop sown and tended without a human ever entering the field was harvested in 2017, a milestone in digital agriculture, sometimes known as “smart farming”, or “e-agriculture”.

Analysis

What is Agristack?

  • The Agristack digital infrastructure will collect details of farmers and their landholdings, what crops they cultivate, the climatic factors at play in specific geographies, and average output, before linking these details to farmers' individual Aadhaar biometric IDs. 
  • The database will ally a farmer's Aadhaar ID with the location of his/her farm holdings while also accounting for their location, size and dimensions towards determining the level of output that can be expected, and the amount of income that can be derived.
  • This data may be available with local governing bodies like Panchayats while GPS technology can be used to further corroborate government data. 
  • The database will also need to include information relating to the type and quantity of crops being grown.
  • Data relating to cropping patterns will be crucial in informing agribusinesses so they can customise packages to individual farmer needs.
  • Again, satellite imagery can be used to accrue this data along with records from local government bodies. 
  • The Agristack innovation has the potential to significantly drive down lag times between farmers, intermediaries and businesses.

Significance of digitalization of agriculture

  • Digital technologies including the Internet, mobile technologies and devices, data analytics, artificial intelligence, digitally-delivered services and apps—are changing agriculture and the food system.
  • Examples abound at different stages of the agri-food value chain: farm machinery automation allows fine-tuning of inputs and reduces demand for manual labour; remote satellite data and in-situ sensors improve the accuracy and reduce the cost of monitoring crop growth and quality of land or water; and traceability technologies and digital logistics services offer the potential to streamline agri-food supply chains, while also providing trusted information for consumers.
  • Digital technologies can also help governments improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing policies and programmes, and to design better ones. For instance, freely available and high-quality satellite imagery dramatically reduces the cost of monitoring many agricultural activities.
  • This could allow governments to move towards more targeted policies which pay (or penalise) farmers based on observed environmental outcomes. In addition to monitoring compliance with environmental policies, digital technologies enable automation of administrative processes for agriculture and the development of expanded government services, such as in relation to extension or advisory services.
  • Finally, digital technologies can support tradein agriculture and food products, by connecting private sector suppliers to new markets, and enabling new ways for governments to monitor and ensure compliance with standards and to provide faster and more efficient border procedures that are essential for perishable products.

Digital technologies in agriculture

  • Internet of Things (IoT):  world agricultural the disrupting unstructured and structured data to provide insights into food production.
  • Data driven farming: by analyzing and correlating information about weather, types of seeds, soil quality, probability of diseases, historical data etc farmers will make more informed decision
  • Chatbots: AI powered chatbots can also be leveraged by agriculture sector.

Challenges for digitalization of agriculture

  • For policymakers, the challenge will be to shape policy and regulatory settings so that they facilitate opportunities offered by digital technologies.
  • At the same time, and not unique to the agriculture sector, digital technologies raise questions about privacy, interoperability, and even potential liability issues, all of which will need careful consideration.
  • Reaping the benefits of digital technologies in agriculture requires the participation and co-operation of farmers, researchers, private sector, non-profits and government.

What can governments do to reap the benefits of digital technologies for the agriculture sector?

  • Policymakers will need to consider potential benefits, costs and risks, and to understand the factors affecting technology uptake so that interventions can be targeted to where there is a market failure, or a public interest.
  • This requires understanding how technology can help in different components of the policy cycle, and may require government bodies to expand their skillsets, invest in technology and training, or partner with other actors (both government and non-government).
  • Digital technologies may create new roles or responsibilities for governments, including to enable the digital infrastructure (is there a case for governments to be a provider or a rule maker of new digital infrastructure, and under what circumstances); but on the other hand, if technology can reduce information asymmetries and transactions costs, less government intervention may be needed.

Conclusion

At present the majority of farmers across India are small and marginal farmers with limited access to advanced technologies or formal credit that can help improve output and fetch better prices. Among the new proposed digital farming technologies and services under the programme include sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, may significantly improve the farm yields and boost farmers' incomes

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