Precision Agriculture and IoT-based Solutions
27th Jan, 2021
- Indian agriculture is on the path of transformation in the last four decades. The necessity for evolving new agri-models in India has become the necessity, given its unique characteristics and typical diversity.
- India is primarily a rural-based economy, where over 60 percent of population still relies on agricultural and rural systems, as the primary source of income for their livelihoods.
- The Government of India has an envisioned target of achieving US$ 5.0 trillion economy by 2024. One such mechanism for rural empowerment is extensive usage of 'Precision Agriculture' (PA) and 'Internet of Things' (loT) based solutions in variety of farming systems in India.
The Need for 3rd Tech-Revolution in Agriculture
- The '1st Agricultural Revolution' was focused on mechanisation of agriculture (1900-1940s), The '2nd Agricultural Revolution' was directed towards Green Revolution in Agriculture (1960-1990s), The '3rd Agricultural Revolution' (1990s onwards) has to dive deep and with a focus on adoption of hi-end technology, cloud-based solutions, data-driven decision making in agricultural/farm management systems, usage of analytical tools for post-harvest and marketing of agricultural produce, etc.
- The third wave of agricultural revolution is essential for India, especially given the hard realities that the Indian population is projected to be 1.50 billion (2030) from the current 1.37 billion, where the food production has to be doubled (United Nations Report, 2020).
Precision Agriculture and its Significance
- The 'Precision Agriculture' (PA) which is also referred alternatively as 'precision farming', or 'site-specific crop management', or 'prescription farming'. The PA comprises the observation, measurement, and analysis of the needs of individual fields of farmers and crops in the regions, so that the productivity and farmers' income are significantly enhanced.
- The PA extensively uses the technology-driven solutions for managing the entire set of 'Agricultural Management Systems (AMS)' for various interventions like:
- Generating the on-site/on-farm data on continuous basis.
- Using remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and robotics & analytics for data-driven decision making in farm management.
- Enhancing the Good Management Practices (GMPs) in agriculture, where technology play roles to reduce the farm-input-costs and simultaneously improving the agricultural productivity.
- Using drones for spraying pesticides, insecticides, etc.
- Equipping the agricultural-farmers with weather patterns and market intelligence information systems.
Benefits of Adopting Precision Agriculture
- Adopting the improved set of agricultural production practices and choice of crops, based on suitability of localised lands and climate
- optimising the input-resources like water, fertilisers, plant-protection measures against pests-diseases
- helping to minimise/avoid the wastages, by technological interventions
- managing the water and soil nutrients for agriculture effectively
- eliminating the risk and volatility in crop-production-systems
- increasing the farmers-income
The Indian Scenario
- The loT is one of the most promising techniques to achieve precision agriculture, which is expected to increase agricultural yields significantly.
- The Knowledge Acquisition framework focuses on collating information from variety of sources, then making meaningful data driven decisions in real-time basis, to address the challenges agricultural farms.
- This loT-based solution involves enhancing automation and reducing the manual farm management practices so that farmers leverage the advantages of loT-technologies.
- Prediction models are developed/used by taking temperature, humidity and moisture levels of the soil, for each crop on the farm, and water is irrigated only when required.
- Implementation of loT-based solutions in agriculture/precision agriculture are encountering challenges, like huge initial investments in IoT-systems for PA and non-tech savvy farmers in India.
Role of Stakeholders in Precision Agriculture
- Enabling the formulation of precision agriculture policies by Government of India and State Governments across India.
- Creating the awareness among Indian farming community about the benefits of precision agriculture.
- Demonstrating the multiple-benefits of PA, through Central/State Agricultural Universities (CAUs/SAUs), Central Agricultural Research Institutions.
- Ensuring the availability of adequate and timely agricultural credit for the newer technologies of PA/loT-solutions.
- Adopting and innovating the newer PA-technologies suitable to Indian context.
Challenges in Adopting Precision Agriculture
- The information technology infrastructure systems and service facilities oriented to agricultural sector (which are locally accessible, cost-effective and user-friendly) are inadequate.
- The agriculture in India primarily consists of small and marginal land holdings.
- Indian farmers are generally acquainted with their traditional systems of agricultural-practices, who are generally reluctant to try something new like PA/tech-driven-agriculture.
- The banking and financial institutional systems have preferential bias in financing agricultural sector, owing to its uncertainty.
The Way Forward
- There is an urgent need to provide policy push, which is being initiated by the Government of India recently (since 2017), at a strategic level.
- In addition to feeding domestic consumers, Indian agricultural-system should focus on exploring/ harnessing the export markets for agri-based/ processed products, which will give the higher returns to farmers and increased foreign exchange reserves.
- The adoption of technology-oriented Agricultural Management Systems (AMS) primarily requires more of a mind-set shift and cultural transformation in both bottom-up approach and top-down approach.
The precision agriculture is not only the need of the hour but also has the tremendous potential in increasing agricultural farm-incomes, facilitating empowerment of farming community and creating large scale impact in rural India.