Agriculture Ministry signs MoU with Cisco, Jio, ITC, NeML and Ninjacart to build farmers’ database

Our Bureau Updated on September 15, 2021

The five biggies will build data through pilot projects to help growers

US multinational tech conglomerate Cisco, Kolkata-based corporate major ITC, commodities major’s IT arm NCDEX e-Markets Ltd (NeML), Reliance Industries’ IT arm Jio Platforms and India’s largest fresh produce supply chain firm Ninjacart have signed separate memoranda of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Agriculture for pilot projects to help the Centre build a database of farmers in the country.

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The MOUs were signed by Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar at a ceremony in New Delhi on Tuesday. The five firms will develop proof of concepts (PoC) for the agriculture sector.

How farmers will gain

The PoCs will help the Centre in understanding solutions that can be built using available data and some of them, if found beneficial to the farmers, will be scaled up at national level.

The firms have signed the MoUs on a pro bono (without any charge) basis for one year to develop the PoCs. Based on the pilot projects, farmers will be able to take informed decisions on what crop to grow, what variety of seed to use and the best practises to adopt for maximum yield, an official statement said.

Pacts with Microsoft, Amazon

The Agriculture Ministry had additionally signed MoUs with Microsoft, Amazon, ESRI India Technologies, Star Agribazaar and Patanjali Organic Research Institute.

Agriculture Ministry sources said more firms could come on board to develop POCs with the Centre speeding up efforts to create an Agristack as part of building a Digital Agriculture Mission during 2021-21.

The Agriculture Minister told the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session that the federated farmers’ database is being built by taking publicly available data existing in various data silos in the government and linking them with the digitised land records.

Data policy on cards

“However, no private data of farmers is shared with any private organisation. This department in consultation with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is in the process of bringing out a data policy for the agriculture sector. Once developed and implemented, the services will be available for all the farmers across the country,” the minister said.

The official statement said the Centre was building different services around the database to build digital ecosystems of agriculture. It said agriculture supply chain players could plan procurement and logistics on precise and timely information. Farmers can take informed decisions on where or when to sell or store their produce and at what price.

The digital agriculture mission will be based on new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, remote sensing and GIS technology, use of drones and robots.

Unique farmer ID

The statement said the federated farmers’ database would be linked by land records of farmers from across the country and a unique Farmer ID will be created. Under this unified database, information on all scheme benefits of Union and State governments can be kept and this can be the source for accessing information for providing benefits to farmers in the future.

It said the database is ready with details of around 5.5 crore farmers. By the end of the year, details of at least 10 crore farmers will be in the database, the sources said.

Asked about the delay in launching the database, which was expected to be ready by the end of last year, the sources said the work to create it was affected by the Covid pandemic.

On fears expressed by organisations over the database, sources said they were misplaced and pointed out to the opposition to computerisation and economic reforms in the country, which have now been widely accepted.

Briefs for the firms

As per the MoUs, ITC will focus on customised site-specific crop advisory for wheat in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh, and empowering dairy farmers with digitisation of value chain at Vidisha, also in the Central Indian State.

Cisco will support the Department of Agriculture to build agri digital infrastructure, DevOps (combining software development with IT operations), collaboration suite, IoT, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning at Kaithal in Haryana and Morena in Madhya Pradesh.

Jio will work in Jalna and Nashik in Maharashtra to provide farmers with features likeweather forecasts, crop calendar, activity module, knowledge management services- including from agri universities - and develop algorithms to mine data.

Ninjacart will focus on Chhindwara and Indore in Madhya Prades,h besides Anand in Gujarat to develop and host an agrimarket place platform that will unite stakeholders and incorporate third party content available through open access.

NeML will focus on current and past arrival and price trend of commodities, list location of warehouses and market linkages at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Devanagere in Karnataka and Nashik in Maharashtra.

‘Proposals invited’

Tomar had told the Rajya Sabha that these firms came forward to sign MoUs after proposals were invited for agreement through the department’s website.

In the earlier MoUs, Microsoft agreed to focus on consolidating agri ecosystems across the value chain (farm-to-fork) to empower farmers using data analytics in 100 villages. ESRI India Technologies offered to establish and launch “Nation Agriculture Geo Hub”. Amazon Web Services India came forward to provide digital services across the agri value chain and create an innovation ecosystem around digital agriculture.

Star Agribazaar Technology agreed to do a pilot project in three States to promote digital agriculture, while Patanjali Organic Research Institute offered to look at farm management and farmers service in three districts.

Published on September 15, 2021
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