As industries move from survival mode to figuring out how to operate while the pandemic continues, replacing humans with machines may gather pace in the coming months.

But this is not the case with the agriculture industry. Agricultural technology or agtech refers to the use of technological innovations in agriculture. This means that Agtech is not here to replace humans but to make farming easier, to increase yield, efficiency, and profitability for farmers.

Is Agritech adoption an issue?

Clearly, there is resistance seen among farmers and other players to adopt and accept technology in existing processes, despite the pandemic accelerating adoption of technology in the industry.

Poor IT infrastructure, lack of awareness and trust towards technology—and the fear of being replaced by technology — are prominent reasons for technophobia in India.

So, to make the best of Agritech, it is important for farmers and all other players of the agricultural ecosystem to know that ‘technology is a friend and not a foe.’

Farmer’s skills and experience combined with technology can be used for better yields and higher earnings. Agritech can help address pain points at each stage of the end-to-end agricultural lifecycle.

Here we list some of the use cases of Agritech, which can potentially change the agricultural landscape.

Soil health & seed quality

Agritech can help improve overall soil quality. Deploying technologies like infrared spectroscopy, unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, combined with analytical models can give better understanding about the fertility ,type, suitability, organic matter and pH level of soil.

Usually, seeds are bought based on judgement of farmers and word of mouth by sellers. However, non-invasive seed technologies can facilitate farmers to determine the quality of seed accurately— and generate improved seeds that can tolerate stresses like drought (less availability of water), salinity (soil with more salt), pests, diseases etc.

Agritech will assist farmers in better and informed decision making about soil and crop combination. Ultimately, transparency and food quality will increase, which will benefit end consumers as well as give higher returns to farmers.

Climate Change

Changing climate is a nest to unpredictable weather, and atmospheric conditions that make it difficult to rely solely on traditional agricultural know-how. This affects crops adversely and, ultimately, farmers are the ones to bear the losses.

Technologies can aid farmers by analysing the weather situation in advance, and offer right advice for cultivation of crops which are flexible to climate changes. In addition, technology enables crops to mature early, in order to lower farmers’ exposure to risk of extreme weather events.

Agricultural industry also adversely affects climate change by contributing to annual greenhouse gas emission. Agritech can help minimize the need for pesticide, thus reducing carbon emission.

Power of Data Technology

Data and patterns are everywhere and when put to correct use it can do wonders. Overcoming current agricultural challenges, will open new doors for improvement and innovation.

AI backed data models can be used to innovate and forecast patterns that can change the face of the agricultural industry forever. Data centers can connect the otherwise scattered agricultural ecosystem.

Big data can give detailed insights into areas such as how different areas of their land behave through the seasons, the granular efficiency of their specific farming practices, and where environmental impact can be reduced, to name a few.

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Food security & quality

Agtech can address global food security and wastage issues. About 67 million tonnes of food is wasted in India every year. Majority of this can be attributed to poor quality control and substandard packing and storage facilities.

Agritech can provide packaging and storage technologies that can help increase the life of perishable food and preserve it until it finds a market.

Traditional lab-based testing methods of fruits and vegetables are slow, destructive and heavily reliant on human resources. Food is wasted as testing is carried out by cutting fruits and vegetables, however, it rots till the time consignments reach the labs.

Agtech has come up with quick, non-destructive, and precise testing methodologies. Handheld devices can help measure food safety in terms of nutritional value, moisture and sugar content, acidity, and soluble solids.

At times retailers/buyers do not agree with farmers’ assessment of product’s shelf life, this leads to disconnect and disagreement on rates.

Factors like ripeness, uniformity, firmness, and freshness and shelf life can be accurately measured using digital devices. Quality reports from these devices can give farmers bargaining power to negotiate in the market which otherwise is difficult for them to have.

These gadgets are easy to use and are connected to software that offer suggestions and traceability which may be utilized to overcome most of the destructive testing drawbacks.

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Agriculture is the primary source of food and by extension, life. It is necessary to make the most of available technological resources to complement agriculture and its primary players.

As we move towards a world where we need to feed more mouths more efficiently, more sustainably and under more capricious conditions, we will need the help of technology to flourish. Technology’s primary aim is not to take jobs but to make jobs easier and also create new ones in the process.

(The writer is is the Co-Founder & CEO of InfyU Labs, an emerging agritech startup)