The agriculture sector, contributing to 18 per cent of India’s GDP and employing nearly 60 per cent of the workforce, faces the paradox of significant growth versus persistent challenges. RedSeer forecasts suggest agriculture’s contribution could reach $86 billion by FY26. Yet, it lags in productivity compared to agrarian giants like the US, Brazil, and China. The sector is challenged by unpredictable climate changes and the urgent need to integrate modern technology to enhance productivity and profitability.

In the past, the Green Revolution marked a turning point, achieving self-sufficiency in foodgrain production. However, new-age challenges require advanced solutions. The emergence of biotechnology, mechanisation, and digital tools like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are transforming agricultural practices. With precision agriculture, robotics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology, farmers can increase crop yields, improve supply chain management, and better prepare themselves against climate vagaries.

Despite the potential of agritech, its penetration remains low, with EY estimating a mere one per cent and NASSCOM noting that only two per cent of Indian farmers use apps in their operations. Affordability and accessibility are significant hurdles in wider tech adoption among farmers.

Increasing rural penetration

Yet, there’s an undeniable digital shift. India’s active internet users rose to 759 million in 2022 as per “Internet in India Report 2022”, with a substantial number of rural users. In fact, rural internet users are expected to constitute 56 per cent of new internet users by 2025. Social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, along with digital payment systems like UPI, are increasingly penetrating into rural areas.

Innovative uses of technology are becoming common, with farmers live-streaming auctions, using apps to check market prices, and turning to digital platforms for advice on enhancing soil health and boosting crop yields. A medium-sized farmer may be able to double his yield through soil testing, illustrating the tangible benefits of technology. Such tech-orientation demands innovative and user-friendly solutions, broadband connections, smartphones, and so on.

The government is actively promoting technology in the farming sector. On January 26, 2022, the Government released a certification scheme for agricultural drones, which can now carry a payload that does not include chemicals or other liquids used in spraying drones. Such liquids may be sprayed by following applicable rules and regulations.

Ordering farming inputs online has become increasingly common among farmers, attracted by the convenience and economic benefits. Tech usage extends to selling produce, with farmers listing their crops on digital marketplaces, eliminating middlemen, and leading to better price discoveries.

Robust traceback mechanism

For instance, our native application in the rice category optimises paddy procurement, offers real-time rate access, and ensures transparency and faster payouts for farmers (within 48 hours). This enhances transparency and empowers farmers with up-to-the-minute information for informed crop decisions.

On the other hand, we have robust mechanisms to trace every grain back to its origin, including the specific farmer, cultivation area, milling location and comprehensive details about the aging process of the grain. This meticulous tracking system allows us to address any customer inquiry related to sourcing and authenticity with precision and transparency.

The adoption of technology in agriculture hinges on three factors: innovation, investment, and infrastructure. While investments and infrastructure are gradually aligning, there’s plenty of room for innovation, especially in building data models for agritech. As per an Ernst & Young report titled “Agritech - towards transforming Indian agriculture”, agritech is helping in solving several challenges across the spectrum of the traditional agriculture value chain, and presents a market potential of $24billion by 2025. The small landholdings, which characterise 86 per cent of Indian farms, impose constraints on adopting costly technologies. Nonetheless, the vast potential for agritech adoption signals a bright future for the country’s agriculture sector.

The author is Head Dhuri Plant, KRBL Limited