India is experiencing a new wave of change in agtech, powered by tech-enabled devices, and applications. Similar to the 1960s Green Revolution that transformed Indian agriculture, tech now fuels a new-age transformation. Farmers are now using cutting-edge tools, to forecast weather, increase crop yields, and detect pests early. This wave is now metamorphosing into a powerful movement, that will redefine agriculture in the country. It is an empowered, and progressive story, where technologies like automated machinery, drones, sensors, AI are the tools, and catalyst for the new agricultural revolution.

The rise of smart farming

India’s economy, is largely agricultural, and employs over half of its population. The challenges are immense: climate change, pestilence, and financial constraints.

But it is now, with the advent, and availability of newer solutions, that it is taking a new chapter of transformation. Technology is revolutionising how farmers can relate to their land, and to their crops. AI-driven solutions, are bringing in the power of predictive analytics for weather patterns, soil health monitoring, and even precision farming methods. Such progressions are doing much more than just increasing crop yield; they are building robustness in cropping systems, against environmental stressors.

How CoE facilitates change

At MeitY-Nasscom Centre of Excellence(CoE), we have been at the forefront of the transformation in different domains, and one such example is the drone-based crop monitoring project in Kaithal, Haryana. This 500-acre initiative, marked a new approach of crop monitoring for farmers in the area. The project is an initiative of the MeitY-CoE, and co-created with our incubated startup Bharat Rohan, using Drone-based Hyperspectral Imaging technology. 

The model has resulted in better control of pest, and disease incidences, crop yields, crop quality, cost, and improved farmer decision-making. There’s a similar project being undertaken in Rajasthan, to improve the yield, quality, and chemical residue level of spices for export.

The ripple effect of AI on Indian farms

The ascent of Agritech startups in India, is becoming a harbinger of changes, across the expanse of the agricultural sector. The investment in the past two years, has scaled up with startups like BharatRohan, raising $2.3 million a few weeks ago, for the further development of their drone technology, and increasing their services across the nation. Inflows of this magnitude, are the biggest testimony, to how much confidence, the investor class places, in the unfolding potential of tech, and AI, in redefining agricultural paradigms in India.

An agricultural practitioner, can now obtain real-time insights, regarding the right time to plant, and harvest crops, the best ways for pest management, and the economical utilisation of resources, through his mobile phone. Apps are available, that use satellite imagery, to provide farmers with guidance for making informed farming decisions. There are even apps that use phone cameras, to help determine the selling price of produce, depending on the quality. Startups like Satsure, use satellite remote sensing, machine learning, big data analytics, and cloud computing, to enable real-time crop lifecycle monitoring, yield estimation, and damage assessment. Similarly, another startup, Cultyvate uses IoT, AI, satellite data, and crop models, to optimise inputs, reduce emissions, and enhance crop quality, through precision farming practices. 

Such solutions are also democratising access to information, and markets. Digital platforms are linking farmers directly with buyers, thereby cutting out the layers of middlemen, in traditional supply chains, which usually result in wastage, and losses. This direct linkage, not only ensures better prices for farmers, but, also translates to lower wastage, and better quality of produce, that reaches consumers.

Initiatives such as the AI for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI), project by the World Economic Forum, are expanding the scope of AI-driven solutions to impact 5,00,000 farmers globally, across five value chains. 

Conclusion: A story of collective growth

The rise of agtech in India, is a story of collective growth. It’s the story of developing a strong agricultural system, that can endure tests from time, or nature. In the future, using artificial intelligence (AI), alongside other upcoming technologies within agriculture, has the potential to create more robust, and sustainable farming systems. This journey highlights, how technology can work alongside traditional farming practices, towards ensuring a brighter future. Indian agriculture is set for continued growth, and success, given continued support from government initiatives, NGOs, and private entities, that have fuelled the growth of startups, bringing innovation, and good practices to the sector.

The author is CEO- MeitY Nasscom CoE