Technology adoption will get a further boost with the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing a slew of initiatives in the Union Budget 2023-24 such as building a digital public infrastructure and creation of an agriculture accelerator fund on Wednesday.

“Digital public infrastructure for agriculture will be built as an open source, open standard and inter operable public good. This will enable six inclusive, farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and health, improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence, and support for growth of agri-tech industry and start-ups,” Sitharaman said.

An Agriculture Accelerator Fund will be set-up to encourage agri-start-ups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas, Sitharaman said.

“The Fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity and profitability” the Finance Minister added.

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Also the proposed three centres of excellence for artificial intelligence in top educational institutions will carry out research and develop cutting edge applications and scalable problem solutions by partnering with industry in areas of agriculture.

According to the Economic Survey 2022-23, presented Tuesday, there are over 1,000 agri start-ups in the country assisting farmers in improving techniques. The survey pointed out that the private equity investments in agri-tech space have skyrocketed over the past four years, witnessing an increase of more than 50 per cent per annum to aggregate approximately ₹6,600 crore

“The agritech sector will benefit hugely from open-source digital public agri infrastructure as well as from the promised Agricultural Accelerator Fund,” said Mark Kahn, Managing Partner, Omnivore, a major investor in Indian agritech.

Anand Ramanathan, Partner, Deloitte India, said the investments in digital infrastructure and the agri accelerator for promoting start-ups in ag-tech will help increase yield and productivity on the supply side while also enhancing price realisation for the farmer on the demand side through more efficient market linkages.

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She said digital public infrastructure will help in crop planning and facilitate easy access to inputs and credit for farmers apart from supporting agritech industry and start-ups

While stating that Budget measures are aimed at making the Indian agriculture future ready, KC Ravi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Syngenta India, said the Government’s plan to build a digital public infrastructure will enable an inclusive farmer-centric eco-system with relevant information services for crop planning and help improve access to farm input, credit, and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence and support for the growth of agri-tech industry and start-ups.

“There is immense opportunity for public-private partnerships in these areas as the private sector is also introducing cutting edge technologies in the areas of digitization and artificial intelligence,” Ravi said adding that the Agri Accelerator Fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by the farmers

“Digital public infrastructure will revolutionise the farm sector by giving access to agriculture information and remove the information asymmetries between credit providers and borrowers (farmers), buyers and sellers. This will create a level playing field among producers, traders, procurers, processors and other value-added players in the agri value chain. The digital infrastructure will enable the farmers to get access to better services in a cost-effective manner,” said Tharakeswar G, Co-Founder Dvara E-Registry.

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Rajesh Rajan, CEO, Krishify, said the move to establish an agriculture accelerator fund will certainly encourage a greater number of start-ups to emerge and scale up their unique solutions, fast-tracking innovation in the sector. Also the decision to build the digital public infra for agriculture as an open-source, interoperable public good will tremendously help in strengthening farmer-centric solutions by creating an ecosystem whereby information sharing will play a critical role in devising better accessibility to farm inputs, as well as drive financial inclusion within the farmer community.