Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the Indian economy, employing over 40 per cent of the population. Being a significant contributor to the country’s economy, the sector has braved age-old challenges with new obstacles coming into the way every year.
However, with the expedited digital transformation, the sector is resilient with innovative, tech-enabled solutions empowering Indian farmers to eliminate bottlenecks.
Though it is one of the oldest activities in the country, the Indian agriculture sector is still dominated by outmoded practices. Indian farmers face post-harvest losses amounting to a whopping ₹93,000 crore, as per a Nasscom study.
Alongside natural factors, the sector’s value chain goes through various intermediaries before making its way to the end consumer. It adds another layer of challenges for small farmers who lack access to credit, capital, farm inputs, and marketplaces. That’s where agtech start-ups come into the picture to play.
Need for tech integrations
The new-age agtech start-ups are designing agricultural solutions backed by advanced technologies that enhance farmers’ productivity and profitability.
Posing as a much-needed plug-in for the Indian agriculture sector, agtech start-ups are capitalising on AI, ML, IoT, data analytics and blockchain to address the current flaws of the sector.
To advance the sector’s efficiency and growth, the government is leveraging the use of technology integrations. For instance — the introduction of the Indian Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) is enabling more transparency and traceability.
This provides tremendous support to idea of data analytics in formulating relevant strategies and solutions for the upliftment of the sector.
Digitalisation and the introduction of e-mandis have also evolved the agriculture landscape, disrupting the entire value chain. Eliminating the need for intermediaries, farmers can get a fair price for their produce and attain the latest and scientific knowledge relevant to the community. It builds transparency and empowers farmers with informed decision-making.
As a result, farmers get direct access to larger markets and customer bases. With the assurance of the right price and fair trade, digitalisation instils confidence in farmers to improve the quality of produce and expect a higher return value.
Optimisation of resources
Agriculture practices are highly resource-intensive, depending much on water and energy, influenced by weather conditions. To meet the demand of a burgeoning population, it becomes imperative to improve farmers’ productivity.
With technology integration including robotics, soil and crop monitoring and predictive analysis, farmers can control every variable of farming.
Further, IoT and AI play a pivotal role in gathering and analysing data on farm management that further predicts the sustainability of the practice. As a result, it reduces the overuse of water and energy and optimises resources while enhancing production quality and productivity.
Agriculture is a broader practice — from planting to harvesting. With the aid of technology, farmers are able to automate their mundane time-consuming tasks more quickly and efficiently with the help of precision and accuracy.
Agtech start-ups have progressed at an unprecedented rate right with mechanisation to replace human labour with machinery. For instance, drones can be used in the fields to measure soil quality, map out the size and spray the field with fertiliser and pesticides which has always been a laborious task for farmers.
Drones can be mounted with spraying mechanisms and do the tedious tasks earlier carried out by farmers while helping them in crop assessment, fertilisation and field monitoring.
Owing to huge growth prospects, the Indian agtech market is projected to reach a valuation of $30-35 billion by 2025. In addition, with increased digital adoption, agtech start-ups have been growing at 25 per cent y-o-y.
Precision agriculture and farm management supplemented with increased accessibility of farm inputs are further predicted to transform farming practices and pour in positive stories.
(The author is Founder & Managing Director, Samhitha Crop Care Clinics.)