Opinion

A start to Farming 3.0

Ashok Sharma | Updated on August 05, 2018 Published on August 05, 2018

The farm sector is crying out for institutional reforms   -  REUTERS

Innovation, tech will define the next agri phase

In a country where two-thirds of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, the importance of this sector cannot be overemphasised. It accounts for nearly 17 per cent of the country’s GDP and feeds 1.3 billion people.

Over the past few decades, agriculture has witnessed different phases of growth. The first phase, which is referred to as Farming 1.0, extended from 1947 to 1966 and was characterised by radical land reforms. The second phase was the Green Revolution which increased farm productivity and rid us of our dependence on foreign food aid. Farming 2.0 was a golden age in India’s agriculture.

India’s farmlands today are at a critical juncture. Our population continues to grow, placing an ever increasing strain on the sector. The country is also rapidly industrialising and there is massive migration to cities. Agricultural incomes are falling and the sector is in danger of being left behind.

The need has arisen for another revolution: a new phase in Indian agriculture which will be defined by innovation and technology; an age where we will look to balance productivity and economics with social and environmental considerations. This age will usher in an era of unprecedented productivity and prosperity for farmers. This Farming 3.0 age will be all about disruptive innovations like Smart Farm Machinery, Micro Irrigation, Precision Farming, Digital Platforms and Partnering Stakeholders. Smart Farm Machinery is about producing more with less. Smart machines and technological breakthroughs have the potential to increase output, lower costs and boost farm incomes.

Micro irrigation frees the farmer from vagaries of seasonal monsoon while also conserving the limited water resources. With agriculture consuming about 80 per cent of the total renewable water resources, adoption of micro-irrigation practices will help conserve our precious water reserves and also boost yields and productivity.

Precision farming is an approach to farm management that uses information technology to access real time data about crops, soil, weather etc. to ensure crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.

Digital platforms have the potential to put farmers directly in touch with the consumer. Middlemen will be frozen out of the system, and farmers will get fair price for their produce. The government is working with a few States to move APMCs — the Agricultural Produce Market Committees — to the national electronic platform, eNAM, for selling fruits and vegetables. Digitisation of agriculture also has the power to boost productivity by putting farmers in touch with each other and also with agri experts.

Partnering stakeholders is all about collaborating with a wider ecosystem of partners and engaging them in devising solutions to the present and upcoming challenges of agriculture. This involves working with agricultural colleges, research institutions, scientists, commercial investors, grant-making organisations, key influencers, the government and the public at large.

Farming 3.0 is changing the narrative around agriculture from subsistence to sustainability. A strong engagement with farmers, and investments in key technologies like micro-irrigation, crop care, advanced seeds and digital platforms will play an important role in this new revolution. Technology and innovation will lay the foundation for Farming 3.0, and help realise the vision of doubling farmers’ income.

The writer is MD and CEO, Mahindra Agri Solutions Ltd.

Published on August 05, 2018
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