Most of the Indian workforce is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector has contributed 18.8% to the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA) in FY 2021-22. About 82% of the farmers in India are small and marginal landholders with limited or no awareness of the new farming technologies. It is the need of the hour for India to adopt precision farming technologies to serve the growing population and rising global demand for food.
What is Precision farming?
Precision farming involves using advanced technologies to minimize production costs and maximize farm productivity, profitability, and sustainability. It focuses on deploying the right inputs at the right time, in the right place, and in the right manner. Data relating to farming such as Soil Moisture, Soil pH, Water pH, Wind speed, Atmospheric temperature, Weather conditions, etc. are gathered using advanced technologies such as Sensors, Drones, Satellite Imagery, GPS, IoT, and GIS and are then deciphered to actionable insights using technologies such AI, ML, and Data Analytics.
Why is Precision farming important for India?
- India is a major cultivator of many water-intensive crops like Rice and Sugarcane. According to data released by the World Sustainable Development Summit, 2022, the agricultural sector in India consumes 89% of the available groundwater for irrigation. The growing population, and changing climatic conditions are factors contributing to the upcoming water crisis. Lack of irrigation infrastructure is a major concern, and the adoption of Drip irrigation or Sprinkler irrigation is said to increase the yield by 230% for the farmers and save up to 70% of water compared to traditional flood irrigation.
- Most of the farmers in India are still dependent on old-school farming methods. Though they have seemed effective for years, scientific insights like water or fertilizer requirements for a particular area, and identification of infected crops at early stages can help farmers save a lot of time and resources, leading to improved yield.
- Over-application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase yield has led to soil degradation and reduction in the quality of food produced. Precision farming methods like fertigation and drone application can limit the usage based on the requirement of the crop and ensure that the right Soil pH is maintained.
Major Challenges involved
Government’s role in supporting Precision farming
- Creation of Farmer’s Database linked to land records, Unique Farmer ID, Unified Farmers Service Platform (UFSP) to access data relating to farmers, develop customized solutions, and monitor their implementation.
- 100% Subsidy to Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, ICAR Institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and State Agriculture Universities and 75% subsidy to FPOs to promote the use of drones in agriculture.
- Implementation of On Farm Water Management to increase water use efficiency, Introduction of NMSA (National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture) to promote sustainable and best farming practices.
- Push for agriculture drones in Union Budget 2022-23 to create partnerships for high-tech farm services.
- NABARD has created a ₹ 5000 Cr corpus for Micro Irrigation Fund to expand the coverage of Micro irrigation facilities in the country.
- Issue of Soil Health Cards to farmers from 4,00,000 villages every 2 years to ensure soil nutrition.
Major Players and Investors in the space
Growth of Startups & Funding
The companies in the industry are coming up with new technologies every day to improve farmers’ livelihoods. But the challenge lies in the effective implementation of the technologies on the farms given the limited awareness among the farmers. More resources must be allocated towards educating the farmers, enabling them to use smartphones, etc. The market potential of the Precision farming market in India is $3.4 Bn and by reaching there India has a chance to be one of the top countries to address the global food crisis.