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Saturday / April 20. 2024
HomeInputsAgro chems – Fertilizers“The infusion of technology into Indian agriculture heralds a promising future”

“The infusion of technology into Indian agriculture heralds a promising future”

India faces a pressing challenge as agricultural land dwindles due to urbanisation, industrialisation, and climate change, imperilling food security for its growing population. However, the adoption of innovative technologies offers a glimmer of hope. Yet, challenges persist, particularly in extending AI benefits to small-scale farmers. Despite this, the potential of technology to transform agriculture is evident. Sanjiv Kanwar, Managing Director of Yara South Asia, sheds light on this transformative journey in an exclusive interview with AgroSpectrum. He explores the pivotal role of technology in reshaping India’s agricultural industry and highlights Yara’s initiatives to educate farmers about its benefits. Edited excerpts;

The recent developments in technology are reshaping the landscape of agriculture worldwide. How do you perceive this transformation and its impact on the sector’s growth in India?

Today there are approximately 8 billion people in the world and by 2050, this number is expected to grow to 9.7 billion. To grow food for nearly 2 billion more people demands significant innovation in agriculture, especially given the challenges of climate change and diminishing arable land. Challenges like famine in some regions and disruptions in the supply of grain due to war in Europe add to the complexity.

Against the backdrop of the world’s surging population, the challenge posed by climate change, and famine caused by war, farmers in India continue to grow crops as they’ve done for centuries – without incorporating latest farming practices. As a result, the Indian farming sector grapples with low productivity. However, adopting new technologies could be a game-changer, significantly boosting output. Benefits of integrating technology in agriculture include enhanced efficiency and productivity through precision farming, use of innovative new age products and smart irrigation, leading to higher yields and reduced waste. Additionally, data driven decisions based on real-time information about soil health, weather patterns, and market prices empower farmers, enabling better decision-making and risk mitigation.

What recent technologies are changing the face of Indian agriculture?

Several groundbreaking technologies are reshaping agriculture in India including; 

Generative AI holds the potential to significantly increase the productivity of the Indian agricultural sector. For instance, farmers can use Generative AI’s predictive capability to analyse soil quality in real-time, enabling them to better plan their activities. Additionally, AI can assist the government in studying weather patterns, providing real-time information and advice to farmers. This approach enhances nutrient use efficiency (NUE), water use efficiency, and reduces the amount of agri-inputs required for crop cultivation – in effect, cutting the overall cost of farming. Generative AI can also enhance the accuracy of weather pattern predictions and offer insights into crops health, empowering farmers. to make informed decisions, allocate resources optimally, and increase crop yields.

AI-powered drones can be deployed in farmers’ fields to collect granular data on crops health, pest infestations and diseased crops. The drones can relay such information to farmers enabling them to make informed decisions to improve crops health, combat pests, and treat diseased crops. Also, should a farmer not know how to treat a plant, he can upload its pictures to a generative AI-powered platform for appropriate treatment recommendations. Perhaps most excitingly, generative AI has the potential to expedite the development of new crop varieties.

In terms of market access, only 6 per cent of Indian farmers benefit from selling their produce at Minimum Selling Prices (MSP). However, AI can facilitate predictive crop yield and pricing through an effective price discovery model, enabling informed decision-making. By moving towards demand-driven agriculture, AI can provide market intelligence and predictive pricing, aiding farmers in calibrating crop yields and investments.

Despite its potential, only 1 per cent of Indian farmers currently utilise agri-tech tools. One reason so few farmers use digital technologies is that farmers are unable to comprehend such technologies. Generative AI, which can communicate with farmers in their native language, has the potential to significantly increase the number of Indian farmers using digital tools. In summary, generative AI has the capability to introduce cutting-edge digital technology to even the most remote agricultural fields in rural India!

These are just a few ways in which generative AI can transform Indian agriculture. While it may not drastically reduce the number of Indians employed in farming, it can help farmers increase yields, cultivate healthier and more nutritious crops, and improve their earnings.  

Yara has recently entered into partnership with ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce). Could you elaborate on this development?

Our partnership with ONDC, the Open Network for Digital Commerce, is a potential game-changer. It will create a more open and transparent online marketplace for agricultural products. This means farmers can bypass traditional supply chains, get access to the vast network of buyers/sellers through ONDC’s platform and potentially fetch better prices for their produce, again contributing to a potential deflationary effect.

What are the major challenges in integrating technology into the agriculture sector?

Despite the excitement, some challenges need to be addressed. For Indian farmers to use generative AI, they’ll need internet connectivity. In some instances, they may need internet connectivity in their fields. However, such connectivity is far from ubiquitous in India at the moment. While 5G is being rolled out, many parts of the country, particularly rural areas lack internet access.

Moreover, many Indian farmers harbour a deep mistrust of those who promise them increased yields with minimum effort. Convincing farmers of the benefits of new technologies, especially among older generations, poses a challenge. Education and training initiatives are crucial.

Affordability is another concern, particularly for small and marginal farmers. Government support and innovative financing mechanisms are essential to overcome these barriers.

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