Dr. Sudarshan Dutta is a Lead Agronomist, India, at Agoro Carbon Alliance. He has experience of working as a Consultant on providing recommendations and suggestions on Agronomic Services at Infollion Research Services Pvt. Ltd., India. He is the winner of different awards and recognition from government, industry and research societies. In his leadership capacity, Dr. Sudarshan is responsible for agronomic research and development activities on sustainable agriculture, crop nutrition, soil health, precision agriculture, digital agriculture, computer and web-based decision support tools, and climate-smart agricultural practices in smallholder farming system of South Asia, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. He completed his Ph.D. Soil Science from University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA, M.Sc. Soil Science from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India and B. Sc. Agriculture (Hons). from Bidhan Chanrda Krishi Viswavidyalaya), West Bengal, India.
The agriculture sector in India has long served as the backbone of the Indian economy. And feeding over a billion Indians on limited land resources is an enormous challenge that will necessitate large-scale technology intervention to enable a massive increase in agricultural production.
The ongoing pandemic has forced India’s agriculture industry to make various policy and operational reforms. The nationwide lockdown disrupted the supply chain, causing a rise in demand for various essential and perishable commodities, putting a strain on the supply chain and pushing us to do some reverse thinking.
Agriculture in India has touched very limited by the technological revolution. However, this is now changing and thanks to the advent of Agritech startups that are leveraging cutting-edge technology to provide new, game-changing solutions. With over 450 Agritech businesses and a market value of USD 24.1 billion, the sector is still booming, despite the pandemic and constantly transforming the face of Indian agriculture. All these startups have their broad goal to solve issues and challenges faced by farmers because of the lack of information and resources. These startup projects assist them in increasing farm output, raising living standards, decarbonizing farming, and restoring carbon to the farm soils by implementing technologically advanced practices.
Challenges faced by the farmers
The potential for farm outputs in major crops alone is estimated to be worth over USD 400 billion. However, this enormous opportunity has yet to be completely realized, and only a small portion of its potential has been identified. This is owing to the fact that the industry is generally unorganized, and farmers are losing ground to intermediaries. Farmers confront a variety of obstacles, including obtaining the proper quality and quantity of inputs at the right time, getting credit, establishing output and market linkages, insurance opportunities, and gaining access to agricultural expertise, making the agriculture production system a severe concern.
Apart from that, climate change’s negative consequences can destabilize food systems, causing starvation and malnutrition among the population, which can have a negative impact on a country’s productivity and overall growth. Furthermore, the lack of digitalization worsens the problem by forcing farmers to rely on traditional farming methods, which can be time-consuming and tiresome, failing to achieve optimal yields. Although farmers now have access to mobile phones and even internet connectivity, the sector continues to encounter challenges such as technical and internet literacy and intermittent power supplies, which require attention.
The role of entrepreneurs in making farmers Atmanirbhar
Being extremely practical and thoughtful about how we tackle the farm and farmer related challenges by using advanced technologies to increase the efficiency of farmers’ operations, entrepreneurs are stepping forward to provide end-to-end help to farmers across the country. They encourage farmers to maximize their crop yield by leveraging climate-smart production techniques, supported by data and evidences. They are committed to assisting farmers at every level of the farming cycle by collaborating with them. They believe that putting growers in the driver’s seat with direct access to the larger downstream market would increase production and profitability.
Farmers will gain access to markets, inputs, data, guidance, credit, and insurance by incorporating technology into their farming operations. Furthermore, timely and accurate data, as well as analytics, may aid in the development of a robust and efficient demand-driven supply chain. With the use of sensors, photographs, IoT devices, drones, and satellite images, agricultural data can be obtained and compared with weather and soil health card data.
Apart from that, digital enablement plays a crucial role in the system towards mitigating the consequences of climate challenges. Novel technologies have the capacity to empower Indian farmers by automating agricultural processes and increasing precision cultivation for increased crop yield and quality while reducing resource consumption. It improves the efficiency of the methods that will shape the future of agriculture.
The pandemic proved that agriculture is India’s most reliable economic sector. On the other hand, farmers in India suffer a slew of challenges relating to productivity and market access. They have limited knowledge of where to sell their products or who can offer them the best price. Here, Agritech can play an instrumental role by providing correct and real time information and utilizing technology to pave the way for a smart agriculture economy, resulting in enhanced crop yield and doubling farmers’ income, allowing them to become Atmanirbhar.