7 PM Editorial |Emerging Technology in Indian Agriculture| 30th May 2020

 

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Emerging Technology in Indian Agriculture

Context:

Indian agriculture is characterized by Inefficiency of input use(fertilizers, water), low yields, disguised employment, over or under production, inefficient supply chain and marketing. Internet of Things(IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Block chain which are emerging technologies can aid in addressing these age old problems.

The Internet of things uses a network of sensors, electrical systems, wireless communication to track various parameters in real time of systems under observation. Data relating to these parameters is used in decision making.

Artificial Intelligence is a machine with traits of human intelligence like self learning, Image processing, language processing, problem solving and decision making.

Blockchain refers to an encrypted, tamper proof, decentralized digital ledger system used for data storage which promotes transparency and data security.

These technologies can monitor, predict and advise on efficient agricultural management(production, supply chain and marketing). They improve farm productivity and yields, reduce risks of crop failure, reduce input and labour costs. This can be used to achieve the vision of doubling farmers incomes by 2022

Let us understand how emerging technologies aid agricultural management, challenges in their adoption and steps to promote them.

Use of emerging technologies in agriculture:
Technology and what it does in agriculture Use in agriculture
Internet of Things – IoT: Use of wireless sensors, drones, satellite imagery to measure parameters like humidity, temperature, light, soil moisture etc. This data is used in decision making regarding interventions in real time.

 

IBM watson, is an example which is used in drones to analyse images and build crop metrics across large areas

  1. Monitoring of crops and soil conditions where Health of crops, soil nutrients changes can be tracked in real time and appropriate interventions done time
  2. Water management  can be done by automation of irrigation through sensors. This saves water as well as irrigation costs. Improves productivity by maintaining soil moisture in real time
  3. Pest management: Identification of pests in real time which checks the spread
  4. Livestock management: Livestock health conditions and location can be tracked and diseased animals can be separated promptly. It also reduces labour costs of monitoring livestock
  5. Supply chain management through sensors which can track movement of agricultural goods and their quality in real time.
  6. Hydroponics and Aeroponics which use completely controlled conditions to grow crops rely wholly on IoT
  7. Real time advisory and e-learning can be provided to farmers. Kerala in partnership with CISCO has developed an agriculture digital infrastructure platform which does the same for fishing communities and farmers in Kannur district. This platform uses UAV’s, sensors, satellite images.
Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine learning: Machines use data collected through sensors to predict outcomes and devise strategies for optimal yields

 

Microsoft has built an AI app for projects in Andhra pradesh which recommends farmers on sowing date, land preparation, seed treatment, manure use, pest management etc. This led to 30% increase in crop yield per hectare

  1. Predictive agricultural analytics can be developed which aid in decisions such as when to sow crops, which crops to sow, which fertilizers to be used, when and for how much time should irrigation be done
  2. Climate monitoring and weather forecasting helps in reducing global warming related risks to farmers
  3. Identification of pests through image processing of crops
Block chain: Tamper proof ledger based data storage
  1. Land records digitization and management: States like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana have started using blockchain for this. Such tamper proof land records aid in contract farming
  2. Use in supply chain management where authentic records can be established for warehouse management and transactions across supply chain
  3. Data generated by sensors which monitor environment, soil and crop conditions can be stored securely using blockchain
Challenges in scaling up emerging technologies:
  1. Lack of digital infrastructure: Internet, electricity are must for exploiting these technologies. In Indian rural areas, such infrastructure is not reliable
  2. Low technological understanding among farmers means less adoption of such technologies.
  3. Skilled manpower to provide extension services in these technologies is lacking
  4. High costs of equipment:Sensors, precision irrigation, data storage systems are all costly for individual farmers
  5. Land fragmentation prevents use of these emerging technologies due to cost benefit considerations
  6. Data security: Without enabling data security legal framework, enormous data collected by emerging technologies can be misused by monopolies and transfer out of country
Steps needed to promote these technologies:
  1. Promoting innovation and skill development:
    1. Agricultural Universities should modify curriculum to impart training in these technologies to generate skilled manpower
    2. Skill development programmes in rural areas to promote skilling in these technologies
    3. Establishing agriculture innovation fund at central and state levels to fund R&D in 4.0 technologies
  2. Legal and Policy support:
    1. Existing schemes in irrigation, extension services, mechanization should be remodeled to include these emerging technologies.
    2. Data security and cyber security legal framework and institutions to enforce them need to be established
    3. Cloud based data centres, digital stack of technologies which can be used by entrepreneurs, farmers directly can be created
  3. Promoting FPO’s – Farmer Producer organizations to overcome land fragmentation issues
  4. Use of Public Private Partnerships(PPP). Examples – Andhra Pradesh tie up with Microsoft to use Artificial Intelligence sowing app
Conclusion:

Sustained efforts towards these emerging technologies by the government, universities and research institutions can achieve twin demand of food security(due to higher yields) as well as doubling farmers incomes(due to reduced costs, increased quality and market access).

Related revision topics:
  1. e-Technologies in aid of farmers
  2. Blockchain, AI and IoT use in other sectors

Source: Financial Express

Mains Question:
  1. Agriculture and allied activities can benefit from adoption of technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Internet of things. Discuss? [15 marks, 250 words]
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