Digitisation of farm data needs awareness

Synopsis: Digitisation of data relating to farmers, and how private participation can strengthen agriculture.


Government recently roped in corporate houses on a pro-bono (free of charge) basis in select areas for one year for digitisation of data related to Indian agriculture. These would be scaled up if found useful.

A ‘Digital Agricultural Mission‘ has also been launched for the period 2021-25 to promote the use of novel technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain (hack-proof) data upkeep, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), drones, and robots.

What it aims to achieve?

The objective is to enable stakeholders in the farm sector value chain, from production to consumption, to take informed decisions about their professional and business matters.

This database is proposed to be integrated with the land records of farmers to create a national data resource.

What are its benefit to farmers?

Farmers would get digital access to timely, situation-specific, and problem-solving know-how. They would also receive tips on what crops and their varieties to grow, and when and where to sell their produce to realise the best prices.

A unique identity for each farmer (Farmer ID) would be created for better targeting of cash benefits and other kinds of support and services provided by the Centre and state governments.

What is the current status of agri-digitization?

The agriculture-related data of about 55 million farmers has already been digitised. This number is expected to be 100 million by the end of the year.

How can the private sector help in agri-productivity?

Jio provides soil tests and water availability-based advisories to cultivators and facilitate their direct interaction with farm scientists.

ITC has proposed to provide customised digital “site-specific crop advisory service” and also handhold farmers to enable them carrying out the suggestions on their farms.

CISCO has already created digital agricultural infrastructure and has linked it with other information technology and artificial intelligence tools for knowledge-sharing on improved farm practices.

NCDEX is planning to disseminate information relating to crop arrivals, price trends, and locations of warehouses.

What are some of the apprehensions associated with private sector participation?

The access of private companies to the entire data, including private information, related to individual cultivators impinges on the right to privacy.

There are chances of misrepresentation of land records, most of which are in bad shape at present.

The potential corporatisation of agriculture might subjugate the interests of actual land tillers.

What steps has the government taken to allay these apprehensions?

A specific policy is being drafted to regulate collecting, preserving, and protecting agricultural data.

The government assured that the private data of farmers, though readily accessible to them for their own use, would not be shared with any organisation.

Way forward:

It would be advisable for the agriculture ministry to allay their fears concerning the digitisation of farm data. A well-organised awareness campaign is perhaps the need of the hour.

Source: This post is based on the article “Digitisation of farm data needs awareness” published in “Business Standard” on 18th October 2021.

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