Deepak Yadav

Founder, GreenSat Innovation Labs Pvt Ltd.

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How Technology Is Enabling Farmers To Stay Ahead Of The Yield Curve And Better Crop Yields

Smart farming techniques, which include satellite imagery, IoT devices, soil fertility-based crops, fertilizer management, and crop management techniques, has transformed the outlook of Indian farming.

A sector which employees 50 percent of people in India has waited for 60 years to learn the term “Precision Farming”. Mobile telephony in India which took just 5 years to grow in almost all cities yet took more than 20 years to have 32 % penetration in Rural India can be somewhat responsible for this

Precision farming has emerged as a key component in the third wave of the agricultural revolution. Although the awareness of this concept is yet to catch on, it is seen as one of the most viable options in ensuring sustainable agricultural practices the world over. It has come as a blessing in disguise for the farmers during the lockdown which was otherwise extremely distressing period for the sector. It was during this period that farmers started adopting technology and creating multiple channels for growth.

To deter the exodus of next generation farmers to cities, India needs a tech farming revolution. During the lockdown, we witnessed the reverse migration of people from cities to villages, breaking the mirage that cities provided better opportunities than farming. This has also been the perfect chance to rebuild confidence in new farming techniques that can be availed through basic smartphones, providing farmers with sustainable lifestyle options.

Smart farming techniques, which include satellite imagery, IoT devices, soil fertility-based crops, fertilizer management, and crop management techniques, has transformed the outlook of Indian farming. Technology has helped in monitoring soil quality, NPK levels, water stress, pests and diseases. These early warnings help us to come up with appropriate solutions in time, ensuring increase in yields.

In the last several decades, Indian agricultural yields have constantly exceeded US, China, Brazil and many other Agri economies. The change has now commenced in this trend and will surely break the records in the years to come. We can already see encouraging numbers. In 2020, India’s rice yield was 2191 kg/hectare, while the global average stood at 3026 kg/hectare, while wheat is 2750 kg/hectare as against the world average yield of 3289 kg/hectare.

These figures have now started to reverse and the gap is going down steadily. For instance, the country's rice yields have increased from 2131 kg per hectare in 2006-07 to 2416 kg per hectare in 2013-14, while wheat yields have gone up from 2708 kg per hectare to 3145 kg per hectare in the same period. In 2020 it almost touched 4000 kg per hectare.

Rising yields have also created the issue of timely market linkages. The next disruptive solution through technology will be the streamlining of market linkages. Since ages, middlemen have played the crucial role of connecting farmer with the actual buyer. With the presence of a third party, farmers would often not get the actual price of the produce. The current wave of agritech is all set to change this scenario. E-NAM, Amazon, Walmart and others have created a marketplace where buyers are looking for farmers instead of the other way round. Some even have long-term contracts for supply through Framer Producing Organization’s. Who could have imagined a decade back that a platform like eNam will have more than 1.5 crore active farmers and over 1.5 lakhs active trader connecting online with more than 585 mandis with just a click of a button.

Wave of agritechs are aggregating farmers, buyers, insurers, and bankers seamlessly and with faceless interaction, making life much easier for farmers. Now the farmers are empowered to do only what they know best. Loans, market linkages, and insurers are all available in easy to understand format with some amount of customization through these agritechs.

Technology has changed one very important aspect from the Indian farming perspective and that is satellite imagery based on time weather updates. Almost 42% of loan defaults and around 25% of farmer suicides are attributed to crop loss due to weather abnormalities. 15-day advance weather notifications with above 80% accuracy by various apps have given farmers some time to be prepared for the worst in the best manner they can. The world’s biggest Unicorns are now looking to explore $488 billion Indian farm sector with current agritech penetration of just 1%. Farmers stand to gain tremendously as these investors and companies look to provide them services free of cost. In real terms, the coming decade of data revolution will be for the farm sector. With an increasing population catering to the same land availability, we need to increase yields and keep stable pricing. Smart farming is the only option.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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