Technology is the backbone of the modern world. Hence, it also has a vital role to play in modern farming practices. But looking at average farmland, one will find it almost remarkable in its absence. As the third decade of the new millennium dawns and as India has carved out a reputation for its technological prowess, one has to wonder why Indian agriculture was still stuck in the previous century.
We have reached space and under the sea, yet agriculture remains one of the most labor intensive sectors. The biggest problem is that, even in the 21st century, Indian farmers depend on monsoon rains and struggle to find the right price for their produce when both issues can be solved with the help of technology. With a growing population to feed and a need to improve their own incomes, it is imperative that Indian farmers take greater advantage of technology.
Technological interventions that agriculture needs
Some aspects of agriculture require faster technological support than others. These are weather forecasting, climate resilient seeds, more irrigated land, availability of finance or credit facility, and market linkages and access. From the direct use of mobile apps and drones to backend technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data can help farmers measure soil salinity, pH balance and fertility of soils. AI-based tools enable the generation of solution-oriented data indicating weather conditions, appropriate soil type, etc., while analyzes provided by downstream big data provide crucial real-time information, such as whether techniques work to identify what changes are needed to prepare for better production.
Realizing the potential of these cutting-edge technologies, Indian government programs such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) chose to integrate AI technology to reduce the time it takes to resolve farmers’ claims and signed a protocol agree with IBM to monitor the agricultural sector.
The role of decision-makers is important
Despite the obvious benefits of adopting the technology, the reality on the ground is that farmers, especially older ones, are reluctant, which hinders adoption. They seek the help of the younger generation in solving any problem that may require the use of an app or searching the internet. In the absence of such help, they seek help from the bank’s loan officers or go to the nearest KVK. They are unable to see the point of investing in the cost of buying a smartphone as an accidental drop in the field will result in a cost that they find avoidable, not realizing that the availability of all the information they want without depending on someone can improve their efficiency collector.
While academia remains the birthplace of innovation, much of it is about the right policies and cost-efficiency that helps them operate in a free market. Policymakers must devise ways to enable academics to reach farmland and conduct their experiments in real time outside of “ideal conditions” of their laboratories. In addition, provisions should be created to allow expensive technologies to be purchased by government agencies or panchayats and rented to farmers – an example may be the Pusa decomposer, invented by scientists at the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research ( IARI).
A product straight out of the lab hits a confidence barrier. The Delhi government took the initiative to contact the farmers and convinced them to use it under the guidance of IARI scientists. Likewise, the government can get in touch with smartphone manufacturers to offer farmer-friendly versions with preloaded applications at a price suitable for the end consumer. This will help the farmer to use the necessary applications without having to install them and provide common information.