AI can help farmers with growing better produce via applications such as precision agriculture and farm management, agricultural robots and automated weeding.
Agriculture has always been one of the vital sectors of India’s economy, however, shifting climate patterns, irregular monsoons and pestilence have impacted harvests and made life very difficult for the Indian farmer. Fortunately, the wave of digitalisation that has been sweeping through the country in recent years has also found its way to the Indian farmer.
The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular has been a huge boon to the sector, with the benefits of a data-driven approach to farming being proved to be lucrative for agribusinesses.
In fact, according to a new report by Nasscom-EY states, titled, Leveraging AI to maximise India's agriculture output, states that AI is likely to play a key role in relieving India's agriculture sector from its stressful input conditions, catalysing a shift towards data-driven farming.
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India is home to more than 450 agritech start-ups, growing at a rate of 25 per cent year-on-year, according to a Nasscom 2019 report. Several Indian start-ups such as CropIn, Intello labs, Clover, Fasal amongst others have been working steadily to use AI applications to help farmers determine the best times for sowing and harvest, predicting weather patterns, analysing soil amongst others.
During the pandemic when traditional supply chains got disrupted several Indian agritech start-ups took it upon themselves to automate supply chains and build up data using AI. Many worked on connecting farmers directly to markets using Ai and Internet of Things (IoT).
According to the report, data consolidation (both at macro and real-time farm-level), lack of infrastructure awareness in data processing, and its availability have been some of the key challenges faced by the sector today. In addition to this, lack of awareness on agricultural inputs specific to the produce, access to quality seeds, lack of adequate mechanisation and irrigation infrastructure, scarcity of farmer capital, frequent disease outbreak, and inadequate storage facilities are the other value chain challenges faced by the sector.
Several AI applications such as precision agriculture and farm management, agricultural robots, automated weeding, crop quality and readiness identification, pest prediction and prevention, livestock monitoring and management, crop yield estimation can help farmers improve farm productivity, while also solving existing problems.
“For India to realise the full potential of AI, a coalition of government, industries, and start-ups in providing necessary infrastructure and policy support, enabling AI innovation across sectors, and mentoring and providing financial support to start-ups is imperative,” Debjani Ghosh, President, Nasscom, said in a statement.
The Indian government on its part has also been taking steps to scale up Ai applications to ais farmers.
India’s national AI strategy identifies agriculture as one of the key areas where AI can enable development and greater inclusion. In November last year, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar announced that the Centre will soon launch an AI-powered ‘price information and market intelligence system’ which will enable farmers to find out the latest rates of various farm produce in markets across the country. “We are developing a mechanism for prices. Through this mechanism, even a person sitting in Badaun will know the prices prevailing in Kolkata market every day in the morning. This system is being developed and it will be launched very soon.” He said in a statement at the time.
The future looks bright. With increased government support, growing agritech start-ups, and rising AI adoption among the rural farmers, change is already taking place, it won’t be a stretch of the imagination to say better days are upon India’s agricultural sector.