Monday, October 3, 2022

Digital empowerment of agriculture

Agriculture is one of the oldest and most important professions in the world which is critical for human survival. Globally, the cultivation area is shrinking due to the spread of cities and industries, depleting water resources, changing and unpredictable climate patterns, and falling farm incomes. India, in addition to these global challenges, also face distinct challenges that are domestic in nature. Most of the agricultural decisions regarding sowing, choice of crops, amount of fertilizer and irrigation, harvesting, etc. are not based on data analytics inputs.
The Government of India had implemented relevant policies and programmes at various times to improve farm productivity and incomes. Many ICT initiatives have been implemented by the Government to address these challenges and to further support the rollout and adoption of agricultural policies and programmes. ICT initiatives started with standalone systems implemented in earlier days, to advanced web-based pan-India systems and now the focus is moving to advanced technologies like AI, IoT, etc.
The Government has also come up with different expert systems which will help in determining marketing alternatives and optimal strategies for farmers. Sustainable benefits of these initiatives coupled with innovative use of emerging technologies will help in achieving the vision of Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) in the future.
Agriculture in India is taking advantage of emerging technologies like IoT, AI, Data Analytics, Blockchain, Remote Sensing, and GIS which can significantly contribute to the growth of the sector.
Artificial Intelligence Systems can be used for the identification and control of pests. Information on symptoms and pictures of pests and diseases can be fed into the system. Based on the picture posted of the insect and disease, the system can match and identify the disease and suggest remedial actions. AI can also be used for identifying patterns and factors affecting market dynamics and making predictions about prices, sending alerts in case of scarcity or paucity of a particular commodity, or sudden increase or fall in the prices.
Similarly, IoT can send signals and triggers about the precise input requirement for precision farming. It can be used for water management as well. Blockchain Technology can be used for tracing agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and organic products.
The application of Data Analytics has already demonstrated significant value and can be used to analyse market trends, usage of fertilizers, distribution of inputs and availability, etc.
Further, Remote Sensing and GIS are very crucial technologies having a wide range of applications to tackle issues related to soil, climate & topography. These technologies have manifold applications in agriculture including crop differentiation, crop growth monitoring, stress detection, crop inventory, soil moisture estimation, precision agriculture, crop acreage estimation, and yield prediction.
National Informatics Centre (NIC), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology(MeitY)has been conributing with its many flagship products like (a) Pradhan Mantri KIsan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) portal and mobile app used to transfer the funds directly into the accounts of the farmers identified by States/UTs, (b) Integrated Fertilizer Management System (eUrvarak) a technology solution for the scheme Direct Benefit Transfer in Fertilizers, (c) Kisan Suvidha – a smart and integrated mobile app for farmers to digitally access all relevant agricultural services and information at one place – Integrated Mobile App for Farmers, Unified Farmer Service Platform, Kisan Rath, among others which have transformed the conventional ICT solutions in the agriculture domain.
Dr (Ms) Ranjna Nagpal, Scientist-G, (ranjna@nic.in)