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The State of Precision Farming Agriculture in India
In the wake of climate change, depletion of natural resources and an imminent food crisis, India must move beyond aggressive farming and towards precision farming. Precision farming, although at a nascent stage in India, can help the country become the top agricultural producer across the globe.
One of the leading agricultural producers globally, India has one of the largest arable lands worldwide, with over 155 million hectares. Agriculture is the good right arm of India’s economy and employs nearly half of the nation’s population. But in light of a burgeoning global population, India and numerous countries face a looming food security crisis. To feed an ever-growing global population, it is imperative for India to increase its crop production by leveraging sustainable, high-tech and smart farming practices.
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In the wake of climate change, depletion of natural resources and an imminent food crisis, India must move beyond aggressive farming and towards precision farming. According to estimates, the global precision farming market is forecasted to reach $14.6 billion by 2026 at CAGR of ~8%. Precision farming, although at a nascent stage in India, can help the country become the top agricultural producer across the globe by maximising farm productivity and profitability.
What is precision farming?
Precision farming can be defined as a farm management system that harnesses information and communications technology (ICT), the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and other advanced technologies to minimise production costs and maximise farm productivity, profitability, and sustainability. Precision agriculture focuses on deploying the right inputs at the right time and the right place in the right manner. It undertakes a comprehensive approach to maintaining field and soil wellbeing in a way that elevates the quality and quantity of yield while minimising environmental harm.
Tools & elements deployed in precision farming
At the cornerstone of precision farming is data. Massive amounts of even the most granular data, such as soil moisture, soil pH, wind speed, weather conditions, leaf wetness, etc., are analysed and conveyed to farmers to ensure timely intervention. To analyse every atom of data, precision farming involves deploying an array of advanced tools and technologies such as field sensors, soil sensors, drones, satellite imagery, GPS, GIS, and IoT devices. Once the data is gathered, experts leverage deep tech technologies such as data analytics, AI, and ML to break down and decipher the farm data.
For instance, proximate sensors present in the field and soil measure soil parameters such as moisture, fertility, pests, or insecticides. Remote sensors such as drones or satellite imagery indicate changes and progress in the field to reflect the health of the crop. GPS allows precise mapping of the farms and indicates which part of the farm requires irrigation or fertilizer, or pesticides. Similarly, precise irrigation systems optimise water flow and pressure to increase water efficiency. Computer hardware and software complement these tools by analysing the collected data and supplying farmers with necessary recommendations.
Need for precision farming in India
The global food system faces alarming challenges such as global warming, depletion of natural resources, burgeoning food demands and rising labour costs. In India, however, the challenges are fiercer and plenty, such as meagre and fragmented land holdings, declining productivity, diminishing natural resources, seasonal production, climatic variations, and stagnating farm incomes. At a time like this, newly emerged precision farming technologies can increase agricultural productivity and profitability by making the best use of limited resources.
One of the biggest restraints in the adoption of precision farming is the cost of equipment(s) associated with the precision farming. The tech face of precision farming that homes smart sensors, drones, and the data & digital infrastructure, is efficient, but expensive as well. Therefore, the farmers of developing nations like India, Brazil, and China rely on traditional farming rather than tech-driven farming practices.
Precision farming in India vs. the Rest of the World
Although the US is regarded as the birthplace of precision farming, its adoption spans all parts of the world owing to its cost reduction and higher productivity benefits. Further propelled by environmental concerns, European nations such as UK, Germany, France, and Netherlands have adopted precision agriculture to optimise the use of fertiliser and chemicals and increase productivity. Owing to the need for a sustainable farming system, nations like Canada, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil are also implementing precision farming practices. Asian countries of China and India are also venturing into precision farming in light of an ever-increasing population, small landholding, and rising labour costs.
The Way Forward
Precision farming can influence a paradigm shift in India’s obsolete and aggressive farming practices to digitally transformed agricultural practices. In a developing country like India, precision farming has countless opportunities for farmers to adopt sustainable practices, intensify productivity and augment farm income. Precision farming can reverse the aftermaths of the Green Revolution and usher in an era of Evergreen Revolution.
(Disclaimer: Author Dr. Shyam Gunnamreddy is founder & CEO, Samhitha Crop Care Clinics. The views expressed here are his own)
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