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Dikshu C. Kukreja

Agriculture 4.0: Future of Indian Agriculture

Agriculture 4.0: Future of Indian Agriculture

  • Mar 23, 2023, 14:35
  • Agriculture

Overview of Agriculture in India Agriculture plays a significant role in India’s growing economy. With around 54.6% of the total workforce involved in agriculture and allied sector activities, the sector contributes to 17.8% of the country’s gross value added (GVA). During 2021-22, the country recorded US$ 50.2 billion in total agriculture exports with a 20% increase from US$ 41.3 billion in 2020-21. It is projected that the Indian agriculture sector will grow by 3.5% in FY23.

With the use of conventional farming methods, there’s comparatively less improvement in efficiency and agricultural yields which resulted in lower productivity. Due to this concern, the government initiated the fourth wave of revolution in the agricultural sector to introduce technological advancement in these activities to improve yields and promote the involvement of the population in this sector.

Agriculture 4.0 is a considerably advanced version of precision farming methods. It has the potential to transform the existing methods of farming. Precision farming focuses on a comprehensive approach towards maintaining the field and soil well-being with a focus on improving the quality and quantity of yield with minimum environmental harm. The idea of revolution in agriculture involves the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics to accelerate and improve the efficiency of activities throughout the entire production chain. It has the potential to transform the conventional farming industry. Conventional farming practices control crop watering and spraying pesticides or fertilisers uniformly across the field. Instead, the farmers will need to be more targeted and data-driven in the context of farming. Future farms will be more productive owing to the employment of robotics, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial photos, and GPS technology. These cutting-edge methods will improve farm profitability, efficiency, safety, and environmental friendliness. They are together referred to as advanced or high-tech precision farming.

Around one-third of food produced for consumption which is worth over US$ 1 trillion is lost or wasted in transit. This leads to millions of people sleeping hungry every night. The UN World Food Programme reports state that the primary cause of rising hunger around the globe is food wastage or loss due to uneven handling of food.

The concern about food wastage gave rise to the involvement of technology in agriculture to improve productivity and reduce wastage by proper handling of food. The data analytics and AI will help farmers to monitor the activities of seeds to the final crop. This will result in better yield and as a result, people will be involved in agriculture and eventually, the nation will target the least hunger issues. These challenges led to the introduction of Agriculture 4.0 wherein farmers won’t be dependent on water facilities, fertilizers, and pesticides uniformly across entire fields. Instead, farmers will be suggested to use minimum quantities and target specific areas for different crops to get better productivity.

Prospects of Indian Agriculture The continuous technological innovation in the Indian agriculture sector plays a critical role in the growth and development of the Indian agriculture system. It will be crucial for ensuring agricultural production, generating employment, and reducing poverty to promoting equitable and sustainable growth. Constraints include diminishing and degraded land and water resources, drought, flooding, and global warming generating unpredictable weather patterns that present a significant barrier for India's agriculture to grow sustainably and profitably. The future of agriculture seems to involve much-developed technologies like robotics, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. Farms will be able to be more productive, efficient, safe, and environmentally sustainable owing to this cutting-edge equipment, robotic systems, and precision agriculture. 

Various factors such as data analysis matrix and technological advancement in the existing agricultural machinery contribute to the production of food grains for consumption and commercial needs. The production of commercial food grain support the economy and improves the GDP.

Hence, the future growth of Indian agriculture appears to be growing with an upward graph which is backed by technological advancements and government initiatives.

Recent Trends in Agriculture India’s agriculture mainly depends on nature, however changing climate and global warming are making farming unpredictable. The need to use modern technologies to increase productivity and profitability led to the emergence of Agriculture 4.0 in India. There have been significant changes in India in the context of agriculture over the decades and many new technologies have been developed. Several new-age farmers are using soil mapping software as well to determine the optimum level of fertilizers used in the farms. These emerging technologies in farming and agriculture pave the way for more opportunities. The aggrotech start-ups and traditional farmers are also using the latest solutions and trends to improve production in the food value chain. It includes the adoption of new technologies such as cloud-based solutions and other relevant advanced agricultural management techniques to increase farmer efficiency and produce more crops.

  • Grape farmers in India who have begun spotting and geo-locating crop diseases or pestilence, allowing them to control infestations earlier and in a more precise manner. This also leads to lower use of harmful pesticides on the crop. Soil mapping software is used by several new farmers to determine the optimum level of fertiliser use in their farms. They are also using drones which allow spraying pesticides in a more targeted manner.
  • Sugarcane farmers in India have started using technology to gauge the most appropriate time to harvest their crops, which allows them to better plan their harvest and maximise output. Several Indian farmers have also begun to use AI/ML-powered technologies to forecast crop yield, weather conditions and price trends in mandis. A few farmers have also begun testing self-driving tractors and seed-planting robots to free their farms from the vagaries of labour shortages.

Emerging trends in the agricultural sector that are quite prominent in the post-liberalization era include increased production, increased investment, diversification of the sector, use of modern techniques, development of horticulture and floriculture, increasing volume of exports and development of the food processing industry.

Some of the recent trends in agricultural technology:

  • Agricultural Drone Technology-

Drones are used widely for medical delivery to protection assistance and are used in agriculture to improve the growth of crops, maintenance, and cultivation methods. For example, these ariel carriers are used to access crop conditions and execute better fertilization strategies for more yields. Even the accessibility of hovering robots help farmers through a survey of large areas and data collection to generate better insights about their farms. Using drones in agriculture has provided more frequent, cost-effective remote monitoring of crops and livestock. It also helps analyse field conditions and determine appropriate interventions such as fertilizers, nutrients, and pesticides.

  • Diversification of Agriculture-

The agricultural sector produces generic consumption needs as well as crops like fruits, vegetables, spices, cashews, areca nuts, coconuts, and floral products such as flowers, orchids, etc. With the increasing demand for these products, there’s a huge potential in terms of production and trade of these products. This shows how the agricultural sector is being transformed into a dynamic and commercial sector by shifting the mix of traditional agricultural products towards higher quality products, with a high potential to accelerate production rates.

The diversification in agriculture is being supported by changes in technology or consumer demand, trade or government policy, transportation, irrigation, and other infrastructure developments.

  • Increasing Trend in Horticulture Production-

The availability of diverse physiographic, climatic, and soil characteristics enables India to grow various horticulture crops. It includes fruits, vegetables, spices, cashew, coconut, cocoa, areca etc. The total horticulture production in FY22 is estimated at 342.333 million tonnes which is an increase of about 7.03 million tonnes (2.10% increase) from 2020-21. 

  • Development of Agriculture in Backward Areas-

In the post-green revolution era, the introduction of new agricultural strategies, research, and technology was mostly limited to producing specific food grains, i.e., wheat and rice. However, under the wave of liberalization, with the growing demand for agricultural exports, many new sectors of agricultural activities have become favourable and profitable.

In some agriculturally backward areas with no irrigation system and access to fewer resources, dryland farming has been introduced. Other activities were also encouraged such as horticulture, floriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, etc. To support the development in those areas, various modern techniques have been installed in the backward areas.

  • Ariel Imaging-

Ariel imaging involves the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology to analyse the potential of irrigation projects and their impact on land degradation, erosion, and drainage. The visuals of this technology allow assessment of an individual plant’s foliage. These visuals are actively used to detect pests and diseases to protect crops from environmental threats. It mostly helps farmers to monitor the soil conditions of farms and is useful in the summer season when there is the least availability of water.

  • Hydroponics and Vertical Farming

The concept of hydroponics farming focus towards better yields, texture, and taste of the final product with less water consumption. Plants which are grown hydroponically do not need extensive root systems and it allows them to contribute more energy towards the production of leaves and fruits. Because of indoor cultivation, these plants mature quickly and possess better immunity against pests and other diseases. In the context of sustainability, vertical farming allows farms to be located near or within areas of high population density which reduces the need for transportation and any harmful emissions. Vertical farming provides the ability to grow crops in urban environments and contributes to the availability of fresh foods conveniently. This farming significantly reduces the amount of land space required to grow crops compared to conventional farming methods.

  • Various farm sensors such as autonomous vehicles, wearables, button cameras, robotics, control systems, etc help in the collection of data to analyse the performance of the farm.
  • Use of aerial and ground-based drones for crop health assessment, irrigation, monitoring and field analysis.
  • Use of tools to predict rainfall, temperature, soil, humidity, and other forecasted natural calamities.

Government Initiatives The government has taken various initiatives to enable the potential digitalization of the agricultural sector in India. It focuses on promoting Agri-tech businesses which are working towards boosting productivity.

  • The government has finalised an India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) framework that will establish the architecture for the federated database of farmers. This database is being built by taking the publicly available data as existing in various schemes and linking them with the digitalized land records. The IDEA would serve as a foundation to build innovative Agri-focused solutions leveraging emerging technologies to contribute effectively to creating a better Ecosystem for Agriculture in India. This Ecosystem shall help the Government in effective planning towards increasing the income of farmers and improving the efficiency of the agriculture sector.
  • To facilitate agricultural engineering research, operations, and technology diffusion, the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal (ICAR-CIAE) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has created the Krishi Yantra App. A web portal has been made available by ICAR-CIAE on their website to guarantee that businesses choose the proper mechanisation technology. This aids current and potential business owners in choosing machines and purchasing options. The portal also offers the option of user and specialist engagement.
  • Farm Safety app was developed by ICAR-CIAE which provides information about safety guidelines and Safety Gadgets to avoid accidents while using different types of agricultural machinery.
  • A smartphone app called Water Balance Simulation Model for Roof Water Harvesting assists decision-makers in recommending design criteria. It provides that where the implementation of a roof water harvesting system may result in water savings and water security.

Conclusion Agriculture is an important sector of the country. It is one of the market-driven industries that employ a large segment of the country’s population. The new changes over the last few years have been enormously helpful to contribute more towards economic growth. Recent advancements such as drones, and data-driven facilities help to monitor the process of farming. It has been supporting farmers to increase productivity and contribute more towards the agricultural economy.

The future of Indian agriculture seems bright and promising with the advent of new technologies. The government has increased its focus on the sector, implementing various policies and initiatives to boost productivity and growth. India’s vast and diverse agricultural landscape, coupled with advancements in technology, provides immense opportunities for farmers to harness their potential and increase yield. In addition, start-ups in the agricultural sector are working towards providing innovative solutions to farmers in terms of supporting them with better productivity, measuring tools and other data-driven strategies.

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AI and Business, and Innovation Research: Understanding the Potential and Risks of AI for Modern Enterprises pp 797–805 Cite as

Performance of the Agricultural Sector in India Through Farm Credit Accessibility: A Statistical Analysis

  • R. Kasthuri   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7250-4916 4 ,
  • S. Rajeswari   ORCID: orcid.org/0009-0008-2481-6721 4 ,
  • P. Kumarasamy   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-0075-2686 5 ,
  • R. Thamilmani   ORCID: orcid.org/0009-0004-7630-602X 6 &
  • K. Sivasubramanian   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-6137-0847 7  
  • First Online: 30 December 2023

Part of the Studies in Systems, Decision and Control book series (SSDC,volume 440)

Agriculture and its allied economic activities are rural India’s largest employment-generating instrument. It is contributing a sizeable amount to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well. The nation’s agricultural sector and other related activities witnessed revolutionary growth. The major aim of this paper is to find out the role of agricultural credit in agricultural output, analyse the credit disbursement by tanking institutions to small and medium farmers and evaluate the farm credit accessibility and performance of agriculture in terms of production in India. The biggest concern in the agricultural sector is the non-availability and inadequacy of formal credit facilities for farming activities. The growth of the farm sector is purely based on the increased production of agricultural commodities. It can be possible through financial support through formal credit systems. The farm credit encourages the agrarians to shift to a superior production level by using additional inputs and achieving a higher output level. It will also help to promote employment in rural areas. This work basically followed the descriptive and analytical structure of the research method to emphasise the role of agricultural credit in enhancing the performance of the sector. This piece of research study used secondary data sourced from various published government reports such as the Press Information Bureau of India, NABRD, and RBI reports published in various years. The information is collected from the recent past years from 2017–2018 to 2020–2021 period. The soured data was tabulated and inferred to emphasise the significance of farm credit in enhancing the performance of the agricultural sector in India. Based on this background, this paper aims to emphasise the role of credit accessibility of farmers in improving agricultural performance in terms of output. It is found from the analysis that agricultural credit accessibility and disbursement were supported to promote the production of small and medium farmers in India.

  • Agriculture
  • Farm credit
  • Accessibility
  • Economic development

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Kasthuri, R., Rajeswari, S., Kumarasamy, P., Thamilmani, R., Sivasubramanian, K. (2024). Performance of the Agricultural Sector in India Through Farm Credit Accessibility: A Statistical Analysis. In: Alareeni, B., Elgedawy, I. (eds) AI and Business, and Innovation Research: Understanding the Potential and Risks of AI for Modern Enterprises. Studies in Systems, Decision and Control, vol 440. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-42085-6_69

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recent research in agriculture in india

Trends of Public Spending on Agriculture in India (2010-11 to 2019-20)

The project report titled “Public Spending on Agriculture in India: 2010-11 to 2019-20,” is out and can be accessed here .

In 2021, the Foundation conducted a research project to analyse the trends in public spending on agriculture in India for the most recent decade (2010-11 to 2019-20). The project was part of a larger study of public spending for agriculture in four countries — Tanzania and Zambia in Africa, and India and Vietnam in Asia — conducted by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

The project team included Abhinav Surya (Doctoral candidate, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum), Deepak Johnson (Senior Research Fellow, Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore), Divya S. Devadiga (FAS), Nihira Ram (FAS), and Raya Das (Senior Research Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi). The project was supervised by R. Ramakumar, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

India’s agricultural growth was historically dependent on the investments made by the public sector. The green revolution that led to a significant increase in overall agricultural production and productivity was made possible by state intervention in terms of research and development, extension services, prices, credit, and marketing. However, there has been a marked withdrawal of state from these spheres in the period of economic liberalisation. In a way, continuity and change mark the period of liberalisation in Indian agriculture. On the one hand, many features of the long-run path of agrarian change continue into the contemporary agrarian regime. On the other hand, Washington Consensus-inspired policies after 1991 have led to acute adverse impacts on the conditions of life and work in rural India. In this broad context, the study tries to analyse the withdrawal of the state from spending, investing, regulating and intervening in the agricultural sector in the period of liberalization.

The Foundation for Agrarian Studies is a charitable trust based in India and established in 2003.

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Yogesh holds an MA (Honours) degree in Economics from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Haryana. He is interested in understanding credit markets and financial inclusion in rural India. Yogesh will be a part of the team involved in the entry and processing of data collected during our recent re-survey in Uttar Pradesh.

recent research in agriculture in india

Sai Chandan Kotu is a Research Assistant at the Foundation. He holds a Master's degree in Economic Growth, Population & Development from Lund University, Sweden, and an Integrated Master's in Development Studies from Indian Institute of Technology Madras. He has previously worked with FAS as an intern and is currently working on the entry and processing of data collected through our recently concluded survey in two Uttar Pradesh villages. Sai is interested in studying farm mechanisation and technology adoption in Indian agriculture.

recent research in agriculture in india

Utkarsh is the Communications and Events Coordinator at the Foundation. He holds an MA in Global Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi, and has worked in different capacities, participating in field research, and organising academic and other public events in various organisations. Utkarsh's interests include geopolitics, conflict history, and technology.

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Komal is an Associate Fellow of the Foundation. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in Sociology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Her research interests include agrarian labour, caste, and gender. Komal is currently working on (un)freedom and labour relations in rural India.

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Kulvinder is a Research Assistant at the Foundation. He holds a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, and an MA in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He has previously worked with the Haryana State Government as an Information, Education and Communication Expert, Atal Bhujal Yojana. Kulvinder is interested in studying aspects of agrarian change and rural transformation in India and aspires to do a PhD soon.

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Sethu is a Data Analyst of the Foundation. He has done Integrated Masters in Development Studies from Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai. He has experience of coordinating a field survey of two villages in Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu in 2019. He is interested in agrarian relations in Tamil Nadu and Geographic Information System (GIS).

Sanjukta is a Senior Data Analyst working on the Project on Agrarian Relations in India. She holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Application from West Bengal University of Technology. Her major research interest lies in rural education and schooling. She has experience in working with a web development company prior to joining the Foundation.

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Divya works as the Administrative Executive at the Foundation. She handles the administration and operational human resources activities. She is experienced in the use of MS-office, and accounting software packages. She also assists the Foundation in organising and coordinating various events. Divya has been involved in several fieldwork projects of the Foundation.

recent research in agriculture in india

Deepak is an Associate Fellow at the Foundation. He has a Ph.D. in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. As part of his doctoral research Deepak analysed the incomes from rice production in Kerala, and compared the crop incomes in Kerala with the Mekong Delta Region in Vietnam. Deepak is interested in agricultural policy, with a particular focus on agricultural costs and incomes. Data visualisation is another area of his expertise. He has experience of working at an analytics company. He holds an Integrated Masters in Economics from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. 

recent research in agriculture in india

Arindam is the Joint Director of the Foundation. He is pursuing Ph.D. in Economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani, Hyderabad. Arindam leads the Project on Agrarian Relations in India (PARI). He has worked at the Foundation from 2011 and has in-depth knowledge about various data management and analysis techniques. His research interests include rural wage rates and its determinants, rural employment, and Economics of farming. He has hands-on expertise in the use of R software for social science research.

Research on Agriculture

India is a major producer of paddy, wheat and pulses. In production, India ranks 2nd in paddy & wheat and 1st in pulses in the world including neighbouring countries.

India has one of the world’s largest Agricultural Research System viz., National Agricultural Research System (NARS) including ICAR institutes and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs). The NARS has contributed immensely to make India self-sufficient in food production and serves the agricultural technology and information needs of the country. NARS has a research network of 102 ICAR Research Institutes, 11 Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes (ATARIs) and 73 Agricultural Universities (including 3 Central Agricultural Universities and 5 Universities with Agriculture Faculty) spread across the country. For popularization of ICAR technologies, 725 Krishi Vigyan Kendras are operating throughout the country for different extension activities.

The production of paddy, wheat and pulses in India and neighbouring countries is as under:

(In lakh tonnes)

Source: FAOSTAT,2019

NARS is a very robust system and continuously strengthening its Agricultural Research Activities for the benefit of Indian farming community for producing various crops.

This information was given in a written reply by the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar in Lok Sabha today.

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Agriculture in India: The past, present, and future

Pani's bharat bhushan and deo datt singh trace the evolution of india's agriculture, and discuss its future in the context of climate change and water security..

Edited transcript of the episode: 00:54Sneha: Today I’m in conversation with Bharat Bhushan and Deo Datt Singh—two civil society leaders belonging to different generations—both of whom have witnessed India’s changing […]

Edited transcript of the episode:

00:54 Sneha: Today I’m in conversation with Bharat Bhushan and Deo Datt Singh—two civil society leaders belonging to different generations—both of whom have witnessed India’s changing agricultural landscape at different points in time.

Bharat Bhushan is the chief functionary and one of the founders of People’s Action for National Integration ( PANI ), a nonprofit working with marginalised communities in Uttar Pradesh. Bharatji has been actively involved in social change movements from a very young age and has vast experience in implementing integrated development programmes in rural India.

Deo Datt Singh is an agri-business expert. He is the director of operations at PANI, where he brings in several decades of experience in leading and managing development projects. Deoji’s areas of expertise include ecological farming, climate change, rural economic development, and agri-business development. Today, we’re going to be speaking about India’s ever-evolving relationship with agriculture. We know that agriculture plays a vital role in India’s development story, be it in terms of the livelihoods it supports, the food security that it ensures, or its contribution to trade and GDP.

In this episode, Bharatji and Deoji will dip into the past, tell us how we got to where we are today, and also discuss the future of farming—particularly in light of the current threats of climate change, water security, and a generation of young people who no longer aspire to be farmers.

02:39 Sneha: Bharatji, you’ve been deeply involved in rural development for several decades—be it through your participation in social movements or your work at PANI. You’ve also worked closely with farmers and advocated for their rights. And so we could say that you’ve witnessed how agriculture has evolved in our country. Could you tell us about the evolution of agriculture in India?

Bharat : Agriculture has a longstanding history [in India]. It has evolved over a span of 1,100 years. Our scriptures also mention it—we have always been a farmer-based or an agrarian country. However, most of our agriculture was monsoon-dependent during that time. Our production was contingent on the monsoon, without which we would have no harvest and would suffer calamities. This dependence resulted in a huge famine in Bengal in 1943 —I’m referring to the pre-Independence era. More than 10 lakh people were affected by the famine.

03:41 Sneha: So we’ve been an agrarian country for centuries. But prior to Independence, we weren’t producing enough to meet our needs. What changed post Independence?

Bharat : Realising the severity of the problem, the government that came into power immediately after Independence decided to prioritise and encourage agriculture first. In order to boost agriculture, they adopted the idea of a green revolution. It was worked upon intensively from the first Five-Year Plan itself, and it progressed slowly. In hindsight, we can infer that India was in a period of starvation till 1950. From 1950–70, we had a shortage of food grains. And we became food sufficient from 1970–2000. We experienced this shift because of the Green Revolution. 

We’ve been food secure post 2000. Today, our situation is such that we can export and distribute grains to others. Perhaps this is the reason we’re called an agriculture-based country; no other nation is called a primarily agricultural country, because this is our history. This has been the state of our agriculture in the pre- and post-Independence era. 

05:04 Sneha: Thank you, Bharatji, for tracing the evolution of agriculture in India. From a state of near starvation to now being a food-secure nation that exports grains to other countries, we’ve come a long way. And, of course, the policies that the government adopted post Independence have played an important role in this. The Green Revolution in particular was a turning point. And a lot has changed since it was introduced. Deoji, coming to you, since the Green Revolution was initiated in the ‘60s, how has agriculture changed?

Deo Datt : Agriculture has gone through a lot of changes in the past three to four decades. For instance, after the Green Revolution, our [food grain] production increased, making us food sufficient. But this had other consequences and problems as well. We were unable to conserve our environmental resources, especially land and water, in the race to improve our yield. The unrestrained use of chemicals and pesticides damaged our lands. If we look at the statistics with the awareness of the damage caused, they paint a very bleak picture. Our chemical usage per acre of land might be low compared to Japan and the US, but we still have chemical and pesticide residue, posing a substantial concern for us.

The progress of the past four decades compels us to appreciate ourselves, but at the same time, it asks us to re-evaluate our mistakes to avoid repeating them. 

Our country and our agriculture could have developed, but perhaps it couldn’t happen to that scale, which I must say is quite unfortunate.

07:10 Sneha : So while the Green Revolution successfully increased the output of our land, it also had other repercussions, and we’re still dealing with them. There is a study , for example, that explores how food grain production in India rose from 82 million tonnes in the late 1960s to 264 million tonnes in 2013–14. That’s a lot. But along with this switch to high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat during the Green Revolution, farmers were also encouraged to use chemicals fertilisers and pesticides to increase their yield. And the persistent use of chemicals over time has led to the degradation of our soil and water.

Agriculture has always played an important role; it is the sole catalyst that can bring a balance to our current population.

Shifting gears slightly, Bharatji, if we talk about the rural economy today, how would you describe the role of agriculture in India’s rural economy?

Bharat: Agriculture has always played an important role; it is the sole catalyst that can bring a balance to our current population. Animal husbandry, milk production, fish production, etc. are all connected to agriculture. There is a visible difference in the rural economy of states where these are worked upon together through an integrated approach. However, this attempt is being made at a very small scale. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economy if done in a planned manner by the government.

In rural India, our brothers and sisters who are farmers work together. But the value of their work, and I’m not referring to the monetary value… but the value in terms of the respect that they deserve from society is lacking. And this can be due to many reasons. But if their labour is given that respect, it will help them in creating their own identity and, as a result, enhance their self-respect. And from self-respect, they will be able to move towards self-reliance—to bridge the gap that exists. How this can be achieved in practice is a separate discussion. But if we’re able to do this—give the respect to agriculture that it deserves, then even today, no other industry can bring economic power to our country on the scale that agriculture can. If we weren’t an agricultural country, a country of villages, our situation would have been much worse during the corona period. It is because of agriculture that our government is able to distribute free grains today.

10:04 Sneha : Yes, Bharatji, as you said, during COVID-19, the country would have suffered far more than it did if weren’t for our farmers. And we need to recognise that contribution.

The other interesting thing you said was that the government needs to look at the rural economy as a whole. Now, what this means is that in addition to the focus on agricultural crops, it needs to look at other livelihoods such as animal husbandry, dairy farming, and fish production. An integrated approach to rural development that accounts for these livelihoods can significantly boost our rural economy.

Deoji, we’ve touched upon the role that the government can play. What do you think is the role of the private sector in relation to agriculture and the rural economy? 

Deo Datt: The private sector has a major role to play, and it has played it well till now; this cannot be dismissed. We don’t have authentic data but one source states that the number of government extension workers is so low in India that one extension worker has to assist 16,000 farmers. Farmers are able to learn about technologies and practices because of these extension workers. However, it isn’t possible for one worker to support 16,000 farmers. This is where private companies come in. They have reached remote places with their extension workers, and played a major role in the sale of their products—be it seed companies, fertiliser companies, pesticide companies. They have made a major contribution.

Currently, the government is promoting FPOs because they are innovating products. Private companies can play an important role in consolidating and arranging the buy-back of these products. They can help with storage and processing. Rough statistics state that approximately 26 percent of our horticulture products face post-harvest loss. If we can manage to save that 26 percent, our production will effectively be considered 26 percent more. The private sector can play a major role here.

12:35 Sneha: So the private sector has a significant role to play in taking new tools and technologies to farmers. It has also taken seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides to farmer groups.

Deoji, you also mentioned farmer producer organisations, or FPOs—these are groups of farmers that come together to leverage the advantages of collectivising. They pool their resources and therefore reduce their risks and increase incomes.

A major role the private sector can play in the future is in feeding the required research into the agriculture sector to help us tackle the climate change crisis.

What you’re saying is that the private sector can create markets for these farmer collectives and help them store and process agricultural products—something that small farmers typically don’t have the expertise and resources to do.

How else can the private sector help? Deo Datt : A major role the private sector can play in the future is in feeding the required research into the agriculture sector to help us tackle the climate change crisis. Many private companies innovate their own varieties, chemicals… They have a huge opportunity to invest in climate-change-resilient research. It can become a profitable business for them if they are able to market the research to their customer base.

I’m not saying that private companies should spend all their resources on the country. But they can utilise their resources to help develop agriculture, which can benefit them simultaneously. Such a situation can develop. 

15:04 Sneha: So, we’ve been speaking about a few different dimensions of agriculture in India. Is there anything you think our listeners will be surprised to learn when it comes to agriculture? Deoji, coming to you first.

Deo Datt: By 2050, we will have a population of 160 crore. Our current food grain production is 314 million tonnes. We have to grow by four times every year. Only then will we be able to fulfil our requirement of 400 million tonnes by 2050. I’m talking about just India.

15:40 Sneha: So, we have to increase our food grain production fourfold each year for the next three decades to fulfil our requirement of 400 million tonnes by 2050. 

Deo Datt: Also, the youth of our nation is making a great contribution. However, they don’t consider agriculture a viable career. So our audience will be surprised to learn that agriculture can in fact be remunerative for young people. Several agriculture-based start-ups have been launched in India and are making great progress. This is a huge opportunity for young people to find employment in agriculture and reform the sector. If you’ve noticed, the government intends to double the [farmer] income. They wish to reduce the use of fertilisers by 20 percent; water use by 25 percent; and methane emission by 45 percent. However, if the youth does not enter this field, then neither the government nor the ageing farmer population is capable of achieving these targets on their own. Young people’s contribution is imperative. I think people might be surprised to learn that agriculture can offer opportunities to the youth.

17:18 Sneha: So there’s a huge opportunity for the youth of our country to find employment in agriculture. And this in turn will help reform the sector, which is crucial if we are to meet these production goals by 2050.

Bharatji, what are your thoughts on this? What will our listeners be surprised to learn about agriculture in India?

Bharat: As I said previously, despite being an agricultural country, the majority of our population does not know what farming is, what it entails, how villages function, and the kind of people that reside in the village and how they live their life. This would be new information for people, which is sad in itself. The point is that they should already be equipped with this knowledge as most of our population resides in villages—despite the widespread urbanisation, 73 percent of our population lives in villages. So everyone needs to know about this 73 percent. The government needs to make efforts towards this, similar to the efforts made for other important issues. For 73 percent of this population, everything is connected to agriculture. If the government tries to make people understand, then they will learn about how important our land is, where we were born, and where we live. People are unaware because the younger generation has no connection with the villages. So when we meet young people, they ask us how villages work. This is shocking for us since we have many universities for agriculture education, but people are still unaware. So this needs to be focused on. I think if this is surprising for me then it’s possible that it will be surprising for others as well. 

19:07 Sneha: Yes, it’s surprising that even though we’re an agrarian country with a huge rural population, many of us, especially those who live in cities, don’t know very much about our rural economy.

Keeping all of this in mind, if we think about the future of agriculture through the lenses of food security, water security, and climate change, what needs to change or shift?

Deo Datt: Moving forward, Snehaji, we’ll have to change how we practise agriculture to combat the shifts being brought about by climate change. The government has made a lot of announcements—on organic farming, millet farming, including millets on our plate—all these steps are admirable and the need of the hour. However, we can’t rely on organic farming and use of millets alone to solve for climate change. We need consolidated policies, and we need to figure out their implementation to face this emerging challenge. Various stakeholders need to work together for implementation, be it research institutions, educational institutions, or extension institutions. Because it is important for the farmers and the young generation to possess knowledge of new research through the extension system. That is the first important thing—to make a chain [of knowledge sharing] in order to meet this challenge. Moving forward, we’ll have to focus on our soil health, conserve water, choose less water-intensive crops, and plan our farming as per water availability.

20:55 Sneha: So you’re saying that while organic farming and the focus on millets are important steps towards climate action, they aren’t enough. We need consolidated policies, and various stakeholders have to come together to solve the challenges that confront us.

We also need to think about the health of our soil and how we can conserve water in agricultural processes. Moving forward, farmers will need to choose crops that require less water.

Deo Datt : If I may add—this may sound philosophical—but we need to change our lifestyle. Unless we change our lifestyle… Sitting in North India, why do we want to consume broccoli in the summers? Why do we want to eat cauliflower? Why are we importing fruits from foreign countries? Why are we contributing to carbon emissions? We need to change our lifestyle. We need to turn to agriculture and make it a lifestyle again. Otherwise, if we keep thinking about agriculture as only a profitable venture, we will continue to make the same mistakes we made after the Green Revolution. We need to explore practising agriculture as a lifestyle once again. We can only have a sustainable future and keep our planet secure if we modify our lifestyle. Otherwise, we have a tough road ahead of us.

22:30 Sneha: So, Deoji, you’re saying that we should move beyond thinking about agriculture as a profitable venture or we’ll continue to make the same mistakes we made after the Green Revolution.

Bharatji, what do you think we should be doing moving forward?

Bharat:  If you think about it, land distribution is such a small part [of the discussion]. We have land, but it is not distributed equally. We saw the Bhoodan Movement and participated in it—based on the idea Vinobaji had that everyone should possess land. So one important element is how land ownership can become a reality for all. If we wish to change farming, then we need to include small farmers too, not just those who farm on a large scale. Change won’t be possible unless we include everyone.

23:25 Sneha: To give our listeners some context, Vinoba Bhave, a social reformer and freedom fighter, started the Bhoodan Movement in a village in Telangana in 1951. He went from village to village and convinced the landlords to voluntarily donate their land to farmers. He also convinced the government to turn it into a law and distribute land equally, or as per people’s requirement.

Bharat : So the Bhoodan Movement was huge in the country; I was 12 or 13 when I witnessed it myself. My mother and father were part of it. It was a significant programme—not just a programme, it was a movement. The Bhoodan land is available even today, which has been distributed to some, and not to others. So there is still an imbalance. The aim should be to strike a balance and distribute land to all. As Deoji mentioned, we’re focusing on millet and organic farming—even those won’t be accepted unless practised by everyone. Nothing will change if only a few incorporate these. There is a need to adopt an integrated approach. 

24:42 Sneha: This has been such an eye-opening conversation. Like you both have said, farming and agriculture in India have come a long way. But there is also an urgent need to reassess where and how we go from here, especially as we deal with the climate crisis.

Short-term thinking can have no place in our plans for agriculture in India. We need to invest in the health of our soil, conserve water and use it efficiently, keep farmers at the forefront of our agrarian policies, and build a future in which young people want to be part of India’s agricultural economy.

Thank you, Bharatji and Deoji, for a wonderful conversation.

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Digital agriculture for India’s women farmers could transform food security. Here's how

Women farmers make a significant contribution to India’s and Maharashtra’s agriculture sector.

Women farmers make a significant contribution to India’s and Maharashtra’s agriculture sector. Image:  Amol Sonar on Unsplash

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Digital Transformation in Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges for Entrepreneurs Agriculture, often termed the backbone of India's economy, is currently undergoing a substantial revolution fueled by digital transformation

By Rajesh Aggarwal • Dec 29, 2023

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

India, a global agricultural powerhouse, has long depended on its agrarian infrastructure, with a significant portion of its population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agricultural sector, contributing over 20% to India's income, remains a central pillar of the economy. As of now, the agricultural sector continues to make remarkable contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and by 2030, it is projected to contribute around $600 billion to India's GDP.

Agriculture, often termed the backbone of India's economy, is currently undergoing a substantial revolution fueled by digital transformation. This metamorphosis, driven by the integration of technology into agricultural practices, has presented entrepreneurs with unprecedented opportunities to contribute to the sector's growth. Agtech, emerging as a catalyst, holds the promise of making Indian farmers more profitable while boosting the overall contribution of agriculture to the nation's economy. Traditionally, farmers were just one among many stakeholders in a market centered around mandis. However, the digital era, coupled with the evolution of numerous agritech solutions, has placed the farmer at the core of the entire ecosystem. The digitization of various aspects, including finance, inputs, and advisory services, is now directly targeting and benefiting the farmer.

Opportunities in the digital landscape

In the segment of digital opportunities, precision farming emerges as a transformative pathway. Armed with data analytics, sensors, and satellite imagery, entrepreneurs can empower farmers with real-time insights into crucial factors such as soil health, weather conditions, and crop performance. This wealth of information becomes a potent tool for farmers, enabling them to make informed decisions, optimize resource utilization, and ultimately enhance productivity.

E-marketplaces and supply chain management are undergoing a paradigm shift through digital platforms. Entrepreneurs can craft solutions connecting farmers directly to consumers, eliminating intermediaries and streamlining the supply chain. These digital marketplaces not only ensure fair prices for farmers but also make quality produce more accessible to consumers.

The evolution of user-friendly farm management software is another noteworthy opportunity. Entrepreneurs can develop solutions aiding farmers in planning, monitoring, and analysing their agricultural activities. Covering a spectrum of tasks from crop rotation to pest management, these digital tools act as comprehensive guides for farmers seeking to optimize their operations.

Blockchain technology, known for transparency and traceability, finds its place in agriculture. Entrepreneurs can design blockchain solutions to trace the journey of agricultural products from farm to fork, assuring consumers of quality and authenticity, thereby cultivating trust in the supply chain.

The entrepreneurial landscape is ripe for startups addressing specific agricultural challenges. Water management, pest control, and sustainable farming practices are focal points for innovative solutions. Entrepreneurs can carve out niches, developing solutions that cater to the unique needs of Indian farmers and contribute to sustainable agricultural practices.

Challenges on the horizon

However, amid these opportunities lie challenges. One primary challenge is the digital literacy of the farming community, especially in rural areas. Entrepreneurs must design user-friendly solutions and invest in training programmes to bridge this gap. In remote agricultural regions, inadequate infrastructure and inconsistent internet connectivity pose significant challenges. They must consider these limitations and design solutions that can function in low-connectivity environments.

Also, one would need to consider that all the ag tech companies are working with a very niche segment of farmers till date and commercialization on a large scale where these technologies will be available at a cost within the reach of even small and marginal farmers. We need to wait and watch for the same as before this, it is really difficult to ascertain the real benefits of the technology in agriculture. Although things are moving in the right direction and we all are very optimistic for the same.

The cost of implementing digital technologies can be a barrier, particularly for small-scale farmers. Entrepreneurs need to create scalable and affordable solutions to ensure widespread adoption across different economic strata within the farming community. Cybersecurity concerns also loom large, given the sensitive nature of agricultural data. Entrepreneurs must prioritize the development of secure platforms to safeguard farmers' information. As the regulatory landscape in agriculture evolves, entrepreneurs need to navigate and comply with existing regulations while advocating for policies that promote the seamless integration of digital technologies into the sector.

Digital transformation in agriculture presents a myriad of opportunities for entrepreneurs in India. By addressing the challenges head-on and developing innovative, farmer-centric solutions, entrepreneurs can contribute significantly to the modernization of Indian agriculture.

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Revamp of cotton farming to help boost production in India

The plan could double cotton production to 30 quintal per acre. (Photo: AP)

  • In recent years, there has been a sharp decline in ‘white gold’ production, as per textile ministry data

NEW DELHI : In a move aimed at arresting the declining cotton production in India, the Union government plans to promote the shift of cotton cultivation from disease-infested fields to disease-free cultivatable and irrigated areas within Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Telangana, according to two officials.

Shifting of cultivation means farmers in identified disease-free districts will be encouraged to change from conventional crops to cotton and those in infected areas would be motivated to shift to other crops.

The plan could double cotton production to 30 quintal per acre. This comes in the backdrop of cotton area, production and productivity registering a declining cotton production trend of 31.6 million bales in 2023-24 from 33.6 million bales in 2022-23.

In recent years, there has been a sharp decline in ‘white gold’ production, as per textile ministry data. Annual production in 2017-18 was 37 million bales (170 kg each) that fell to 33.3 million bales next year. After growth in 2019-20 (36.5 million bales), it slipped to 35.2 million bales in 2020-21 and 31.1 million in 2021-22.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the research arm of the agriculture ministry, is working on a proposal to promote shifting of cotton cultivation from pink bollworm affected areas to fields which are not yet infected by insects like pink bollworm, and whitefly.

In areas where cotton has been grown for an extended time, insects like pink bollworm and whitefly form a complex that infects all cotton crops grown in those specific regions, the first official said.

“These insects significantly impact cotton production in almost every cotton-growing state. Shifting the crops will undoubtedly increase the yield," the official added.

In Haryana and Punjab, the acreage of cotton has come down drastically due to attacks by pests as production fell to 1 million bales in 2022-23 from 2.65 million bales in 2019-20.

Similarly, in Punjab, production shrank to 4.44 lakh bales (2022-23) from 9.50 lakh bales in 2019-20, as stated in the state-wise data on the website of the textile commissioner’s office.

“In the case of Haryana, new areas such as Mahendragarh, Palwal, and Rewari have been identified for the shifting of crops from Sirsa, Hisar, Fatehabad, Jind, and others," the second official said.

Queries sent to ICAR, ministries of agriculture and textiles remained unanswered till press time.

“Awareness programmes have also been planned in the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Telangana, Gujarat, etc., to sensitize farmers about the benefits of crop shifting," the official said.

The proposal further discusses reducing the sowing window from two months to one month and developing better-quality indigenous seeds, the officials said. Additionally, incentives for farmers shifting from conventional to newly explored areas will also be part of the plan.

“In comparison to hybrid seeds, indigenous varieties of cotton offer an assured yield and better quality. The fiber length ranges from 26-28 mm, making it suitable to meet the requirements of the domestic textile industry," the second official stressed. “This type of cotton is used for absorbent cotton and blending purposes."

However, cotton farmers desire improved infrastructure in the newly explored areas before deciding to shift to a new location. Ganesh Nanote, a cotton grower from Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, expressed, “The move is appreciable, provided we have access to skilled labor, water, electricity, and robust transportation facilities."

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