From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Digital technologies in Agriculture, value chain and sustainability challenge
- The world’s population will grow to 10 billion by 2050; agricultural land has halved in the last 50 years; 20-40% of crop yield is lost to pests and disease and another 10-25% is lost post-harvest. Take into account geo-political factors like the Ukraine war in account, and food security is a big problem facing mankind. In all this, digital technologies may be the answer to ills in agriculture; vitally, they can help achieve sustainability if we overcome challenges.
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Agriculture’s digital drive
- Use of modern technology: Farming is witnessing the use of modern technology for higher productivity and profitability. Today, farmers use digital tools for farm management, financial services, market services, information and much else.
- Smart agriculture use of AI and IOT: ‘Smart agriculture’ uses software for remote sensing, apart from big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). IoT in agriculture comprises sensors, drones and computer imaging integrated with analytical tools to generate actionable insights.
- Use of data and ML: Predictive analytics allows quick decision-making based on information drawn from data mining, data modelling and machine learning (ML).
- Digital adoption of Supply chain: Digital adoption can add value across the entire farm-to-fork (F2F) supply chain, covering the journey from planting to harvesting (of fruits, vegetables, grains, etc) till it arrives on one’s plate. This journey’s stakeholders include farm suppliers, farmers, food processors, traders, retailers and finally end consumers.
- Precision farming: Precision farming helps raise crop yields while minimizing the use of resources. It measures and analyses the needs of different fields and crops to aid waste management, reduce production costs, make optimal use of water and minimize environmental impacts.
The challenges of digital adoption in the Farm to Fork (F2F) supply chain
- Risks concentrated on farmer: For example, all risk is concentrated on the farmer, who is encumbered by the vagaries of weather, selection of profitable products, poor access to crop insurance, etc. We need to provide more value to the farmer in compensation for that burden.
- Trust deficit in the overall functioning of the F2F model: Over time, decision-making in food production, crop marketing, transport, etc, has got heavily concentrated in the hands of large agricultural entities or producers. While production has risen, the democratization of decision-making has suffered.
- Digital inequalities: The sector’s digital transformation is characterized by digital inequalities between large and small farmers, or between high- and low-income countries.
- Challenges in the supplier ecosystem: A fertilizer or agriculture equipment manufacturer may want to help farmers but is handicapped in creating the right ecosystem to provide a holistic solution.
- Capital expenditure a major challenge: Subsistence farmers cannot afford capital expenditure, and other farmers have financial constraints too. This is a major challenge at the farm level.
What binds these supply chain components together?
- Sustainability: which refers to practices that ensure long-term increased farm production and higher income while protecting the environment. Farmers apply inputs to only those parts of the field that need it, improving product quality, reducing input cost, increasing productivity and ensuring environmental sustainability.
- Evolving digital ecosystem: India’s evolving digital ecosystem and high-speed internet are making it possible for agritech startups to utilize AI/ML models.
- Precision techniques: Companies using precision techniques are helping farmers increase yields substantially.
- No middlemen: Due to a rise in online agritech platforms, farmers can now sell their products directly without any middlemen involved and thereby increase their incomes. This also helps create trust and transparency between farmers and consumers.
- Digital access to the market: In India, rising internet use and smartphone penetration has changed the face of agriculture in significant ways already, especially how small and medium farmers operate. It is helping with direct access to markets, thus allowing farmers to retain a higher proportion of the value created.
Current status of Indian agriculture
- While there is large scope for using digital technologies for agriculture in India, various problems must be overcome.
- As of now, the use of farming technology among India’s farmers is low.
- Productivity is also low, given small landholdings and significant overcrowding, which also contributes to our low level of mechanization.
- The absence of agricultural marketing makes farmers depend on local traders and middlemen to sell their farm produce, which is sold at very low prices.
Government Initiatives towards Digital Agriculture:
- AgriStack: The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has planned to create ‘AgriStack’ – a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture. It will create a unified platform for farmers to provide them end-to-end services across the agriculture food value chain.
- Digital Agriculture Mission: This has been initiated for 2021 -2025 by the government for projects based on new technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, remote sensing and GIS technology, use of drones and robots, etc.
- Unified Farmer Service Platform (UFSP): UFSP is a combination of Core Infrastructure, Data, Applications, and Tools that enable seamless interoperability of various public and private IT systems in the agriculture ecosystem across the country. UFSP is envisaged to play the following role:
- Act as a central agency in the Agri ecosystem (like UPI in the e Payments)
- Enables Registration of the Service Providers (public and private) and the Farmer Services.
- Enforces various rules and validations required during the service delivery process.
- Acts as a Repository of all the applicable standards, API’s (Application Programming Interface) and formats.
- Act as a medium of data exchange amongst various schemes and services to enable comprehensive delivery of services to the farmer.
- National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGP-A): A Centrally Sponsored Scheme, it was initially launched in 2010-11 in 7 pilot States, which aims to achieve rapid development in India through the use of ICT for timely access to agriculture-related information to the farmers.
- In 2014-15, the scheme was further extended for all the remaining States and 2 UTs.
- Other Digital Initiatives: Kisan Call Centres, Kisan Suvidha App, Agri Market App, Soil Health Card (SHC) Portal, etc.
- The digital revolution is touching every sphere of life and hence it is high time to bring agriculture in its ambit.
- The MoUs to rope in the private sector can help in
- quicker modernisation of Farms,
- easier access to various schemes and
- subject matter knowledge.
- Such practices must be studied in depth via pilot projects and extended to whole India if found successful.
|Other Schemes for Farmers
National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA):
Strengthening/Promoting Agricultural Information System (AGRISNET):
- Digital technology in agriculture is designed to support innovation and sustainable farm practices. To ensure its success, all changes must be holistic in their benefits.
Q. Digital technologies are highly changing the face of agriculture and thereby farm to fork (F2F) supply chain. Discuss and also highlight the challenges in F2F supply chain.