Empowering rural India with ICT, where 68% constitutes rural population and 58% within this segment is solely dependent on agriculture, Digital India mission was launched on 1st of July 2015 by Government of India to create digital infrastructure to empower rural masses and farmers. Through ICT, timely and localized information and services are provided to farmers to make profitable and sustainable farming while taking due care in delivering, nutritious and affordable food for all. Integration of different advanced technologies into one system is called Digital Agriculture that enables farmers and others within the agriculture value chain to improve food production. Internet connectivity in rural India and technology are the two main factors for connecting with farmers for delivering them the recommendations which is best suited to them based on crop, planting date, variety to be sown and real-time weather situation and projected market prices.
In the implementation of Digital Agriculture, Spatial (and temporal) Data Infrastructure (SDI) and low-cost smartphones & tablets are the main contributing factors to support the bi-directional flow of informative data to farming community. There exists a high degree of variability in Agriculture like soil and rainfall variability; moisture and nutrient content variability and timing of planting and harvesting coupled with uncertainty in market prices. These production and market risks are managed through the application of spatial/temporal databases that are cloud-enabled and integrated through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Asa result of this a rich and dynamic data ecosystem is created that enables advanced analytics to inform farmers of best options to increase profitability and decrease risk-the two critical variables farmers would like to manage.
Smartphones equipped with GPS are used to track the places where photos have indicated of field infestations or hail damage and are used for technical support to farmers or settlement of crop insurance issues. Remote sensing complimented by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) can assess weather, soil & crop health, crop coverage, crop damage and yield far more accurately. The greatest impact of Digital Agriculture would be that farmers would have access to markets all over India & abroad also and shall not have to sell their produce because of asymmetry between farmers and intermediaries into saturated, weak markets but can capture a good marketable value of their produce. Business models have emerged from Africa, Brazil and China that use data and mobile phones to increase agriculture value chain efficiency and give farmers access to inputs and credits. It also helps in having reach to recommendations for improving productivity through market integration which is basedon stipulated standards of grades and prices. In India also it is possible to realize the dream of doubling the income of farmers provided the basic spatial data infrastructure is provided to enable coordination along the value chain.
Under Digital India, DBT and Unique Identification Number, Aadhaar, platforms have been introduced which help in transferring the government subsidies to farmers directly into their bank accounts. Subsidies availed by farmers for a particular crop and fertilizers in a particular field can be validated and targeted by the support of spatial/temporal data infrastructure for increased productivity by managing production and market risks that will give confidence to farmers to invest further in their enterprise for more productivity.
Digital Agriculture can also use social media platforms like Digital Green to build human capacity. The participating farmers use and share videos explaining the best management practices that farmers can use for increased productivity. And such information is accepted as farmers trust other farmers because all are earning a livelihood under similar situations.
Mobile money is another intervention under Digital Technology that replaces the paper money. Mobile money is safer and costs less to transfer. Digital technology has become game changer for Indian agriculture; lots of mobile apps have come up in arena that makes agriculture easy. And to name few are Kissan Suvidha; IFFCO Kissan Agriculture; RML- Farmer- Krishi Mitr; Pusa Krishi; Agri. App; Kheti- Badi; Whatsapp; Kissan Gyan; Crop Insurance and Agri. Market. These apps provide information to farmers on current weather and forecast for days to come; agriculture advisory in terms of time of planting, variety to be sown, quantity of fertilizers to be applied, plant protection measures and market prices in mandis. The information is text, imagery, audio and video based and available in different Indian languages.
Now, large business companies, leading IT groups and young innovators as startup companies have also entered into agriculture sector and as a result of which the environment for technology and digital solution has picked up a reassuring pace. e-Choupal of ITC is a digital knowledge platform providing service to farmers of over 3500 villages through its 6100 installations and farmers have effectively managed food grain management and mastered up gradation. Trringo, a mobile based app from M&M enables farmers to rent tractors using digital technology to help farmers use machinery without having to buy it. Custom Hiring concept has been launched through this app and has come up as a boon for small farmers who have only to pay the rentals and have not to invest large money for buying tractors and other farm machinery. TCS, India’s leading IT firm, offers audio and visual advisories to farmers using mobile phones through its mKRISHI platforms. Stellapps Technologies, its app uses IoT to improve milk production, milk procurement and the cold chain. Ekgaon Technologies- Ekgaonone village one world Network offers array of services to farmers, rural business and women through mobile communication to encourage the sustainable development of women-self-help-groups and small farmers. AgNext has developed drones with the objective of creating an integrated, accurate local farm data collection and crop analytics platform. SkyMet weather services provide farmers with agri. risk solutions while monitoring and predicting weather forecasts for the farmers in short, medium and long duration. It can predict for them the exact crop yield at the village level. Ecozen Solutions has come up with solar powered products for irrigation and cold storage for farmers in regions of limited or no electricity. Barrix Agro Sciences offers solutions for crop production against pests and disease and these solutions are eco-friendly. Another venture, eKutir Global offers online and mobile based platform that connects farmers with stakeholders across the value chain like information on soil testing laboratories, dealers of seeds & fertilizers, exporters, financial institutions, food processing and branded retailers.
So, we see a positive and progressive change in the field of agriculture by advancement in technology and its application in agriculture. Farmers have access to information of everything that they need to know and can take proactive measures based on the advisories available on interactive text and video apps and other digital platforms.