Smart Farming - Why our farmers income is still low and what can be done to improve it?

February 18, 2018

 

Agriculture in India:

 

Since independence, India has been an agrarian economy with around 68% of its population still dependent on agriculture in 2016.

Soil is the most important factor which determines the magnitude of the crop both on qualitative and quantitative basis. Improving the health of the soil can lead to increase in produce and indirectly the welfare of those sections of population which are dependent on primary sector, directly or indirectly.

Post-independent India has witnesses various agrarian reforms, such as abolition of zamindari in early 1950s and green revolution in 1970s. Daniel Thorner in his evaluation of India's agriculture also agrees that agrarian development in India has culminated in an unequal growth, which has accelerated inequalities in rural India.

 

Observations:

  1. India is bestowed with favorable thermal and radiation regimes throughout the year which makes it possible to grow several crops on the same plot of land in a year, provided water is not the limiting factor.

  2. Period of maximum solar radiation in India coincide with minimum or no rainfall that calls for investment in irrigation, so that crops with very high yield potential can be grown during these periods.

  3. In India the variation in rainfall varies both spatially and chronologically. In Saurashtra and Kutch region the variation is 40-50% whereas in Rajasthan, it can be as high as 60-80%.

  4. While areas under irrigation by wells had increased, though not in a big way as in the case of tube-wells, the areas under tank irrigation had decreased.

 

Problems:

  1. Over-dependence on monsoons and traditional farming methods

  2. India lacks a credible and focused managerial framework to usher in transformation that agriculture requires.

  3. Agriculture is a state subject and thus lack uniform policy, face politics and no single agency.

  4. Fall in average size of agricultural land holding. Small farmers are increasingly forced to combine their farm work with non-farm work.

  5. Rate of growth in agriculture and allied activities is down from 4% per annum in the 11th period to just 1.7% in the first there year of 12th

Solutions:

  1. Technology incubation: Outcome-based technology policy encouraging research, innovation and incubation.

  2. Risk institutions and Financing: Banks and financial institutions to help promote technology infusion, insurance and mechanization.

  3. Institutions of governance: Promote farmer producer organizations to be agri SMEs/MSMEs.

  4. Policy for Farming: Focus on improving human and farm productivity.

  5. Skilling: Agricultural technical training institutes.

Smart farming:

 

Smart Farming represents the application of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into  agriculture, leading to what can be called a Third Green Revolution.

Following the plant breeding and genetics revolutions, this Third Green Revolution is taking over the agricultural world based upon the combined application of ICT solutions such as precision equipment, the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and actuators, geo-positioning systems, Big Data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), robotics, etc.

Smart Farming has a real potential to deliver a more productive and sustainable agricultural production, based on a more precise and resource-efficient approach. However, while in the USA possibly up to 80% of farmers use some kind of SFT, in Europe it is no more than 24%

 

I. Requirement:

  1. Side effects of programmes including the green, blue and golden revolutions such as the toll of increasing pollution, greenhouse gases, water-logging, high consumption of water resources, indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides, etc.

  2. Increased demand for agricultural products due to increasing populations.

II. Definition:

  1. Smart farming is the transformation and reorientation of farming to increase yields through enhanced productivity, improved resilience and reduced side effects.

 

​III. Features:

 

a. Smart farming centres around seven ‘E’s: 

i. Economic viability of the farming; 

ii. Efficient use of limited natural resources such as higher production per unit of water, land, and labour resources; 

iii. Enhancement in production through higher productivity; 

iv. Energy saving of limited fossil fuel; 

v. Equitable distribution of benefits across the farming community and inter and intra-regional distribution; 

vi. Environment/ecology protection; and

vii. Employment generation to ensure high income levels.

 

IV. Major impediments to Smart Farming:

 

a. Availability of credit.

i. There is still dependence on informal sources of credits such as moneylenders.

ii. As per NSSO statistics, commercial banks ranked first with a 25.1 per cent market share, closely followed by co-operatives at 24.9 per cent. Still over 50% credit is linked to informal sectors.

 

b. Technology:

i. There is not significant contribution of technology in Indian farming.

ii. There needs to be work on:

▪sensing technologies for weather forecasting, 

▪Land-use pattern-mapping, 

▪Crop- ping-mapping, 

▪Soil-testing and soil-enriching techniques, 

▪Mineral-mapping of animals,

 

V. Steps taken against impediments:

 

a. Financial Inclusion:

i. Kisan credit card scheme, 

ii. Rural Infrastructure Development Fund, 

iii. PM Jan Dhan Yojana, 

iv. The business correspondent scheme, 

v. The stipulation of targets for financing of short-term production credit under subvention of interest scheme.

 

 

Further suggestions:

 

  1. Public investment – it shall address the long term structural constraints in Irrigation, building the climate resilience, R&D infrastructure, creation of quality employment in non-farm sector.

  2. On irrigation front, watershed projects can be a good drought mitigation mechanism.

  3. Soil – Recycling organic matter and converting waste to wealth, re-framing of current fertilizer subsidy regime and promotion of non-pesticidal management practices are necessary.

  4. Crop diversification – protein rich pulses, Millets are rain fed crops. MSP, decentralized procurement systems can facilitate food security mechanisms.

  5. Research – Budget allocations need to be improved and ATMA (agricultural technology management agency, Krishi vigyan kendras shall be active agents of change in rural areas.

  6. Employment generation in non-farm sector through Agro processing industry, rural infrastructure and private investment can be a local employment multiplier.

 

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