Technology is everywhere. Nowadays, people cannot imagine any industry without technology and agriculture is no exception. In India, technological innovations in agri-tech sectors generate investment opportunities by increasing efficiency and overall productivity.
Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently said that the administration is constantly striving to improve many small farmers in the country.
The minister informed that the government has started the work of setting up 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), for which Rs 6,865 crore is being spent. He said this was done keeping in mind the 86% of small farmers in the country, who cannot invest much.
According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, from 2017 to 2020, India received around $1 billion in agritech funding. With significant investor interest, India ranks third in terms of agritech funding and number of agritech startups. By 2025, Indian agritech companies are expected to see investments worth $30-35 billion.
India’s agritech ecosystem has the potential to attract more than $10 billion in investment over the next ten years, according to a FICCI-PwC report.
Despite being a pandemic year, investors poured more than $500 million into agritech in 2020, up from $248 million in 2019.
“With a significant increase in investment activity and given the huge agritech market potential in India, industry experts estimate that there will be investments of over $10 billion over the course of the year. the next ten years,” the report said.
He further said that the government has shown its commitment to bring policy reforms in agriculture and related sector and to strengthen the ecosystem of agricultural startups. Recently launched agricultural reforms are a step in this direction and seek to disintermediate the complex agricultural supply chain, he observed.
Furthermore, to attract investment and build a robust agri-startup ecosystem, the report indicates that momentum is needed in key strategic areas such as infrastructure activation, product innovation, entrepreneurship support and incubation, co-creation enhancement and institutional support.
According to a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), agriculture remains a high priority sector of the Indian economy, representing the livelihoods of approximately 58% of the country’s population. It also occupies a leading position in the world economy and contributes 11.9% of the gross value added (GVA) of world agriculture (3,320.4 billion dollars), just behind China.
Analysis of food supply and demand shows that despite a 50% increase in agricultural production over the past 10 years, the rate of increase in food production will not be sufficient to feed the growing world population which is expected to reach around 10 billion by 2050. Thus, the productivity of the agricultural industry must be accelerated.
Technology has become essential to driving all major global economies forward. All sectors, including agriculture, innovate to solve complex problems. India, being one of the largest economies in the world, is no exception and has been experiencing a huge technological transformation over the past two decades. Flagship programs like Digital India’ and Startup India’ have helped the country become the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, with annual growth of 12-15%.
Although agriculture in India is at a transitional stage, with emphasis on technology integration for better operations, the sector still faces several challenges along the value chain. These challenges require disruptive interference which can be provided by technological solutions. The whole system must adapt to a holistic approach that can build on indigenous and traditional agricultural knowledge integrated with transformative smart farming practices, including the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and techniques ). Adoption of AI technologies will pave the way for higher production with optimal use of available resources and facilitate predictive analytics, crop health management, improve quality and traceability, according to PwC report .
Through the application of technology and innovation in the country’s agricultural sector, the government is encouraging the adoption of smart farming practices. The government is putting into practice the Digital Agriculture Mission (DAM), which includes the India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA), Farmers Database, Unified Farmers Service Interface (UFSI), state funding on new technologies, soil health, and fertility.
Funding for digital agriculture initiatives using advanced technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, etc. is provided to state governments under the National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA) program . The aim is to achieve rapid development in India through the use of information and communication technologies including drone technologies which are being adopted nationwide.
To promote the use of Kisan drones, the government is giving a grant of Rs 5 lakh to small and marginal women and farmers in the northeastern states to buy drones.
In a special campaign to help farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year launched 100 Kisan drones to various towns and villages across India to spray agricultural land with pesticides. The campaign has been launched for many states including upcoming elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Goa.
The government is also promoting the use of the Kisan drone for crop assessment, digitization of land records and spraying of pesticides and nutrients for which funds have also been made available in the budget.