Technology Plays a Crucial Role in Driving Change

Laxmi Joshi and Saurabh Bandyopadhyay[1]

 The agricultural sector in India has made significant progress since gaining Independence, thanks to technological advancements and government interventions. The Green Revolution, in particular, played a crucial role in increasing food grain production by three times, demonstrating the importance of science and technology in the growth of agriculture. Today, India is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses, and spices, and ranks second in the production of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, fruits, and vegetables. It has also excelled in other agricultural commodities. This success is further reflected in the ₹4.2 lakh crore worth of agricultural exports made in FY2023.

Although it is the largest producer of food, the food system is confronted with several challenges such as mounting pressure on natural resources, climate change, fragmented land holdings, expanding urbanization, and high rates of malnutrition among children. As a result, meeting the growing demand for food in the face of changing climatic conditions will require a dedicated focus on sustainability and efficiency of production systems through the use of advanced farm practices and technology.

Digital technology has emerged as a crucial factor in modernizing agriculture in India. The government’s focus on digital inclusion and mechanization has made it easier for farmers across the country to adopt advanced technologies. The deployment of ‘Kisan drones’ for crop assessment and land records digitization, along with the widespread use of mobile applications such as Kisan Suvidha and e-NAM, has transformed the way farmers access information and markets. The number of markets linked to the e-NAM platform increased to 1,389 in 2023, enabling online trading of 209 agriculture and horticulture commodities.

Moreover, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics holds immense potential in optimizing agricultural practices and reducing production risks. Precision agriculture, digital interfaces, and the use of advanced technologies, techniques, and tools are increasingly being utilized in agriculture to monitor weather, plant and soil indicators, and provide AI-based advisories to farmers. However, ensuring the accessibility and usability of these technologies for farmers of all backgrounds remains a critical challenge that requires concerted efforts from policymakers and stakeholders.

Strategies and protocols for the use of drones, sensor-based automation, solar photovoltaic pumping systems, etc. will pave the way for their large-scale adoption by farmers. In the 2023-24 budget speech, the government highlighted the Agriculture Accelerator Fund, aimed at promoting agri-startups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas, with a focus on affordable solutions for agricultural problems and the adoption of modern technologies. The “Innovation and Agri-Entrepreneurship Development” program is a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Agri UDAAN (1-6) initiative. Its main objective is to empower agri-startups and entrepreneurs with the necessary skills, knowledge, and networks to promote sustainable agricultural growth and create employment opportunities. The startups aim to improve efficiency and sustainability in agriculture by leveraging technology and targeting farmers, traders, and the entire distribution chain.

The technological and policy interventions in Indian agriculture have brought about transformative impacts, which cannot be denied. However, to maintain this momentum amidst evolving challenges, continuous innovation, adaptive governance, and inclusive development strategies are required. By leveraging technology, empowering farmers, and promoting sustainable practices, India can pave the way for a resilient and inclusive path towards agricultural prosperity and food security in the 21st century. It is important to view agriculture as a holistic value chain that involves farming, processing, warehousing, and retailing. Adequate marketing infrastructure must be created at the farm gate level, sustainable marketing linkages must be promoted, and scientific pricing for agriculture products should be ensured to foster true competition in the market. The Agriclinics and Agribusiness Centres Scheme of the Government of India supported by NABARD should be implemented on a larger scale. Such programs can boost agri-entrepreneurship, increase farmers’ incomes, and enhance the overall welfare of the rural economy.

[1] Fellow and Senior Fellow, respectively at NCAER. Views are personal