Last Updated: June 2023 (E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers)
E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers
This article deals with ‘E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers.’ This is part of our series on ‘Economics’, which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
What is E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers?
Need for Digitization in the Agriculture Sector
- Increase Agricultural Productivity: Farmers lack access to high-quality agricultural inputs, farm machinery and other allied equipment, which leads to low agricultural productivity or low-quality crops. E-Technology can help farmers to remove this.
- Strengthening Agricultural Ecosystem: Agriculture’s contribution to India’s GDP has decreased from 34% in 1983 to 17% in 2018 due to inherent inefficiencies in the agricultural ecosystem. Innovations such as satellites, sensors, data analytics, and improved means of connectivity can help farmers face myriad challenges, such as access to markets, information, inputs, expert advice, etc.
- Informed decision-making: The application of information technology can support farmers in making intelligent decisions based on concrete data. It also enables individuals to get specialized solutions and granular information of direct use rather than a general policy overview that the centre or state government publishes.
- Digitization of Land Records: It can empower farmers, especially tenant farmers, sharecroppers, oral lessees and landless labourers, by improving transparency in accessing institutional credit and enhancing overall ease of doing business in the Agri-sector.
- Accessible Financial Services: Agritech can facilitate credit facilities for input procurement and equipment acquisition and offer crop insurance. Such services can help the agricultural sector to overcome several roadblocks, such as limited access to capital.
1. Information Dissemination
E-Technology can help farmers by providing them with marker prices, weather forecasts, farming techniques, crop diseases, and best farming practices. For example
- Mobile Applications: Mobile Applications such as e-Mausam Krishi Seva, PUSA Krishi App, Cropin, AgriApp, and Kisan Suvidha are developed to provide information related to market prices of various crops, weather forecasts, diseases etc., to farmers in personalized form using their location and crop preference information.
- SMS Services: mKRISHI and mKISAN are SMS-based platforms that provide weather updates, market prices, Crop management tips, market prices, and expert advice to the farmers via SMS.
- Farmer Helplines: Toll-free helpline services such as Kisan Helpline (of Union Ministry of Agriculture) and Kisan Call Center (of Tamil Nadu government) connect farmers with agricultural experts who can provide information to farmers on various aspects such as farming best practices, new farming techniques etc.
2. Online Marketplaces
E-Tech platforms help farmers sell their produce at better prices, know realtime prices, and streamline logistics.
- Agri-Marketplaces: E-Technology platforms such as AgriBazaar, eNAM (National Agriculture Market), and BigHaat help in connecting farmers with buyers by providing a digital marketplace for trading.
- Price Comparison: Websites and Applications such as AgMarkNet provide farmers with realtime price information for different agricultural commodities across other markets.
3. Access to Financial Tools
E-technology helps farmers to access credit, insurance, subsidies and payment transfers efficiently. For example
- Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT): Using DBT, subsidies and welfare payments can be transferred directly to the bank account of the farmers, thus reducing corruption and delays.
- The Kisan Suvidha Portal is a comprehensive portal where farmers can access financial, insurance, agro-marketing etc., options available to Indian farmers.
- Unified Payments Interface (UPI) by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has provided a platform to make convenient and secure transactions even in rural areas. Now, farmers can receive their payments directly into their bank accounts.
4. Farmer Education and Training
Online platforms provide information regarding modern agricultural practices, livestock management, organic farming, and agro-entrepreneurship. For example
- Websites like e-Pashuhaat, e-Krishi Yantra (of the Madhya Pradesh government), and e-Extension (of the Tamil Nadu government) provide information on improved farming practices.
- Platforms like TAFE e-Dost provide online courses and learning materials to farmers regarding innovative farming techniques.
- Videos are shared through YouTube channels like Apni Kheti and Indian Farmer.
5. Use of Sensors, Drones and Satellites
IoT devices like sensors, drones, and smart irrigation systems are used on farms to monitor temperature, crop health, soil moisture, and temperature in realtime. For example
- Smart Agriculture Systems: IoT devices monitor soil moisture levels, temperature, and weather conditions in realtime. It helps farmers to optimize the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water, which transfers to higher profits.
- Crop Monitoring: IoT devices, with the help of data from sensors, drones, and satellites, provide realtime data on crop growth, health, and growth patterns.
- Livestock Monitoring: IoT devices such as GPS trackers, wearable sensors and temperature monitors track livestock’s location, health and behaviour.
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): PMFBY aims to assess the damage to crops for insurance purposes through GPS-aided mobile images, satellite and drone imagery. It has improved accuracy and compensation.
- AI Sowing App: Microsoft has developed this application in collab with International Crops Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT). AI Sowing App sends advisory to farmers about the optimal date of seeds-owing.
- KISAN RAJA Mobile Motor Controller: The working is explained in the figure below.
- Non-availability of Suitable Digital products: Digitization efforts often suffer from poor product design, inappropriate technology for a rural context and inadequate understanding of the needs of key agriculture stakeholders. For instance, most digital products operate in English or Hindi and do not offer services in other local languages.
- Digital Divide: Smartphone penetration is very low in rural India (25% in 2018), and internet access is limited—rural broadband penetration was a mere 29% in 2020.
- Limited funding for Private AgTechs: High-risk perception among investors, long gestation period, climate risk, lack of leverage etc., make it difficult for Technological Startups involved in Agriculture (AgTech).
- Limited availability of agri-data and access to it: Companies working in the AgTech sector find it difficult to access reliable agri-data owned by the government. Also, only a few states have digitized land records.
- Concerns related to sharing farmers’ data with private companies: Without proper safeguards, private entities could exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish, which can lead to the commodification of agriculture and farmer data.