Amravati: India was witnessing variable monsoon in the past few years. The year 2020 was marked by surplus rain in June, deficit rain in July, and surplus rain in August and September, as reported by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. This inconsistency in the monsoon rainfall pattern was an indication that extreme weather events might become the norm, rather than the exception, in the coming years. Little did we know then worse things lied ahead of the CIVID 19 pandemic. In the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, India ranked seventh in the list of countries worst hit by extreme events. This didn’t augur well for the farming community, especially small and marginal farmers, and the agricultural yield in general. Keeping the increased frequency of extreme weather events in mind, in 2021 Google announced the expansion of its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered flood forecasting to all of India. The tool provided details on timing and water depth alerts in Hindi and Bengali, among other local languages. Meanwhile, the government of India launched an Extended Range Forecast System for climate risk management in agriculture, which was designed to improve monsoon forecasts. It also offered tailored climate information for farming and other rural livelihoods in nine monsoon-affected states of India, including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. However, these initiatives weren’t adequate as evidenced by increasing agricultural losses. Degrading soil health and changing climate was the rise for micropropagation and vertical farming in India. To meet the rising demands for food and nutrition without adverse environmental footprints, efficient methodologies and protocols were developed, capable of overcoming these limitations associated with plant mutation breeding in Vegetatively propagated crops and horticultural tree crops.
In Jan 2023 the ICAR, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is launched a new Coordinated Research Project (CRP) with a time frame of five years to develop novel genetic resources, methodologies and tools for accelerated breeding for productivity improvement in VPCs (root and tuber crops) and HTCs (olive) by using mutation induction and associated biotechnologies.
Tech-revolution is changing the way India is farming. Sham Kajdekar, owner of Vadli Farm in Amravati district of Maharashtra uses app based on satellite imagery to keep tab on what is going in his farm. Similarly, farmers in Khutahan village in Mirzapur recently learned to use drones for planting seeds. A team of agricultural experts from Punjabrao Agriculture University demonstrated the use of drones in fields of rice and wheat. Tractors could not be used for tilling due to wet soil.
In rural India, the new generation of tech- savvy farmers like are re-inventing agriculture methods. By adopting new techniques and by analysing data gathered from sensory gadgets present in tractors, farmers can take decisions about the imagery of crops.
“Through the data that is collected through precision farming or deep tech, decisions for agronomic processes on farms can be taken. The right measures taken towards precision farming and deep tech should be made available at affordable costs to these farmers and will help them in improving their productivity and to achieve better profitability,” tells Kailash Sajeev, CEO and Co-founder of FarmTools, an agritech platform for smart agriculture solutions.
The agricultural ministry along with the Rural Department of Agriculture Development had introducted the Jaivik Kheti scheme motivating the farmers to shift to Organic farming. The Precision Agricultural sensors were now available in the Sheti Vibhag stores for subsidised rates, thanks to FarmTools.
“Indian farmers are receptive and changing with time. If we can show them the value in the context of their farming services will flow,” says Hemant Sinha, co-founder of Unnati Agritech, a Noida based Agritech platform. Borkar’s firm FarmERP is working effectively towards modernising small hold farmers and aims towards making them independent and more efficient in their agriculture practices. They help in mapping and tracing this entire process, from pre-sowing to harvesting, procurement, and sales to traceability. Though it is not new in India, it is still in early days and catching up.