7 technologies that can be game-changers for the agriculture sector – BusinessLine

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India’s agriculture sector has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Currently valued at $370 billion, the industry is one of the major contributors to the country’s GDP and economy. It is also the largest employer, with over half the population engaged in agriculture or related activities. Now, although it has grown immensely in a short span, agriculture has been one of the sectors that have recently incorporated cutting-edge technology into its workings, thanks to agtech start-ups.
Compared to sectors such as finance, education, automobile, etc., it is only recently that agriculture has seen a technology revolution, thanks to the emergence of agtech start-ups committed to combining technology with traditional agriculture to build a robust ecosystem. And with the government’s digital agriculture mission 2021-2025 based on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, Big Data, GIS Technology, remote sensing, and more, combined with new-age agtech start-ups, the industry’s progress has picked up steam. However, certain technologies still need to be integrated into the sector’s workings to bridge the existing gaps. Let’s take a look. 
Indoor vertical farming 
As the global population rises, the demand for quality food naturally skyrockets. Indoor vertical farming is one of the best ways to increase food production and expand agricultural operations. By 2050, it’s projected that the global population is set to surpass a whopping nine billion, making it imperative to ensure sufficient food for all. In the physical layout, the crops are stacked vertically in a tower-like structure, minimizing the overall area required for the same number of crops in traditional farming methods. Vertical farming also needs significantly less water as opposed to other methods. Now, India is still in the nascent stages when it comes to vertical indoor farming, and increased adoption can facilitate sustainability and substantial production in the long run. 
An IT-based farm management system that analyses and manages the variability by conducting crop production practices at the right place and time, precision agriculture boosts profitability, crop yield, and sustainability. In precision agriculture, the farm inputs are utilized in precise amounts rather than eyeballing them to obtain increased average yields. Precision agriculture is a valuable innovation that blends technology with traditional farming methods for better quality and quantity of produce. However, it would require a substantial area of land, which could be an issue in India, where the average farmer holds less than 1 hectare. However, with support from the government and agtech platforms, precision agriculture can truly elevate the agriculture sector’s standing. 
In a nutshell, pervasive automation in agriculture comprises of any technology with minimal operator workload. Increasing the productivity, efficiency, reliability, and accuracy of agricultural machines, pervasive automation, if implemented effectively, can go a long way in reducing operational costs and risks and improving overall productivity. For instance, deploying autonomous vehicles controlled remotely, hyper-precision such as navigation systems that optimize fertilization routes in the agriculture industry will eliminate redundant manual labor, minimize the possibility of human error, and enhance overall efficiency. 
Internet of agricultural things is simply IoT (Internet of Things) application in agriculture. It’s well known that IoT has been a game-changing technology across industry verticals, and agriculture is no exception. The embodiment of ‘smart technology,’ IoT devices embedded with sensors can connect and interact with each other remotely. By connecting physical resources on the farm to the internet, IoT in agriculture allows remote farm monitoring, saving time and labor, enables informed decision-making through data analytics, gauges quick insights based on real-time data, and boosts efficiency in terms of minimizing food wastage and increasing traceability for a sustainable agriculture ecosystem. 
Today, AI, ML, and Data Science are at the core of several businesses, and the agriculture industry, too, is catching up to this, thanks to Agritech platforms that are powered by these technologies. AI and ML allow farmers to garner real-time data on multiple aspects such as weather, sunlight, the migratory patterns of birds and animals, soil quality, fertilizers required, etc., to improve agricultural efficiencies. Indian farmers lack the access to implement best practices of farming, and these technologies can facilitate smart farming. 
In the long run, AI, ML, and Data Science will allow farmers to predict crucial elements, increase the quality and quantity of the crop yield, and enhance their livelihoods. Besides, AI, ML, and Data Science can also help Agri Finance companies to determine things like creditworthiness, risk, etc., to make access to credit easier for farmers – an aspect that has long been a challenge for India’s farming community. Given that most farmers rely on informal sources of credit such as moneylenders and often land themselves in debt traps, Agri-finance platforms have built data-based solutions that will bridge the credit gap. For instance, leveraging AI and Data Analytics, Agri-finance players garner sufficient information to assess the risk of lending and proceed accordingly.
A potentially revolutionary technology, Blockchain can be utilized to consolidate data on the quality of the farm inputs, track the crops’ growth, and record their journey after they’re harvested, making it instrumental in the end-to-end process of farming. Due to this end-to-end tracking, Blockchain facilitates transparency in the agricultural sector, enabling farmers to make informed decisions. Equitable deployment of such technologies can work wonders in bridging the gap at all levels of the agricultural value chain. 
The integration of geospatial data into the agriculture ecosystem brings about a host of innovative solutions across the globe, allowing the sector to function smarter and more sustainably. Although satellite imagery isn’t an entirely new concept in agriculture, only recently has it seen large-scale implementation. With satellite imagery, near real-time data can cover a large area in a short time, increasing efficiency and minimizing manual labour and human error. The Indian agriculture industry must increase its large-scale implementation of satellite imagery through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and bring an array of operations under a single umbrella – be it processing, analysis, or results. 
The agriculture industry is rapidly catching up to the integration of new-age technologies into its workings. However, considering the pace at which technology is advancing, it’s imperative that the sector picks up speed. Once this happens, there will be nothing stopping India from becoming an agricultural superpower with the ability to cater to the growing demand for food, albeit in a sustainable manner.
( The author is , CEO & Co-Founder, Unnati) 
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