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How Can Agritech Help Smallholder Farmers And De-Risk Indian Agriculture?

How Can Agritech Help Smallholder Farmers And De-Risk Indian Agriculture?

Smallholder farmers face a variety of risks that make their productivity and income unstable and unpredictable

Covid-19 crisis devastated the livelihood of smallholders, by collapsing their traditional ways of farming and failing drastically to provide enough returns

Farmers need digital technology and data to drive farming processes and decisions without the fear of risks associated with farming

Smallholder farmers face a variety of risks that make their productivity and income unstable and unpredictable. These risks – often related to climate change & pest attacks – disincentivise them from investing in high-value inputs and technology which impacts their livelihood. 

The government initiated schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna to ease farming and agriculture operations in India. Such initiatives helped farmers to streamline their produce and earn enough to support their livelihood. 

But the Covid-19 crisis devastated the livelihood of these farmers by collapsing their traditional ways of farming and failing drastically to provide enough returns. Additionally, the Covid-led disruptions in the supply chain and logistics systems suppressed the produce from reaching the markets. This has been a major issue impacting farmers’ earnings. In such a scenario, farmers, especially smallholders, need digital technology and data to drive farming processes and decisions.

In my opinion, there are three things that are most important to maintain an everlasting agriculture structure in India which can be easily be done with the support of agritech startups and technology:

  1.  Assigning bank credit to agri procedure on need 
  2.  Analysing core farming difficulties and risks to create sustainable agriculture plans for quality farm produce
  3. Establishing regulated value (MSP) instruments

Financial Strategies – Need Of The Hour

The technologies ensuring sustainable agriculture are advanced enough to provide farm-level yield guarantee and also compensation in case of crop loss due to extreme weather events or crop diseases. Furthermore, smallholders can enrol in a structure of market linkages for better prices and less crop wastage whilst they get connected with technology-driven agriculture.

More and more companies are working towards making agriculture a high-value sector in India in terms of advancements and technologies. They rely on AI and ML due to the accurate information it provides post-processing a vast amount of data. Such an extensive system nullifies the risk of low crop production and high crop wastage. It provides 360-degree protection to smallholders’ earnings.

Agritech startups equip the farmers with a promising farming setup. This enables an ecosystem under which they can practice and learn sustainable farming methods. An ecosystem where their incomes are secured, just in case the farm yield doesn’t fulfill the standard parameters of produce, both in the terms of quality and quantity. 

Strengthening Risk Tolerance Of A Farm Household 

The core of the entire agricultural system is bound by traditional farming methods. They strictly need to be evolved into sustainable agriculture methods backed with technology. In addition to sustainability, the smallholders can be provided with result-oriented strategies on two major levels— farm and finance.  

Farm Level Strategies

The new technologies dominating the agriculture sector not only promote mindful usage of natural resources but also function towards the betterment of smallholders. The artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques incorporated as per Indian agriculture dynamics can help smallholders in addressing and streamlining multiple farming-related problems. 

Advanced indigenous technologies such as Automatic Weather Stations, Soil Moisture Sensors, Pest monitors, Survey Drones, and Smart Irrigation Systems effectively help smallholders to practice diversification (on-farm). This ultimately gets them agricultural income protection on an individual basis. 

A few areas that can be improved with the help of tech-backed sustainable agriculture for smallholders are:

  • Change in cropping patterns: Farms can be geotagged and further digitized so that with the help of technology. Smallholders can explore an opportunity of changing their cropping patterns to achieve maximum yields. 
  • Mitigating weather-related risks: New farming methods backed with high-end technologies can introduce farmers to the world of sustainable agriculture. This helps them practice low input/low-cost production. And enables them to access an ecosystem that allows them to practice integrated crop management whilst learning a new and modern curve in agriculture. Accurate weather data can help identify sudden catastrophic events such as floods, excessive rain, and low rainfall that can seriously impact crop growth. 
  • Pest and disease monitoring and prevention: One of the most crucial issues that can degrade any smallholder’s entire crop or productivity is pest attack or crop diseases. Therefore, technological and smart intervention is necessary. This includes Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) to track the wind-based migration of pests, and Automatic Pest Monitor Sensors (APM) along with electronic pest traps to capture the live pest data. The technology also provides crop protection chemicals for preventing crop loss due to pests & weeds.  

There is a dire need for farmers to shift towards a system where crop insurance, both produce and monetary, is applicable and practised. Similarly, such a system should be extensive enough to provide claim post-assessment on the basis of individual farmers and nullify the ‘area’ approach for compensation. Under such an ecosystem, smallholders can freely practice digital agriculture practices without the fear of risks associated with farming. 

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.