Digital Agriculture: Key to Farmers’ Growth
SMART AGRIPOST organized a conference with some of the leading experts in various fields related to digitization of agriculture with the aim of reducing risk to farmers and making farming not just sustainable in every sense but also highly profitable. The conference was divided into sessions which discussed in great details aspects of ‘Big Data Analytics and Its Drivers’, ‘Internet of Things (IoTs) and Cloud Computing’, ‘SMART Farming’ among other things. The conference emphasized the need to adopt these technologies to enable and empower farmers to achieve “Resources Use Efficiency”.
Mobile phones and internet are accessible to a very large portion of the population of this country cutting across social-economic strata including farmers nowadays. This combined with the various outreach programmes of the central and state governments and intervention of private companies has made access to knowledge, access to extension, access to credit, access to market, access to monsoon information, etc that much more easier.
Digitalization of farming system has become one of the most important steps towards achieving sustainable agricultural productivity and minimizing farmers’ distress. In order to boost farmers’ Income in a sustainable manner, India requires strategic use of ICT & e-governance in Farming System Life Cycle, and the following six areas need urgent consideration in the farming sector:
- Digital Technology and Innovation: Digital India, Make in India, Skill India and Startups India Programmes for Transformational Reforms in Agricultural Sector (Smart Farming);
- Digital Agro-Met Advisories & Agricultural Risk Management Solution;
- Digitalized Agricultural Resources Information System and Micro-level Planning for achieving SMART VILLAGE & SMART FARMING;
- Digitalized Value Chain for Famers for Access to Agricultural Finance, Credit, Marketing and Agribusiness Management;
- Digitalized Integrated Land and Water Management System – Per Drop More Crop; and
- Digital Farm Health Management for reduction of Farmers’ Losses.
Towards this end, SMART AGRIPOST organised the conference with all stakeholders to deliberate on the need of adoption of technologies viz., Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things and Smart Farming, to enable and empower farmers to achieve “Resources Use Efficiency”. Big Data Analytics and Its Drivers Big data analytics is the process of examining large and varied data sets –i.e., big data –to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends; customer preferences and other useful information that can help organizations make more-informed business decisions.
Data Analytics help farmers analyze real time data like weather, temperature, moisture, prices or GPS signals and provide insights on how to optimize and increase yield, improve farm planning, make smarter decisions about the level of resources needed, when and where to distribute them in order to prevent waste, etc.
The session “Big Data Analytics and Its Drivers” which was chaired by Prof M Moni included Neil Kennington, Regional Agriculture Attache, New Zealand High Commission, Dan Alluf, Agricultural Counselor, Israel Embassy, Ram Kiran Dhulipala, from ICRISAT, Amit Kumar Bhardwaj from Level “A” Commodities, Kunal Sama from SAS Institute (India) Pvt. Ltd. They discussed in detail about the usage of data in the field of agriculture and allied sectors to improve farm productivity and income.
The relevance of data analytics, as given below, can be looked into for possible adoption in India:
- “Digital tracking, reporting and monitoring: Future of Our Fisheries” – the Ministry of Primary Industries, Government of New Zealand (http://mpi.govt.nz). Each of their Commercial fishing boats is required to have: a. Geospatial position reporting (GPR) – to know where fishing occurs; b. Electronic reporting via an e-logbook – to quickly and accurately measure commercial catch and effort; c. Electronic monitoring (cameras) – to verify what is being reported. India’s Real Craft Project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is required to have potential institutional collaboration with the Ministry of Primary Industries, Government of New Zealand, in this regard.
- Digital Drip Irrigation System Tool Box -Precision Farming and Water Resource Use Efficiency – which cuts down water use by up to 90%, allowing farmers to spend less on water and more efficiently use their resources; and also Weather Advisories: System to analyse information (based on sophisticated algorithm) obtained from diverse in-field meteorological, soil-based and plant sensors, and send alerts to farmers through their mobile phones, even before problems are visible in the field;
- Agriculture made viable through SAS Analytics Model on 80,000 agricultural holdings, entrepreneurs and their families, locations, parcels, crops, animal species, grant applications, payments, manure storage, etc, in The Netherlands; and also as to how to overcome constraints by data utilisation ;
- Farm Data Analytics to build Agricultural Intelligence Framework and Agricultural Financial Inclusion Framework by deploying IoT, AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing technologies;
- ICRISAT Framework for Digital Agriculture (Agricultural Value Chain and On-Farm Management) for Small and Marginal Farmers
- Big Data analytics based on Demand side and Supply side problem constraints and Uberisation of Service Delivery Internet of Things (IoTs) and Cloud Computing Internet of Things (IoT) – the most disruptive technological revolution, integrated with the World Wide Web is called as Web of Things (WoT). IoT involves the linking of physical entities (“things”) with IT systems and represents the integration of systems from traditionally different communities: Information Technology and Operational Technology.
IoT comprises M2M (Machine-to-Machine) as well as Human-to-Machine communication (H2M) and its enabling technologies are sensor networks, RFID, M2M, mobile Internet, wired & wireless communication network, semantic data integration, semantic search etc. Internet of Things (IoT) in Agriculture has become one of the fastest growing fields in the M2M Communication.
Internet, Internet of Things (IoTs) IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques, Spatial Technology, Geomatics Technology, Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing, Social Media, Big Data Analytics and Smart Farming are emerging ICT tools, and becoming as “Drivers for the Future of Agriculture”.
Chhabilendra Roul, Secy. (ICAR) & Additional Secy. (DARE) chaired the session “Internet of Things (IoTs) and Cloud Computing”, in which NishithPathak, from Accenture, Karthic Ravindranath, from Gold Farm,Dr Veerendra Veer Singh, Principal from CMFRI, Deepak Singh from TCS, Gaurav Patni from Jain Irrigatio, Rajesh Sinha, from NeML also actively participated. The participants discussed at length the use of IoT in agriculture to enhance the growth of farmers and other stakeholders. The session recommended the flowing major project initiatives for active consideration:
- Application of GRIN Technology (Genomics, Robotics, informatics and Nano-Technology) to develop improved crop variety from the present 8-9 years of duration to 3-4 years of duration;
- Application of IoT and AI to make Artificial Insemination to increase substantially from the present rate of 50 – 60%;
- Large scale adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), IOT, Agricultural Drones and Cloud Computing to achieve Smart Agriculture;
- Promotion of Collaborative projects on IT4Ag through Industry participation and National Agricultural Research System (NARS) involving end-users, through horizontal and vertical paths;
- Development of Digital Agricultural Services following successful operationalisation of both “digitalisation and online Internet technologies” model: Facebook, Alibaba and Uber;
- Deployment of 5G Network for operationalisation of IoTs applications to overcome major infrastructural limitations;
- Replication of best practices adopted by M/s Jain Irrigation Systems for the Ramthal Project in Bagalpuri District (Karnataka) –About 9614 IoT devices connected to Cloud computing, auto central pumping system and web-based automated system for 24×7 control & monitoring – A successful Make In India Product on the ground;
- Scaling up of the pilot project of CIFA, IMD, INCOIS, NIO, NIOT and TCS for sustainable and safe Fisheries operations at sea through mKrishi Mobile Apps, to other Coastal States and UTs;
- IoT based Tractors at CHCs for farm mechanisation;
- Creation of Comprehensive Database for each Farm and Farmers made available through Cloud Computing for analysis through “Crowd Sourcing”;
- Focussed Research projects in the area of IoT, Big Data Analytics AI, and Cloud Computing in the area of Agriculture and Food Sciences -Sensor based Decision Support System for Soil Micro Nutrients, IoT framework design, specialized sensor development, data acquisition models, Algorithm design, Knowledge generation and site specific decision support etc.;
- Inclusion of Engineering Colleges in the ICAR’s All India Coordinated research Project (AICRP) of IT in Agriculture; SMART Farming – Challenges of Farming Community While Precision Agriculture is just taking in-field variability into account, Smart Farming goes beyond that by basing management tasks not only on location but also on data, enhanced by context- and situation awareness, triggered by real-time events. There has been a lack of interoperability, currently severely hindering smart farming because ICT components of multiple vendors do not operate as one integrated farm information system.
The session ‘SMART Farming’ which was chaired by Prof. S. D. Samantaray, Head, Department of Computer Engineering, College of Technology, G.B. Pant University of Ag & Technology Pantnagar, Uttarakhand included Niraj Prakash Garg of NDDB, Prateep Basu of SatSure, Dr. A K Srivastava of NABARD, Prakash Jayaram of E&Y India. They deliberated on finding out the appropriate interventions of IT in agriculture domain and developing better algorithms which could lead to Smart Agriculture, thereby helping the farmers to increase their productivity and input efficiency.
With the availability of advanced computer and ICT technologies, there is a great potential for the development of better tools and techniques to support Agriculture through Agricultural Informatics. Application of Computational Intelligence for Smart Agriculture and Development of efficient Spatial Data Mining techniques to strengthen Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) are considered to be essential also.
Operationalisation of Smart Village and Smart Farming (Micro level Planning) include (a) SMART Water, (b) SMART Weather, (c) SMART Health, (e)SMART Carbon, (f) SMART Nutrient, (g) SMART Knowledge, (h) SMART Energy, (i) Site-Specific Technologies using Crop Modelling, Climate Change Modelling and Economic Modelling, to increase farm outputs, and (j) e-Farmer.
The SMART Farming Project needs to be strengthened through establishment of Incubation Centres for StartUps -to innovate site-specific technology applications -in about 4500 engineering colleges /Universities and 400 Agricultural Colleges, on “SMART Farming: Smart Village, Smart Agriculture, Smart Water, Smart Nutrient, Smart Carbon, Smart Weather, Smart Extension, Smart Farm Health”, on priority basis. Road Map for Digitalized Agriculture by 2022
Both Farmer and Farm generate a lot of data from their farm management practices and these data need to be systematically captured for subsequent analysis and interpretation using Information technology for strengthening Agriculture Value Chain. However, the farmers who generate data, need to agree upon data use and sharing with other shareholders.
By adopting Data Science and analytical approach, an almost perfect solution can be found to minimise risk and maximise profit of the farmers, to help policy makers expedite their policy making process and to help financial and insurance companies to bridge the financing as well as credit gaps .
The challenge is as to how to usher in Agriculture 4.0 by 2022. It is possible through strategic intervention at various levels with missionary zeal through the following measures:
- Promote Digital India Programme in Agricultural Sector as Farmers’ Charter;
- Network Institutions of Higher Education is required to develop “Information Utility Tools” for small and Marginal farmers through digital technology;
- Set up a National Centre for IT in Agriculture (NCITA), State Centre for IT in Agriculture (SCITA) and District Centre for IT in Agriculture (DCITA), to undertake transformational technological interventions for digitalisation of Farming;
- Formulate Policy on Agriculture Drones to facilitate StartUps to build advisory services based high resolution imageries;
- Use growing FDI in agricultural sector for digitalization of agriculture to establish a robust ICT ecosystem for farming sector;
- Upgrade 2G and 3G Networks to 5G Network in Rural India to operationalise Digitalised Farming and its associated Workflow Process with IoT and Drones; 5G Bandwidth is very important for IoT Applications;
- Create Digitalization of Agriculture framework as strong foundation as GSTN/ Aadhaar framework; Adopt Open Source Platform for lowering upfront cost;
- Promote StartUps for providing Advisory Services to Farmers, based on 14 Crores Soil Health Cards, through appropriate Standard Operating Procedure (SOP);
- Create comprehensive Farm-wise and Farmer-wise databases to be made available over Cloud Computing as per the OpenData / OpenGOV Policy guidelines;
- Establish robust agricultural data and subsequent monetizing of data in favour of farming community and judicious use of data resulting high value of ROI;
- Promote e-NAM to Farming Community and Meteorology Website and Weather Advisory to farmers in 22 Languages, as Monsoon and Markets are important for Farmers;
- Establish 400 ICT enabled Agricultural Value Chains (including one on Kiwi fruit of Arunachal Pradesh);
- Create Access to Information (Infrastructure) & Information to Access(Content) facilitating (i) Access to Credit, (ii) Access to Knowledge, (iii) Access to Extension (iv) Access to Market and (v) Access to Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs)
- Achieve API based Integrable system (e.g. eNAM, Warehousing services, Bhuvan, AGMARKNET, Soil Health etc); Open up existing application system through cost effective APIs;
- Create All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) in ICT in Agriculture in ICAR in which Engineering Colleges shall also be included;
- Set up ICT enabled Process to realise Crop Insurance for Farmers in time (according to the CAG Report, Rs 14,000 Crores is yet to realised); Establish ICT enabled Agricultural Intelligence Framework and Agricultural Finance Framework;
- Bridge the Development Gaps in Human Resources Development – Agricultural Informatics Professional – through M. Tech / B. Tech in Agricultural Informatics Courses in Rural India;
- Undertake collaborative ICT4Ag Projects in the Hub-Spokes Model involving ICAR-NARS, Academic and Research Institutions (IITs, NITs, Universities, Deemed Universities, Engineering Colleges and other Institutions of Higher Education etc.), Industry-Institutions and End Users. Establish a Clearing House Agency (e.g. ICAR or proposed NCITA) to be the Arbitrator for ensuring success of Hub and Spokes Model;
- Support coordinated Research project in the area of IoT in Agriculture, Big Data Analytics and Smart Farming in Agriculture and Food Science (e.g. Sensor based DSS for Soil Micro Nutrients), for IoT Framework design, specialised Sensor design, data acquisition model, algorithm design and site specific DSS etc., through SAs, ICAR and Engineering Colleges.
(The outcome of the deliberations on ‘Digitalization of Agriculture for Enhancing Farm Income’ organised by SMART AGRIPOST was highlighted by the authors. Prof Samantaray, is the Head, Department of Computer Engineering, College of Technology, G.B. Pant University of Agriculture, Uttrakhand while Prof Moni is the DG (Retd), NIC, GoI, New Delhi & Professor Emeritus & Chairman, CARIS, Shobhit University Meerut, UP.)