India to release national digital agriculture blueprint in December

Indian government will be releasing a national digital blueprint for agriculture in  December with around 100 million farmers on board with the aim of boosting crop productivity, according to Vijay Rajmohan, director of information technology in the Ministry of Agriculture.

He told a webinar on agritech held late on Wednesday that the government had already enrolled 50 million farmers for the program. “Unfortunately due to the pandemic, there have been some delays.”  

Rajmohan said that around 90% of the land records in the country have already been digitised.

India has one of the highest proportions of arable land under agriculture in the world, but crop productivity remains among the lowest. Despite the country’s strengths in information technology, its use in agriculture has been limited.

This is partly because the majority of farmers  are small and marginal ones, who do not have exposure to technology and rely on traditional knowledge passed down the generations. However, a number of technology companies are now looking to venture into farming.

Traditionally farmers rely on their instincts including smelling or even tasting the soil to determine what kind of crops to plant during different seasons. But with the use of sensors planted in the soil combined with satellite data on things like soil moisture below ground can be easily provided, said Ranveer Chandra, chief scientist Azure Global, Microsoft.     

The use of information technology in farming is catching on worldwide.

Chandra cited the example of a farmer who predicted that the temperature would be around 40 degree celsius, but their technology indicated it would be 31 degrees celsius, which turned out to be only a degree higher than the actual temperature.

If the farmer had planted crops based on his temperature estimate, then his produce would have been destroyed.

Himanshu Goyal, India Business Lead, the Weather Company, IBM said that they had developed technology that can now accurately predict weather over an area as small as three kilometres, bringing it down from the previous capability to do so over 10 kilometres.

He said that they are able to provide such granular weather data by having planes relay information from a height of 50,000 feet. The information is updated every 15 minutes for 2.2 billion locations, Goyal added.

Industry executives said that the use of technology will enable Indian farmers to identify any disease early as well as know where exactly to spray pesticides or fungicides.

Ramesh Ramachandran, senior vice president at Mahindra group, said that their company’s focus was on how to use such technology for small farmers so that they can maximise their yields.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

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