Agritech platforms are the need of the hour to protect Indian agriculture
Technology-based solutions are crucial for empowering smallholder farms and to help them adopt climate-resilient agriculture practices.
The agritech industry is growing rapidly, thanks to the advent of technology. Artificial intelligence has revolutionised agriculture and led to positive growth. The benefits of a data-driven approach to farming is being proved to be lucrative for agribusinesses. This technology needs to be implemented not just in highly scaled-up projects but also in regions where the technology can impact smallholders and empower them to be future-ready. For this to happen, the technology must reach to the doorsteps of these smallholders for them to be able to adopt climate-resilient practises in agriculture.
Developing resilience in agriculture to regular and sudden weather shocks in the short-term and to climate change in the medium to long-term is one of the biggest challenges facing Indian farmers today. Adverse climate change is a threat to sustainable farming. It leads to soil degradation, drop in crop yield and lower quality produce, and increases the incidence of attacks by pests and insects. As per an ICAR report, a reduction of up to 9 per cent in agriculture yields is expected in the medium term (2010-2039). This calls for swift adoption of climate-resilient agriculture practices.
The data-driven approach
CropIn has developed digital applications to advise farmers on ways to achieve optimal harvests, depending on weather conditions, soil, and other indicators to build climate resilience to the doorsteps of Indian farmers. We have partnered with the World Bank and the Government of India as the technology partner in The Sustainable Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change (SLACC) Project. The challenges observed here were adverse climatic conditions, low yield and increased pest attacks with little reinforcement steps taken by the farmers. This led to low productivity and increased costs. The project was implemented on large-scale pilots in four districts of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to test the effectiveness of digital apps to generate climate-resilient solutions for farming needs. The project aims to empower farmers to adopt climate-resilient practices and adapt to climatic changes and unpredictability.
The key to building climate resilience
CropIn has developed a climate-smart advisory module that develops season-wise crop configurations for all the major crops and provides weather-based advisory to SLACC farmers in the local Hindi language on predictive and curative measures promoting sustainable agriculture practices. Web and mobile-based advisory dashboards have been developed to enable the Village Resource Professionals to get important insights around sowing, soil health, seed treatment, recommendation for harvesting fertiliser, and seven-day weather forecasts derived from the best available weather observation systems and forecast models. This information is then customised at the farm plot level to help smallholder farmers make effective decisions for their crops. The module also considers technical inputs in real-time from agriculture experts in state research institutions and farm alerts from village resource professionals to develop these practical agro-advisories.
CropIn’s platform provides end-to-end advisory on farming, from choosing the right crop for planting to identifying the right time for harvest. Farmers received advisories on various aspects including usage of climate-resilient seeds, sustainable agronomic practices, right utilisation of water, pest and disease prevention, harvest and post-harvest practices, weather-based rule engine that sends alerts on weather forecasts helps plan package of practices and soil management.
The project empowered over 200 village resource professionals to educate and empower farmers across the two states. With an advisory adoption rate of 90 per cent and implementation of PoPs and advisories rate of 80 per cent, CropIn has successfully empowered 20,000 farmers of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar with climate-smart practices.
The farmers were able to boost their productivity by following the package of practices recommended by CropIn’s advisory platform. Through this World Bank and NRLP funded initiative, smallholder and marginal farmers were also able to save on consultancy/advisory costs. Furthermore, the project also supported women empowerment by employing many female farmers and village resource professionals under the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana.
The way forward
Apart from the stated scope, CropIn was able to take up a few new high impact initiatives such as initiating animal husbandry and soil health and nutrition management and extending services to village resource persons (VRPs) of target districts who were not under the purview of SLACC project. The platform has been validated and recommended by the World Bank and can serve as a model project for other states in the country as well.
Krishna Kumar is the Founder and CEO of CropIn Technology.