There is a pressing need to harness data-driven solutions for smart & sustainable agriculture
India is one of the few countries in the world where over 60% of the population is engaged — directly or indirectly — in agriculture-related jobs. One of the interesting reasons for this is the tropical climate and the sheer variety of soil that is conducive to the production of everything from food grains to vegetables & fruits, to clothing yarns to organic food. The farming population of India operates on roughly 179.8 million hectares of arable land, spread across the length and breadth of the country. Since Indian agriculture operates at such a massive scale, it is no surprise that this sector is right at the top for its contribution to the country’s GDP. And for this reason, the industry has started embracing best-of-breed technology for growth.
Scratching the surface with AI-enabled tools
AI-enabled tools are today helping Indian farmers get real-time information on their smart phones about soil quality and water levels, to help them optimize their irrigation plans. Data collected from IoT sensors and satellite images helps assess the crop details, water levels, potential yield of the crop, etc., helping farmers make insight driven decisions. By opening the innovation floodgates to start-ups and private organizations, India is attempting to connect its farmers to optimal quality pesticides, seeds, besides educating them on irrigation best practices. But at a cost.
Scary sustainability picture
Worldwide, agricultural activities contribute severely to climate change, accounting for approximately 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. This is primarily attributed to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste. While the climate impact resulting from these emissions necessitates key technological interventions, such as IoT sensors, LoRa networks, blockchain, drones, and AI, these solutions also need to be built grounds-up with sustainability and climate awareness as a focal point. Agriculture, often regarded as the backbone of societies and economies worldwide, is facing an array of complex challenges in the 21st century. These challenges encompass not only the need to feed a growing global population but also to do so in a manner that preserves our natural resources and mitigates the impacts of climate change.
Agriculture often utilizes an unsustainable amount of water resources, leading to water scarcity concerns. Such overuse of water can result in diminished crop quality and lower yields, threatening food security. Traditional farming practices contribute to significant greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and energy-intensive machinery. These emissions exacerbate climate change and its adverse effects on agriculture. Additionally, inefficient resource management, including the excessive use of fuel and labour, can drive up production costs and harm the environment. Optimizing resource allocation is essential for sustainable and economically viable agriculture. Finally, most farming operations fail to comply with sustainability standards and best practices. This absence of commitment to sustainability jeopardizes long-term viability of agriculture and its capacity to meet the needs of future generations.
The pressing need to have tech-enabled solutions from grounds-up
By categorizing technology enablement across the length and breadth of agriculture, we can truly transform agriculture into a renewable, climate change-friendly industry for the generation to follow. Some of the key elements to achieving sustainable agriculture are:
Water Efficiency: Implement practices that reduce water consumption by 50%, achieved through precision irrigation and soil moisture monitoring. This improvement in water management can lead to a substantial 20% enhancement in crop quality and yield.
Emission Reduction: Device a framework with the aim to achieve a 60% reduction in emissions associated with agricultural activities. This reduction will be accomplished by transitioning to sustainable farming practices, minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and adopting clean energy sources for agricultural machinery.
Resource Optimization: Optimizing the utilization of fuel, labour, and input resources by 20%. This optimization involves the adoption of precision agriculture techniques, automated machinery, and data-driven decision-making, resulting in reduced costs and environmental impact.
Sustainable Compliance: Empowering farmers to align with internationally recognized sustainability standards, including SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), SRP (Sustainable Rice Platform), and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria. This alignment ensures that agricultural practices not only meet economic goals but also contribute to broader social and environmental objectives.
Together, we can create a better world through technology and sustainability, by empowering the agriculture industry to reuse, optimize and yield.
Dinesh Pal Singh
Technical Lead – Digital Transformation Office