24 April 2024 : Daily Answer Writing

Q1) Agriculture sector needs to turn into an enterprise to become sustainable; ICT interventions are the key to this transformation. Comment.

(250 Words/15 Marks)

Poor farm incomes in India require efforts to make farming a profitable enterprise. Digital technologies are emerging as one of the ways to overcome the constraints and increase efficiencies in the agriculture sector.

 

Digital technologies can reenergize the agriculture sector by turning it into an enterprise in the following ways:

  1. Marketing: Digitalization can ensure better price discovery, reduce transaction costs and expand market access.

E.g., electronic trade through e-NAM, ReMS etc.

  1. Production:
  2. a) Improved decision for choice of crop due to access to market insights.
  3. b) Improved yields due to inputs based on crop and soil health.

E.g., use of soil sensors, etc.

  1. c) ICT-based agricultural extension services bridge distances and remoteness to provide farmers assistance in modern agricultural practices.

E.g., DD Kisan.

  1. Risk Management:
  2. a) Early warning system (EWS) for disasters provides actionable and real-time information to prevent crop damage.
  3. b) Drone-surveying allows for better assessment of cropped land, crop-damage etc. for insurance claims, such as under PM-Fasal Bima Yojana.
  4. Sustainability:
  5. a) Climate-smart solutions such as use of Geographic Information System (GIS) –based inputs for soil health assessment.
  6. b) Direct cash transfers to support farm incomes, providing financial sustainability.

 

Many countries, such as the Netherlands, USA, Australia and Israel, have successfully adopted and exploited digital solutions to revolutionize agriculture.

However, the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in agriculture is faced with the following challenges:

  1. There is poor accessibility of technology due to issues of digital divide between urban and rural India.

E.g., low access to smartphones, poor internet connectivity, digital illiteracy etc.

  1. Small farm size and poverty among farm households is a constraint for profitable business models, off-the-shelf solutions and affordability.

E.g., AI-based sensors designed for large farms won’t work due to the low number of data-points.

  1. Poor rural infrastructure such as roads, bridges, warehouses, electricity etc. undermine ICTbased solutions.

E.g., low adoption of e-NAM for trading in perishables.

  1. Agricultural laws such as Essential Commodity Act or state APMC Acts create disincentives for private-sector investments in agriculture.
  2. Vested interests put hurdles for ICT-based reforms, such as cartels of commission agents and traders in Agri-Marketing or corruption in land revenue department.
  3. There is lack of human resources to address issues related to maintenance and repair. Lack of awareness among farmers is another limitation.

Digital technology-driven improvements in agriculture can transform agriculture into a profitable enterprise through higher crop yields, resource-effectiveness, improved marketing and enhanced sustainability. To encourage digital agripreneurship, there is need to create pools of digitally-skilled farmers. Government initiatives like AgriStack can help overcome issues in deployment of ICT based on convergence of various stake holders



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