Indians have relied on agriculture for thousands of years. India’s climate, which allows the cultivation of many different crops, is one reason why it has become a global powerhouse in food production. Post-Independence, traditional methods of cultivation were inefficient and time-consuming; the onset of the Green Revolution in the 1960s led by M.S. Swaminathan, gave India a much-needed boost in crop production and efficiency, making India self-sufficient in terms of food security and a net exporter of agricultural products. Moreover, with more technologies coming up, the future for digitization of agriculture in India looks very promising and profitable not only for farmers but for consumers as well.
Growth of Agriculture
As with so many sectors in the Indian economy, agriculture has grown and developed in recent years. It is the only sector to have recorded positive growth during the COVID period. Various statistics have been highlighted below to demonstrate the present state of agriculture in the country.
- In 2020, for example, the agricultural sector grew 3.6 percent, a figure that was almost double that of the previous year’s growth rate of 2.6 percent due to various government-related schemes, particularly the Atma Nirbhar Bharat (ANB) Abhiyan. In terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), this sector contributed approximately 18 percent as per long-term estimates and trends. However, this share increased to 20.2 percent in 2021 following ANB’s success in raising farm incomes through increases in productivity and consumer demand for local produce.
- According to World Bank estimates (as of 2020), agricultural employment accounts for 41.5 percent of total employment in India; it is projected to increase further over time. Cisco has developed an Agricultural Digital Infrastructure (ADI) to improve the quality of farming and agriculture-related information. The Department of Agriculture used this infrastructure to collect and evaluate data.
- A new platform called Jio Agri was unveiled in February 2020. This platform digitalizes the agricultural ecosystem along the value chain to provide convenience to farmers, using various data sources and AI algorithms to interpret this data. The ultimate goal of the platform is to provide precise, targeted advice to farmers to maximize their yield. Microsoft and the Government of India announced a partnership to support small farmers through a pilot program referred to as Unified Farmer Services Interface. Ultimately, AI-enabled sensors will be used by farmers to better manage their products through effective price management and monitoring yield.
Digitization and Future
According to estimates from the NITI Aayog and references from Betway, by 2025, the digitization of agriculture in terms of artificial intelligence (AI) could be worth approximately $2.6 billion. This figure is particularly remarkable because it’s growing at a rate of 22.5% annually. If digitization is effectively implemented and short-term targets are achieved, no doubt digitizing this sector will greatly benefit India. It is clear that its growing population requires more food and better agricultural production methods and these technologies can help provide them.