BY ASHOK SHARMA, MD & CEO, Mahindra Agri Solutions
IN a country where two-thirds of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, the importance of this sector cannot be stressed upon. It accounts for nearly 17 percent of our country’s GDP and most importantly, feeds 1.3 billion of our people.
Over the past few decades, agriculture has witnessed different phases of growth. The first phase, which is referred to as Farming 1.0, extended from 1947 to 1966 and was characterised by revolutionary land reforms that abolished the exploitative zamindari system. The second phase was the Green Revolution which increased India’s farm productivity manifold and rids us of our dependence on foreign food aid. Termed as Farming 2.0, this was a golden age in India’s history of agriculture. Thanks to all of this, today we are a food secure nation.
India’s farmlands, today, are approaching a critical juncture. Our population continues to grow, placing an ever-increasing strain on the sector. Not just this, our country is rapidly industrialising and entire population is migrating to cities. Agricultural incomes are falling and India’s farmlands are in danger of being left behind.
The need has arisen for another revolution: a new phase in Indian agriculture which will be defined by innovation and technology; an age where we will look to balance productivity and economics with social and environmental considerations. We see this age as ushering in an era of unprecedented productivity for our fields and prosperity for our farmers. We call this revolution sweeping our farmlands today – Farming 3.0. This new age is all about disruptive innovations like smart farm machinery, micro-irrigation, precision farming, digital platforms and partnering stakeholders.
Smart farm machinery is all about producing more with less. Smart machines and technological breakthroughs have the potential to increase output, lower costs and boost farm incomes.
Micro-irrigation frees the farmer from vagaries of seasonal monsoon while also conserving India’s limited water resources. With agriculture consuming about 80 percent of the total renewable water resources in India, adoption of micro-irrigation practices, where water is delivered directly to the root zone of a crop, will help conserve our precious water reserves and at the same time, also boost yields and farm productivity.
Precision farming is another innovation to watch out for! It is an approach to farm management that uses information technology to access real-time data about crops, soil, weather etc. to ensure crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.
Digital platforms have the potential to put farmers directly in touch with the end consumer. That will see the middleman frozen out of the system, and farmers will get the full and fair price for their produce. For example, the Government is working with certain states to move APMCs – the Agricultural Produce Market Committees – to the national electronic platform, eNAM for selling fruits and vegetables. The digitisation of agriculture also has the power to boost productivity by putting farmers around the country in touch with each other and also with agri experts.
Partnering stakeholders is all about collaborating with a wider ecosystem of partners and engaging them in devising solutions to the present and upcoming challenges of agriculture. This involves working with agricultural colleges, research institutions, scientists, commercial investors, grant-making organizations, key influencers, the government and naturally the public at large.
Farming 3.0 is changing the narrative around agriculture from subsistence to sustainability. I believe that a strong engagement with the farmer community and investments in key technologies like micro-irrigation, crop care, advanced seeds and digital platforms are crucial for Agri stakeholders to play an important role in this new revolution. There is a reason to believe that technology and innovation will lay the foundation that will facilitate this new revolution – Farming 3.0, which will help realise the vision of Doubling Farmers’ Income and Delivering FarmTech Prosperity.