Contribution of Technology in Agriculture
India is a wonderful country. About 80 percent of the Indian population is staying in rural areas and their roots are quite closer to nature. The main occupation of rural India is agriculture. India is full of diversity with respect to its needs for agriculture and food requirements. The basic reason might be its vast spread from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. The weather, availability of food, and eating habits also differ vastly. The climate ranges from minus temperatures to quite hot and humid. All of these things have a deep impact on agriculture.
India’s share in the world trade in agricultural commodities is less than one percent. For over four decades this industry remained highly protective and agriculture served as a source of cheap raw materials for the domestic industry, a very large segment of which was inefficient and globally non-competitive. This had a dampening effect on agricultural exports and investment in agriculture. But, with the increase in literacy rate, now farmers have been updating themselves with the latest technological innovations. The major focus is on better productivity with less/no use of chemicals. The new economic policy since 1991-92 has attempted to correct this imbalance and agriculture has now begun to see some gains through competitive exports. A number of policy changes have been introduced to make agricultural exports more viable. A decreased import duty on capital goods particularly for greenhouse equipment, and plant and machinery necessary for food processing industries, as well as easier availability of credit for export has helped agricultural exports. The major contribution has been with technological innovation though. Nowadays, farmers are expressing their interest to embrace new technologies in the agriculture sector. Some examples of these emerging technologies have been mentioned below.
Soil and Water Sensors: The soil and water sensors have been used for irrigation and water management in agriculture. These sensors are durable, unobtrusive and relatively inexpensive. These sensors provide numerous benefits to the farms, and because they are cost-effective, even the small farms are finding it affordable to distribute them throughout their land. These sensors are capable of detecting moisture and nitrogen levels; also the farm can use this information to determine when to water and fertilize rather than relying on a predetermined schedule. This results in more efficient use of resources and at a lesser cost. These sensors also help the farm to be more environmentally friendly as well by saving water, reducing erosion and fertilizer levels in local rivers and lakes.
Minichromosome Technology: The minichromosome technology is one of the most exciting advents in agriculture technology which comes in a very tiny package. A minichromosome is a small structure within a cell that includes a very small genetic material but it can hold a lot of information. With the use of these minichromosomes, agricultural geneticists are able to add hundreds of traits to a plant. These traits can be, such as, drought tolerance; and nitrogen use. However, the most interesting thing about the minichromosome technology is that a plant’s original chromosomes are not altered in any way.
RFID Technology: The soil and water sensors mentioned earlier have set a foundation for traceability. RFID Technology is heading its way to the farms. These sensors provide information that can be associated with the farming yields. Due to the speed and convenience of scanning RFID tags in bulk without requiring a direct line of sight, this technology is useful in tracking all sorts of items. Many industries are finding it useful and have adopted RFID for events such as; inventory management; checking accuracy throughout the supply chain; improving operational efficiency; and raising profit margins. That day is not far when the future farms can market themselves on their own and have loyal consumers tracking their yields.
Vertical farming is a revolutionary and more sustainable method of agriculture. This method considerably lowers the requirement of water almost by 70 percent and saves soil and space. Vertical farming is a practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers. This farming method is very useful for challenging environments, where the farming is otherwise difficult such as; deserts; mountainside towns; and cities where many diverse types of vegetables and fruits are grown using precision agriculture methods and skyscraper-like designs. Farmers in all areas can use it to make better use of available land and to grow crops that wouldn’t normally be viable in those locations.
Weather Monitoring Systems
Weather monitoring systems are designed to provide weather awareness. There are numerous online weather services that exclusively focus on agriculture. Nowadays, farmers can access these services on dedicated onboard and handheld farm technology. They can also be accessed via mobile apps that can run on any consumer smartphone. With the help of these weather monitoring systems, farmers can get enough advanced notice of any weather changes that could potentially harm their crops such as; frost; hail; and other weather conditions, that they can take precautions to protect their crops or at least mitigate losses to a significant level.
Skymet is India’s largest weather monitoring company. It also provides agri-risk solutions to the farmers. This was launched to aid farmers, with its exclusive services such as; weather forecast; crop insurance; and agri-risk management. Accurate prediction of weather conditions can help farmers to prepare themselves for drought or heavy rainfalls and as well as to help them take appropriate preventive measures.
Technology to Curb Insects
Insects have been a real challenge and threat to the crops. These are surprise unwelcome guests due to varying climate or untimely rains/weather change. Barrix agro sciences have developed these facilities to trap these insects.
Barrix Catch Fruit and Fly Lure + Trap: Toxic pesticides contaminate water, soil and leave behind harmful residues, and they are very expensive too. Barrix’s pheromone-based pest control traps have artificially synthesised smelling agents that attract and traps pests. Instead of eating the crops, the pests are attracted to the pheromones and get in the traps.
Fly Pest Sticky Sheet: Barrix uses bright yellow and blue coloured recyclable sheets of wavelengths between 500 nm to 600 nm. These sheets have proved their efficiency to attract and trap at least 19 high-risk pests from a long distance.
Pervasive automation refers to any technology that reduces operator workload. The examples include; autonomous vehicles controlled by robotics or remotely through terminals; and hyper-precision (RTK navigation systems), that make seeding and fertilization routes as optimal as possible. A Nashik-based startup, MITRA (Machines, Information, Technology, Resources for Agriculture) aims to improve mechanization at horticulture farms with the use of high-quality farm equipment.
Combining Data and Technology
A Pune-based ‘direct to farmer’ m-commerce platform, Agro-star, strives to provide quality agro-inputs at the farmer’s doorstep. Agro-Star enables farmers to procure a range of agricultural goods such as; seeds; crop nutrition; crop protection; and agriculture -hardware products, by simply giving a missed call on the company’s toll free number(1800) or through their mobile app to eliminate instances such as; unavailability of products; substandard products; duplication; and adulteration.
Indian agriculture export was approximately 51 percent in 1955-60. There was a dip in the export in the period of 1991-96, and the exports had a fall to 12-13 percent. But soon after the current government and farmers adopted new techniques and technological support, and with that India was able to position its self back on the track – and now it’s growing at a good pace. It is a fact that our dependency on agriculture is much more due to our growing population. If the food is not readily available in the country – this will deeply impact our economic conditions. The technology is taking its place in our daily lives and the same way its taking place in the agriculture sector too. In the years to come technology in agriculture will become more popular and an integral part of agriculture!
* Source: Genral Manager - HR for API Business of Zydus Cadila (Cadila Healthcare Limited)