Technology in Agriculture: India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)_00.1
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Technology in Agriculture: India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)

Relevance

  • GS Paper 3: Indian Agriculture- e-technology in the aid of farmers;Technology missions.

Context

  • Task Force constituted under the chairmanship of the Shri Sanjay Agarwal, has prepared a Consultation Paper on India Ecosystem Architecture (IndEA) Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) with a view to keep farmers at the centre of agro-ecology by promoting free digital technologies.
  • This sets in motion the ministry’s plan of creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which everything else will be built.
Importance of Agriculture

  • Agricultural GDP: accounts for about 15.9 % of the country’s US$ 2.7 trillion economy (2018-19).
  • Employment: Provides 49% of total employment in India (2018-19).

PM Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PM-FME)

 

Objectives of India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)

  • To build a National Digital Agriculture Ecosystem, to elevate Indian Agriculture Sector to higher levels of efficiency and productivity, and to improve the welfare and income of farmers.
  • Increasing farmer’s income: through access to right information at the right time, and from innovative services. It will help in doubling farmers income by 2022.
  • Ensuring sync between various planning and execution: of policies, programs, and schemes of the Central and State governments, and, also of the private sector and Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs).
  • Efficient use of resources: including land, water, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and farm mechanization by providing easier access to information.
  • To provide location-specific and personalized extension services across agriculture lifecycle, with simultaneous protection of privacy of personal data.
  • To build capacities: across the gamut of digital agriculture and precision agriculture.
  • Promotes R&D and Innovations: in agriculture through access to high-quality data.
  • Adoption of standards for interoperability and seamless exchange of information across ecosystem.

 

Pilot projects by private players (approved by the agriculture ministry):

  • MOU with Microsoft: requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
  • MoU with Star Agribazaar: mentions ‘farmer data sanitisation’, land profiling and crop estimation using remote sensing along with building a generalised advisory platform for farmers, including mobile applications, for pre- and post-harvest advisories.
  • MoU with Patanjali: talks about developing a mobile application for advising farmers on soil nutrition, accurate quantification on farmer crop and yield, fertiliser recommendations, and training farmers for using this application.
  • MoU with Amazon Internet Services: to build a “National Agri Data Stack” that can serve as a foundational data layer on which “agri focussed solutions” will be built.
  • Esri India MoU: discusses how the company will support the ministry in establishing a ‘national agriculture geo hub’, provide the required GIS tools and technologies and create and collate farmer and other agriculture data services on GIS platform.

 

Advantages of technology in agriculture

  • Enhances productivity and profitability of the farmers: by eliminating deficiencies in information and enhancing productivity of various tools. This will also result in freeing up of extra labor force from the agriculture sector.
  • Increases efficiency of logistics and supply chain system: as it removes hurdles associated with the physical system.
  • Help in providing localized solutions and tailored recommendations to the farming community as per their needs.
  • Coordinated approach in policy formulation and implementation: will result in effective utilization of limited resources in the agriculture.
  • Integration with the market economy: may result in better realization of prices to farmers by eliminating long list of intermediaries.
    • Reducing gap between form to fork (between farmers and consumers): will benefit both farmers (better prices for food grains) and consumers (low cost of food items).

 

Associated Concerns

  • Issue of data privacy and consent: especially in the absence of a data protection legislation (The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is currently still with the Joint Parliamentary Committee).
    • This may result in exploitation of the farmers data by private players.
    • Information asymmetry: tilted towards the technology companies, might further exploit farmers, especially small and marginal ones.
    • Digital divide: as there is digital divide in rural India both in terms of the ‘access’ and ‘digital education’ of the farmers.
  • Commercialization of agriculture extension activities: implied by the formation of ‘Agristack’, as they shift into a digital and private sphere. This may lead to exorbitant prices for these services, charged by the private companies.
  • Risk of commodifying agriculture and farmer data: as Agristack could strengthen the asymmetry in information flow by providing all information about farmers and their farming easily to corporations.
    • For example: supply of data to corporations who looked at farmers as a consumer base, be it agri inputs — seed, chemical fertiliser and pesticides,or fin-tech companies and to those for whom farmers were suppliers like the food industry, garment industry, etc.
  • Exclusion of landless cultivators: As they don’t have any digital land records.
  • Poor quality and implementation of the digital land records program: Many states have not implemented the digitization of land program and many have implemented partially.

India- European Union Relations

 

Way forward

  • Diversifying the composition of the task force: by including experts and representatives of the farmers to ensure inclusive and accommodative policies.
  • Create proper privacy and date security infrastructure: to ensure protection of farmers data. In this context, parliament should enact long pending ‘Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019’ with requisite modifications.
  • Educating farmers to bridge information asymmetry and digital divide: this can be done by effectively utilizing various government schemes like PM Grameen Digital Saksharata Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) and other schemes.
    • Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) can also play very important role in this respect.

 

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