E-TECHNOLOGY IN THE AID OF FARMERS

NEED OF E-TECHNOLOGY INTERVENTION FOR AGRICULTURE

  • Indian agriculture is the home of small and marginal farmers (which comprises 80% of overall farming population.). Therefore, the future of sustainable agriculture growth and food securitydepends on the performance of small and marginal farmers. Increasing their productivity and incomes can make a major contribution to reducing hunger and poverty. Access to technological information is one of the most important enablers for smallholders to improve productivity sustainably.
  • The cost of cultivation per hectare is high on small and marginal farms than medium and large farms. Access to technology is one of the most important enablers for smallholders to improve productivity sustainably. Innovative mechanisms for technology transfer are required to bring relevant tools, knowledge and knowhow to farmers.
  • Market linkages are common weak points between the smallholders and formal supply chains. Intermediaries are required not only to aggregate production from small-scale growers, but also to provide support and services to ensure the quality and consistency of production. ICT applications can foster dissemination of information on technology, market demand and price information; weather, pest, and risk-management information, best practices to meet quality and certification standards.
  • To bridge the information gap between the farmers and to build productive and competitive market, different ICT interventions support rural and under-developed markets to become efficient and productive.

 

ROLE OF IT IN AGRICULTURE

  • IT supports new methods for precision agriculture like computerized farm machinery that applies for fertilizers and pesticides. Farm animals are fed and monitored by electronic sensors and identification systems. Selling or buying online began to become popular in the world. However, its most important role remains communication, and the Internet has provided us with an ideal opportunity to do so.
  • In the context of agriculture, the potential of information technology (IT) can be assessed broadly under two heads : (a) as a tool for direct contribution to agricultural productivity and (b) as an indirect tool for empowering farmers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way agriculture and allied activities are conducted.
  • Precision farming, popular in developed countries, extensively uses IT to make direct contribution to agricultural productivity. The techniques of remote sensing using satellite technologies, geographical information systems, agronomy and soil sciences are used to increase the agricultural output. This approach is capital intensive and useful where large tracts of land are involved. Consequently, it is more suitable for farming taken up on corporate lines.
  • The indirect benefits of IT in empowering Indian farmer are significant and remains to be exploited. The Indian farmer urgently requires timely and reliable sources of information inputs for taking decisions. At present, the farmer depends on trickling down of decision inputs from conventional sources which are slow and unreliable. The changing environment faced by Indian farmers makes information not merely useful, but necessary to remain competitive.
  • The rapid changes in the field of information technology makes it possible to develop and disseminate required electronic services to rural India. The existing bottlenecks in undertaking the tasks need to be addressed immediately.
  • Central, state governments and private organisations have taken ICT measures for agriculture extension which include ITC- e-choupal, Kisan Kerala, Aaqua, Rice knowledge management portal , e-krishi, Mahindra Kisan Mitra, IFFCO Agri-portal, Village knowledge centers (VKCs)- M.S Swaminathan research foundation (MSSRF), village resource centres (VRCs)- Indian Space research organisation, etc.

 

MAJOR CHALLENGES IN THE SPREAD OF E-TECHNOLOGY TO FARMERS

Some of the major constraints delaying the spread of e-technology to farmers are listed below:

A) In Mobile Connectivity:

  • Indian telecommunication revolution made it possible to reach to unreachable located consumers through Mobile Services. Even the masses have access to mobile connectivity, but the potential of the handsets are not yet tapped. This is largely because of the content delivered is often not directly related to their livelihood and environment. Since they need localised news and information directly delivered in their language to meet their daily needs.
  • There are challenges – affordability is a key issue for many potential users. Not everyone can afford handsets; innovative business models adopted by the firms and handsets at low price tag which work for voice and sms based services. Looking at flexible business model rather than complex and rigid one of the past is need of the day.
  • The thing still missing is the confidence on the system, delivery mechanism through affordable mobile unit, localised content in local language, easy to understand content and farmer-friendly. Illiteracy of rural farmers makes job even more tedious.
  • Other challenge in disseminating agriculture related information is dynamic nature of information. Farming is not so linear but requires constant inputs at every stage where new technological inputs provide better crop outputs. It means, crop production depends on weather, agricultural practices and management of pests and diseases at right time to save crops and gain better results. The final produce should provide better marketable price to farmers, where the market intelligence is the key, which provides regular information about nearby markets in local language.
  • Bharat Nirman, has registered the increased tele-density in rural areas. And it is this base which is being used to provide ‘m’ service to farmers, giving them right information at right time.
  • Universal service obligation fund (USOF) already launched wireless broadband Scheme in 2009. USOF is also funding the National Optical fibre network (NOFN), which is being managed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited. Bandwidth from NOFN will be eligible to give wide range of services to rural India.

B) In Internet Connectivity:

Haphazard development:

  • It is observed that some initiatives have already been made to provide IT based services to farmers. However, duplication of efforts is witnessed as most of the services revolve around limited subjects.
  • Keeping in view the giant task involved, it is necessary to form a coordination mechanism to strive for a concerted effort to support farming community in the country.

User friendliness:

  • The success of the strategy depends on the ease with which rural population can use the content.
  • This will require easy language, training to farmers and intuitive graphics-based presentation.

Local languages:

  • Regional language fonts and mechanisms for synchronisation of the content provides a challenge that needs to be met with careful planning.

Restrictions:

  • Information content based on remote sensing and geographical information systems can provide timely alerts to the farmers and also improve the efficiency of administration.
  • These applications can have a major impact on the farmers and help them to appreciate the potential of information technology. However, government’s map restriction policies often threaten to stifle the optimal utilisation of these tools.

Power Supply:

  • In most of the rural India, power supply is not available for long hours. This will reduce the usefulness of the intended services.
  • Since almost entire country receives sunshine for most part of the year, it is useful to explore solar power packs for UPS as well as for supply of power.

Connectivity:

  • Despite the phenomenal progress made in the recent years, the connectivity to rural areas still requires to be improved. Reliable connectivity is a prerequisite for a successful penetration of IT into rural areas.
  • The use of technology is being used mostly by rich farmers, whereas small and marginal farmers are still in the queue to utilize such advanced services. The small and marginal farmers are again being left out in the process of development.
  • Due to low literacy rate among farmers and digital divide, there is a rise of new class of middle men, who provide ICT services to farmers. They are also believed to distort the information for their own benefit.
  • The rural infrastructure for the use of ICT is also not uniform and lot of regional disparity persists.
    Many private ISPs are setting up large networks connecting many major towns and cities. Since some of these networks pass through rural areas, it is possible to provide connectivity to a large number of villages.
  • GOI should complete National Optical fibre network (NOFN) as soon as possible. India’s high mobile penetration could be utilised for connecting farmers to the service providers(mostly government in case of agricultural services) and information dissemination.

Bandwidth:

  • Even in areas where telephone and other communication services exist, the available bandwidth is a major constraint. Since internet based rural services require substantial use of graphics, low bandwidth is one of the major limitations in providing effective e-services to farmers.
  • Networks with high bandwidth are being set up by several companies passing through rural segments which can be utilised. Until this materialises, a two-pronged strategy of storing static information at the kiosks and providing dynamic information from remote locations can be examined.
  • The graphic oriented content which does not change frequently, such as, demonstration clips for farmers, can be stored on the local drives at the kiosks and arrange for periodic updation of this information over the network during non-peak hours. The dynamic information which changes more frequently can be accessed from remote locations to obtain the latest status.

Dissemination Points:

  • Mass deployment of information kiosks is critical for effective use of the Internet based content and services. In order to ensure that the information kiosks are economically feasible, it is necessary to make the proposition sustainable and viable. This requires a major focus on a viable revenue model for such kiosks.
  • In the new information era, the kiosks should be designed to become electronic super markets that can, in addition to being information sources, handle other services of use to the people living in rural areas. The revenue available through such sources can make a kiosk attractive for prospective investors.
  • The Government can provide finance facilities to unemployed rural agricultural graduates who can be expected to have greater commitment and at the same time act as an efficient interface for less educated rural visitors.

 

 

  • The reach of the technology is still very poor and large chunk of farmers are still ignorant about such advancements. The distribution of technologies is not uniform throughout the country. Farmers of prosperous states are at the receiving end like- Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and the farmers of backward states still practise their age-old techniques and knowledge.

C) Agricultural extension

  • Agricultural extension is a general term meaning the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education.
  • The field of ‘extension’ encompasses a wider range of communication and learning activities organized for rural people by educators from different disciplines, including agriculture, agricultural marketing, health, and business studies.

 

SCHEMES AND PROJECTS OF GOVERNMENT AND ITS AGENCIES IN E-TECHNOLOGY FOR FARMERS

 

A) Agricultural Technology Management Agency (A T M A)

  • ATMA is a society of key stakeholders involved in agricultural activities for sustainable agriculture development in the district. It is a focal point for integrating Research and Extension activities
  • It is a registered society responsible for technology dissemination at the district level. As a whole the ATMA would be a facilitating agency rather than implementing Agency.
  • The scheme is supported by the Central Government. The funding pattern is 90% by the central Government and 10% by the state government. The 10% state’s share shall consist of cash contribution of the State, beneficiary contribution or the contribution of other non-governmental organizations.
  • The objectives of ATMA are
    1. To strengthen research – extension – farmer linkages.
    2. To provide an effective mechanism for co-ordination and management of activities of different agencies involved in technology adaption / validation and dissemination at the district level and below.
    3. To increase the quality and type of technologies being disseminated.
    4. To move towards shared ownership of the agricultural technology system by key shareholders.
    5. To develop new partnerships with the private institutions including NGOs.

B) National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET)

  • National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) is being implemented during the 12th Plan period.
  • NMAET consists of 4 Sub Missions:
    1. Sub Mission on Agricultural Extension (SMAE)
    2. Sub-Mission on Seed and Planting Material (SMSP)
    3. Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)
    4. Sub Mission on Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine (SMPP)
  • Agricultural Technology, including the adoption/ promotion of critical inputs, and improved agronomic practices were being disseminated under 17 different schemes of the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation during the 11th Plan. The Modified Extension Reforms Scheme was introduced in 2010 with the objective of strengthening extension machinery and utilizing it for synergizing interventions under these schemes under the umbrella of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA).

 

 

  • The NMAET has been envisaged as the next step towards this objective through the amalgamation of these schemes.
  • The common threads running across all 4 Sub-Missions in NMAET are Extension and Technology. Therefore, while 4 separate Sub-Missions are being proposed for administrative convenience, these are inextricably linked to each other at the field level and most components thereof have to be disseminated among farmers and other stakeholders through a strong extension network.
  • The aim of the Mission is: to restructure and strengthen agricultural extension to enable delivery of appropriate technology and improved agronomic practices to farmers.
  • This aim is envisaged to be achieved by a judicious mix of:
    1. extensive physical outreach and interactive methods of information dissemination,
    2. use of ICT,
    3. popularisation of modern and appropriate technologies,
    4. capacity building and institution strengthening to promote mechanisation, availability of quality seeds, plant protection etc. and
    5. encourage aggregation of Farmers into Interest Groups (FIGs) to form Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs).
  • In order to overcome systemic challenges being faced by the Extension System, there is a need for a focused approach in mission mode to disseminate appropriate technologies and relevant information to larger number of farmer households through inter personal and innovative methods of technology dissemination including ICT.

C) National Policy for Farmers, 2007

  • The Government had constituted National Commission on Farmers in 2004 under the chairmanship of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. Based on the recommendations made by the Commission, the “National Policy for Farmers, 2007” has been formulated and approved by the Government of India.
  • It has important provision for use of Technology: New technologies which can help enhance productivity per unit of land and water are needed. Biotechnology, information and communication technology (ICT), renewable energy technology, space applications and nano-technology to provide opportunities for launching an “Evergreen Revolution” capable of improving productivity in perpetuity without harming the ecology.

D) Village Knowledge Centre (VKC)

  • Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) serves as information dissemination centre providing instant access to farmers to latest information/ knowledge available in the field of agriculture, starting from crop production to marketing. A “VKC In-charge” who looks after the operations of the VKC mans every VKC.

 

 

E) Village Resource Centres (VRCs)

 

 

  • To provide the space-based services directly to the rural areas, ISRO/ DOS has launched the Village Resource Centres (VRCs) programme in association with NGOs/ Trusts and state/ central agencies. At present, there are 461 VRCs set up in 22 States/Union Territories
  • Over 6500 programmes have been conducted by the VRCs so far addressing the areas like, Agriculture/horticulture development; Fisheries development; Livestock development; Water resources; Tele health care; Awareness programmes; Woman’s empowerment; Supplementary education; Computer literacy; Micro credit; Micro finance; Skill development / vocational training for livelihood support etc. So far, over five Lakh people have used VRC services.

F) m-Kisan SMS Portal

  • Though there are about 38 crore mobile telephone connections in rural areas, internet penetration in the countryside is still abysmally low. Therefore, mobile messaging is the most effective tool so far having pervasive outreach to nearly 8.93 crore farm families.
  • mKisan SMS Portal for farmers enables all Central and State government organizations in agriculture and allied sectors to give information/services/advisories to farmers by SMS in their language, preference of agricultural practices and location.
  • These messages are specific to farmers’ specific needs & relevance at a particular point of time and generate heavy inflow of calls in the Kisan Call Centres where people call up to get supplementary information.
  • As part of agricultural extension (extending research from lab to the field), under the National e-Governance Plan – Agriculture (NeGP-A), various modes of delivery of services have been envisaged. These include internet, touch screen kiosks, agri-clinics, private kiosks, mass media, Common Service Centres, Kisan Call Centres, and integrated platforms in the departmental offices coupled with physical outreach of extension personnel equipped with pico-projectors and hand held devices. However, mobile telephony (with or without internet) is the most potent and omnipresent tool of agricultural extension.
  • USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) and Pull SMS are value added services which have enabled farmers and other stakeholders not only to receive broadcast messages but also to get web-based services on their mobile without having internet. Semi-literate and illiterate farmers have also been targeted to be reached through voice messages.
  • The farmers keep getting SMS messages providing information or delivering service or giving advisories on his mobile from experts, scientists and officers at various level after once opting for messages on agricultural practises / crops of his interest. In short, messages are customized based on farmer’s preferences in the language chosen by them
  • The services of the portal include crop production, including horticulture, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. It sends messages relating not only production aspect but also marketing of produce, weather forecast, soil testing, etc.

G) KISAN Call Centres.

 

 

  • In order to harness the potential of ICT in Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture launched the scheme “Kisan Call Centres (KCCs)” on January 21, 2004. Main aim of the project is to answer farmers’ queries on a telephone call in their own dialect. These call Centres are working in 14 different locations covering all the States and UTs. A countrywide common eleven-digit Toll Free number 1800-180-1551 has been allotted for Kisan Call Centre.
  • Replies to the farmers’ queries are given in 22 local languages. Call center services are available from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm on all seven days of the week at each KCC location.
  • A Kisan Knowledge Management System (KKMS) to facilitate correct, consistent and quick replies to the queries of farmers and capture all the details of their calls, has been developed. The Kisan Call Centre (KCC) Agents working at various KCC locations throughout the country have access to it.

H) Sandesh Pathak

  • The Sandesh Pathak application, developed jointly by C-DAC Mumbai, IIT-Madras, IIIT Hyderabad, IIT Kharagpur, and C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram will enable SMS messages to be read out loud, for the benefit of farmers who may have difficulty in reading.
  • It is usable by people who cannot read. A large population of farmers belongs to this category. So, when they receive an SMS message either containing agriculture-related advice or some other thing, this app will read aloud the content.
  • It uses the text-to-speech synthesis systems developed by the Indian Language TTS Consortium. To make it especially useful for farmers, the TTS engines of all these languages have been tested on the agriculture domain-related texts and fine-tuned accordingly.
  • The app which is available for download from the Appstore of Mobile Seva Project of government of India.

I) Kisan credit card

  • Kisan credit card uses the ICT to provide affordable credit for farmers in India. It was started by the Government of India, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in 1998 to help farmers access timely and adequate credit.
  • The aim of Kisan Credit Card Scheme is to provide adequate and timely support from the banking system to the farmers for their short-term credit needs during their cultivation for purchase of inputs etc., during the cropping season. It allows farmers to have cash credit facilities without going through time-consuming bank credit screening processes repeatedly. Repayment can be rescheduled if there is a bad crop season, and extensions are offered for up to four years. The card is valid for three years and subject to annual renewals. Withdrawals are made using slips, cards, and a passbook

 

 

  • For farm credit, service of ICT is being harnessed like Smart Cards, Internet Kiosks and cell phone messaging. And also, disbursement of all social security benefits through electronic benefit transfer to all rural areas. Mobile-enabled kisan card systemto help the agricultural community engage in cashless transactions.
  • Kisan Credit Card has emerged as an innovative credit delivery mechanism to meet the production credit requirements of the farmers in a timely and hassle-free manner.
  • The scheme is under implementation in the entire country by the vast institutional credit framework involving Commercial Banks, RRBs and Cooperatives and has received wide acceptability amongst bankers and farmers.

J) Sanchar Shakti scheme

  • The Sanchar Shakti scheme for Mobile Value-Added Services (VAS) provisioning envisages development of content/information customized to the requirements of women SHG members engaged in diverse activities in rural areas across India. The scheme entails innovative application of technology in designing & delivering the VAS content so as to ensure its easier accessibility & effective assimilation among the targeted women beneficiaries.
  • Sanchar Shakti scheme has been initiated by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) which launched wireless broadband Scheme in 2009. USOF is funding the National Optical fibre network (NOFN), which is being managed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited. Bandwidth from NOFN will be eligible to give wide range of services to rural India.
  • Pilot project scheme for Mobile values added services (m-VAS) for rural women’s Self-help group (SHG) is also part of USOF’s Sanchar Shakti programme. In this the SHG on the basis of their activities are provided with information in local languages through SMS, outbound dialers (OBDs) and Integrated Voice response system (IVRS).

K) KISSAN Kerala

  • It is an integrated, multi-modal Agricultural information system, which provides several dynamic and useful information and advisory services for the farming community across the state of Kerala.
  • The project solves the problem of content gaps by providing the authentic agricultural information through various delivery methods like Television, Internet, Telephone, and Mobile. The farmers may choose any medium to seek the relevant information. The project offers the major services through the effective integration of ICT systems and tools to reaching out to the farming community.

L) Agropedia –ICAR initiative

  • Content availability and its intelligent organization continues to be a serious challenge in agriculture. This prevents offer of meaningful and efficient advisory and allied services to farmers and other stakeholders. agropedia is an attempt to infuse semantic and social networking technologies into agriculture information management to alleviate this problem.

M)  vKVK: Voice Krishi Vigyan Kendra

  • KVK places a special emphasis on training and education of farmers, entrepreneurs, farm women, rural youth, financial institutions extension functionaries as well as voluntary organizations. The centre plays a First Line Extension role- A linkage between research and the field in augmenting the socio-economic conditions of farmers, farmwomen and livestock owners since 1985 – 86.
  • Total 631 Krishi Vigyan Kendra -KVKs have been established across the country at district level with a team of multidisciplinary team of experts. The KVKs aim at technology assessment and refinement and work as knowledge and resource centre in the district.
  • A voice KVK (vKVK) is a set of advisors (KVK experts) and peers (lead smallholder farmers) connected through mobile and internet technologies. In the vKVK, the interaction between the two parties can be entirely electronic. The agropedia platform acts as ‘middle ware’ for this interaction providing amplification (one-to-many and many-to-one), persistence (messages are stored and can be searched, retrieved), monitoring and other utilities which are possible when the content is electronically stored and semantically indexed.

N) Agriclinic and Agribusiness centre:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture and farmers welfare, Government of India, in association with NABARD has launched a unique programme to take better methods of farming to each and every farmer across the country.
  • This programme aims to tap the expertise available in the large pool of Agriculture Graduates. Irrespective of whether you are a fresh graduate or not, or whether you are currently employed or not, you can set up your own Agri Clinic or Agribusiness Centre and offer professional extension services to innumerable farmers.
  • Committed to this programme, the Government is now also providing start-up training to graduates in Agriculture, or any subject allied to Agriculture like Horticulture, Sericulture, Veterinary Sciences, Forestry, Dairy, Poultry Farming, and Fisheries, etc. Those completing the training can apply for special start-up loans for venture.
  • Bank loans to an individual or a group of individuals available for Agri clinics and Agribusiness Centres
  • Agribusiness Centres would provide paid services for enhancement of agriculture production and income of farmers. Centres would need to advice farmers on crop selection, best farm practices, post-harvest value-added options, key agricultural information (including even Internet-based weather forecast), price trends, market news, risk mitigation and crop insurance, credit and input access, as well as critical sanitary and phyto-sanitary considerations, which the farmers have to keep in mind.

O) KisanChoupal 

  • Kisan Choupal in collaboration with Krishi vigan Kendra is a successful model in Bihar. It is being conducted in identified village on the basis of need assessment of the farmers by the scientists on agriculture and allied enterprises.
  • At Kisan choupal, the dialogue-discussion and problems solving is  facilitated with help of Information technologies, showing technical videos and movies to farmers at the beginning of the choupal. This has increased the awareness of farmers on cropping practises and new techniques. This has also facilitated better and wider reach of the technologies in the farmer community.

 

E-NAM

In April 2016 Union Government launched the pilot of e-NAM – the e-trading platform for the National Agriculture Market.

A) Key features of E-portal

  • The e-NAM is a pan India e-trading portal to network existing APMC and other market yards to create a unified national market for agri commodities.
  • The portal will provide a single window service for all APMC related information and services.
  • The portal will connect e-mandis in several states and is aimed at ushering in much needed agri marketing reforms to enable farmers to get better price of their produce and double their income.
  • It is designed to create a combined national market for agricultural commodities. Farmers can display case their crop online from their adjacent market and dealers can costing price from anywhere.
  • Online trade will be allowed within the state and inter-state trade will be likely once all states and mandis are integrated at the primarily stage. 25 possessions including onion, potato, apple, wheat, pulses, coarse grains and cotton, have been recognized for online trading.
  • To mix a wholesale mandis from corner to corner from the country with the online platform, the state governments have to amend their Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.
  • eNAM will be realized in different phases with an aim to assimilate 585 controlled markets across the country with the common e-market platform by March 2018. So far 365 mandis from 12 states have been established approval.

B) Significance of E-NAM

  • A major objective of the common market is to iron out the price differentials that exist across the country, by curbing the tendency to hoard, which could lead to moderation of food inflation.
  • The initiative will usher in transparency that will greatly benefit the farmers. Farmers are often forced to sell at a distress prices in the closest mandi (market) and the e-NAM platform will allow them to sell their produce anywhere in the country.while farmers will earn more, traders will have a wider choice and consumers can expect lower prices
  • The current state-level APMC laws permit the first sale of crops — after harvesting by farmers — to take place only in regulated market yards or mandis. It, thus, restricts the farmer’s universe of buyers to just the traders licensed to operate in the mandi under the concerned APMC’s jurisdiction.
  • Even traders have to procure separate licenses to operate in different mandis within the same state. NAM would essentially be a common electronic platform allowing farmers to sell their crops to buyers anywhere in the country and vice versa. The benefits to buyers — be it large retailers, processors or exporters — are obvious, as they can log into the platform and source from any mandi in India connected to it. They don’t need to be physically present or depend on intermediaries with trading licenses in those mandis.
  • Horticultural crops such as onions and potatoes are often sold at varying rates in different states and a unified market can help bring a parity in prices.
  • A farmer in north India can sell his produce on the NAM to a trader in the west or south based on price. This will make a significant difference because there is no state or national price.

C) Challenges/Criticism

  • While buyers would definitely gain from this portal same could not be clearly said about the Farmers as Most farmers do not take their crop to the mandis; they sell off to the local arhatiya or produce aggregator even before that. Even the ones who take would offer a trolley load or two at most — hardly enough to excite distant buyers bidding online.
  • The National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) recently released ‘Some Aspects of Farming in India’ report shows almost 85 per cent of coconut growers selling their produce to retailers and dealers in their immediate neighbourhood. These ratios are well above 50 per cent in most crops.
  • The survey data also provides a possible reason why most farmers lack the flexibility to even take their crop to the mandis. The survey data indicates that Farmers procure most of their Fertilizers, Fodder, and credit for seasonal agricultural operations from the local Bania and the credit and other inputs are given to the farmers on the condition that they will have to sell their goods to the local bania.
  • The biggest challenge will be to bring in uniformity and rationalization in taxes as agriculture and the marketing is a state subject.
  • Essentially the farmers cannot do away with the procurement agents whom the government wants to cut off from the ecosystem by having a transparent system.” Even APMC is only a “political platform of powerful and connected traders”. These traders own large tracts of land themselves. This nexus needs to be knocked off.

D) Way Forward

  • eNAM may become a game changer for agriculture but States need to deliver by amending there age old APMC laws. The government should have centralized APMCs and put a cabinet rank minister to cater to commerce part of agriculture.
  • Farmers can greatly benefit if they were to find ways for aggregating produce on their own, bypassing the arhatiya, Local Bania and even the local mandi in the process. This is where farmer producer organisations and cooperatives can play a role, by facilitating aggregation and creation of volumes that is intrinsic to the success of any ambitious virtual marketplace experiment.
  • In order to reduce the role of Village Bania in the life of Farmer, we need to improve the structure of formal source of credit, Fertilizers and other Agriculture inputs.
  • While e-NAM Can bring together both Buyers and sellers at a virtual space however in order of have adequate physical connectivity between the Farmer and retailer (which is a necessity if virtual deal needs to be transformed into actual deal )rural infrastructure like roads, warehouses and cold storage Infrastructure need to be improved simultaneously.

 

MORE ADVANCED USE OF ICT IN FARMING

  1. Irrigate via smart phone: 
    • Mobile is playing a big role in monitoring and controlling crop irrigation systems. With the right equipment a faremer can control his irrigation systems from a phone or computer instead of driving to each field.
    • Moisture sensors in the ground are able to communicate information about the level of the moisture present at the certain depth of the soil. This gives more precise control of water and other inputs like fertilizer that are applied by irrigation pivot.
  1. GPS mapping 
    • GPS mapping for an input to the field using variable rate technology, which helps farmer in accessing the need i.e. where they need to put more fertilizer or less, according to the requirement of the soil. GPS enabled services are also helping in field documentation about yield, moisture, maps for field drainage, etc.
  1. Various farmer friendly applications (apps) are being launched by companies, which helps farmers in discovering prices for their products, delivering their product, getting soil report, etc.
  2. One of the best uses of IT in farming is being done by one vegetable farmer outside Hyderabad using webcams to monitor the crops and to take the scientists’ expertise to address problems without taking them to the field.

 

PRIVATE SECTOR INITIATIVES IN E-TECHNOLOGY FOR FARMERS

A) mKrishi

  • TCS’ Mobile Agro Advisory System (mKrishi) connects farmers with an ecosystem that empowers them to make sound decisions about agriculture, drive profits and conserve the environment.
  • Farmers get information on weather, soil, fertilizer and pesticide that are specific to their plot of land. They get information on the type of seeds, crops available in the market and local market prices.

B) IFFCO Kisan Sanchar (IKSL)

  • Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), together with telecom giant Bharti Airtel and Star Global Resources Ltd. has promoted IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited as a joint venture.
  • In this model, the telecom products of Airtel are made available to farmers and people living in villages through cooperative societies.
  • IKSL provides the farmer the much-desired inputs on real time basis which is going to help him on agri-related issues and would guide him for his day to day chores. The project is working on public-private-NGO partnership-based revenue generating business model across major states. The services to farmers include telecom products and services of Airtel; free daily voice updates on VAS platform (mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts and fertilizer availability) and dedicated helpline for farmers to answer their queries
  • It aims to empower farmers and people living in rural India with pertinent and high-quality information and services, through affordable communication network, in a sustainable manner and to work concertedly to develop content and services which will improve informed decision making by people living in Indian villages.

C) e-Choupal

  • e-Choupal is an initiative of ITC Limited, a conglomerate in India, to link directly with rural farmers via the Internet for procurement of agricultural and aquaculture products like soybeans, wheat, coffee, and prawns.
  • e-Choupal tackles the challenges posed by Indian agriculture, characterized by fragmented farms, weak infrastructure and the involvement of intermediaries. The programme installs computers with Internet access in rural areas of India to offer farmers up-to-date marketing and agricultural information.
  • ITC Limited has provided computers and Internet access in rural areas across several agricultural regions of the country, where the farmers can directly negotiate the sale of their produce with ITC Limited. Online access enables farmers to obtain information on mandi prices, and good farming practices, and to place orders for agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers. This helps farmers improve the quality of their products, and helps in obtaining a better price.
  • Each ITC Limited kiosk having Internet access is run by a sanchalak — a trained farmer. Each installation serves an average of 600 farmers in the surrounding ten villages within about a 5 km radius.
  • Since the introduction of e-Choupal services, farmers have seen a rise in their income levels because of a rise in yields, improvement in quality of output, and a fall in transaction costs. Even small farmers have gained from the initiative. Farmers can get real-time information despite their physical distance from the mandis. The system saves procurement costs for ITC Limited. The farmers do not pay for the information and knowledge they get from e-Choupals.

D) Mobile Fisher Friend project

  • M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation has, in association with telecom and software majors, developed applications to provide fishermen with up-to-date information of relevance to them. By pressing the button of this mobile phone application, fishermen can gain access to information on wave height, weather, potential fishing zones, news flashes, government schemes and latest market price.

E) aAqua Mini

  • It offers real-time decision-support tools (aAQUA) to progressive farmers and organizations supporting progressive farming. The project envisaged working on revenue generating business model. The aAQUAeAgriService is a problem-solving system dedicated to find solutions to problems posed by Indian farmers – small and large.
    • The services provided are broadly to farmers include,
    • localised – remote crop diagnostic solution;
    • audio prompted guide application (in English/Marathi/Hindi);
    • remote crop & land properties-based disease diagnostics;
    • micro-weather info (temp, cloud cover, precipitation);
    • SMS enabled query mechanism
    • Answers to agri-related queries

 

OTHER SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE AID OF FARMERS

A) GIS in Agriculture

  • Geographic Information Systems are incredibly helpful in being able to map and project current and future fluctuations in precipitation, temperature, crop output, and more.
  • By mapping geographic and geologic features of current (and potential) farmland scientists and farmers can work together to create more effective and efficient farming techniques; this could increase food production.
  • GIS can analyse soil data combined with historical farming practices to determine what are the best crops to plant, where they should go, and how to maintain soil nutrition levels to best benefit the plants.
  • Agricultural Geographic Information Systems can map not only topography and crop health, but help solve wider economic issues in municipalities and urban centres that may stem from rural farming practices.

B) Remote Sensing in agriculture

  • Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon without making physical contact with the object and thus in contrast to on site observation. It is done by the scanning of the earth by satellite or high-flying aircraft in order to obtain information about it.
  • Remote sensing applications have become very important for making macroeconomic decisions related to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Remote sensing techniques play an important role in:
    • crop identification,
    • acreage and production estimation,
    • disease and stress detection
    • soil and water resources.
  • Some of the specific applications are:
    • Soil Properties Sensing: Soil Texture, Structure, and Physical Condition Soil Moisture; Soil Nutrients.
    • Crop Sensing: Plant Population; Crop Stress and Nutrient Status.
    • Yield Monitoring Systems: Crop Yield; Harvest Swath Width; Crop Moisture
    • Variable Rate Technology Systems: Fertilizer flow; Weed detection, pressure sensor.

C) Precision Agriculture:

  • Precision Agriculture is a collection of agricultural practices that focus on specific areas of the field at a particular moment in time. This is opposed to more traditional practices where the various crop treatments, such as irrigation, application of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides were evenly applied to the entire field, ignoring any variability within the field.
  • It is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.Therefore, it is called as satellite farming or site-specific crop management.

 

 

  • Advances in remote sensing technology and the reduced cost of sensors is now allowing for the more widespread use of such equipment in farming. With the use of these sensors it is possible to identify which particular areas of the field are in need of which treatment, and focus the application of chemicals to these particular locations alone, reducing the amount of chemicals used, and thus the cost of the application, as well as protecting the environment.
  • Data collected in the field are recorded by sensors which are mounted on the tractor and scan the field as the tractor moves forward, collecting data sequentially (in rows). In order to assign geographic co-ordinates to each spectal measurement, the co-ordinates of the tractor are frequently recorded through the Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • This technique focuses on utilising resources optimally to improve the quality and quantity of crops while lowering the cost of production. It reduces fertiliser and pesticide use, prevents soil degradation, utilises water optimally and raises productivity. Globally, this is done with the aid of modern, eco-friendly farming practices and technology, including satellite imagery and information technology. “This innovation can go a long way in tackling many of our country’s farm ills, including excessive use of water and other inputs, which has hurt soil quality apart from making farming unprofitable as a profession

 

 

D) Autonomous Farming:

  • Autonomous Farming is next stage of Precision Farming. It refers to the use of machine for seeding, crop sensing, harvesting, weeding and other follow-up operations by using remote sensing and GIS. Seeding is done by an attached seeding drill controlled by GPS. Crop growth, soil moisture and weeds are continuously noted via the remote sensing appliances.
  • It involves autonomous and coordinated harvesting and grain collection machinery. The automation of agriculture is still in research level in many developed countries.

E) New initiatives on the roll.

  • Proposal for Kisan T Channel:Dedicated to the interests of the agriculture and allied sector has been proposed to launch in financial year 2014-15. This will provide real time information to famer regarding new farming techniques, water conservation, organic farming, etc.
  • Fund for National Agricultural technology infrastructure.
  • Fund for Agricultural extension program to disseminate frontline technologies.

 

BENEFITS OF E-AID TO FARMERS

IT has made its way into the agricultural sector, and with positive results. To name a few, here are some of its effects:

  • Improved decision making – By having the necessary information, farmers—big and small can make better and more informed decision concerning their agricultural activities. From whom to purchase their seeds from or whom to sell their crops to, the communication channels that information technology brings makes production up to distribution easier for the farmers. The exchange of knowledge from various countries and organization regarding international crop prices, weather conditions, increased demand of particular crop in international market also helps farmers to be more aware of factors to consider before making their decisions.
  • Better planning – IT has paved the way to come up with farming software which can keep better track of crops, predict yields, when to best plant and what to sow, to intercrop or focus on just one crop, determine the current need of the crops—just about everything needed to improve production and yield. By adjusting to the modern farming methodologies, farmers can have better control of their crops. Gaining information from their farm is essential in sustaining its success.
  • Community participation – There are several programs based on IT applications to harness the benefits of communityparticipation in agriculture. When a community adopts modern methods for agriculture, the production and yield of local cropsincreases, the quality of crop for whole region become a milestone and they can sell the produce in bulk at higher margins. Farmers Communities have greatly benefitted from the land and their resources for agriculture while utilizing the modern technology and services together.
  • Agricultural breakthroughs – IT have made the spread of knowledge concerning the latest agricultural breakthroughs possible in a short span of time. When scientists develop new and improved grains or find techniques to help winter crops become stronger against the cold, farmers from all over the world may benefit from the same breakthroughs simply by being connected to the rest of the agricultural world. Sharing information to help everyone progress is made much easier through resources made available and accessible by IT.
  • Agriculture for everyone – Farmers have in-depth knowledge when it comes to their trade. However, interested individuals who may be called backyard farmers may also benefit from modern technological revolution in agriculture. Growing your own sustainable garden of herbs, fruit trees, and other agricultural produce can be possible in a smaller scale. Planting is beneficial in more ways than one, and having your own produce even helps assure the freshness and quality of the food your family eats.

 

CONCLUSION

  • With the diverse cultures and languages in India, ICT provides a good platform for penetration of rural markets by private players.This will lead to substantial upliftment and sustainable development in rural areas.
  • ICTs are changing all the spheres of human lives and agriculture cannot be an exception. ICTs now may act as an agent for changing agrarian and farmer’s life by improving access of information and sharing knowledge. The ICT tools can change the ideas, activities and knowledge of the farmers. Farmers feel empowered and can adopt appropriate measures at the time of need.
  • With the new extension of ITC initiatives like Krishivihar, i-Kisan,e-kutir, e-Sagoo, ICT models- AGROWEB, Agropedia, AgrInnovate, etc. Indian agriculture has come to a long way and established several records in terms of production and productivity. IT had the potential to transform agriculture into a better prospect in the wake of climate change and decrease in the cultivable land.

 

VIDEOS TO WATCH FOR :-

ISRAEL A MIRACLE IN AGRICULTURE

 

 

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FUTURE OF FARMING

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TECHNOLOGY INFUSION IN FARMING

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