Tech driven farming still remains a pipedream

Cost of technology and the impact it can make on the farmers are two big question marks.

As India looks to scale up use of technology in agriculture, a recent study has found that with just 2 per cent of the cultivators in India using mobile applications for farm-related activities and real-time alerts, adoption of tech solutions such as Internet of Things (IoT) remains at a nascent stage.

It also found almost 90 per cent of the existing start-ups and tech-based companies have solutions that are focused only on pre-harvest operations and not on post-harvest which has a higher investment potential due to the presence of big companies.

In post-harvest operations, the study, Titled, IoT Adoption in Indian agriculture, that was conducted by industry body Nasscom along with Cisco India among more than 180 enterprises and 40 agritech start-ups found that unclear Return on Investments (RoI) is a big stumbling block for adoption of tech solutions like IoT.

The study has been shared exclusively with Business Standard.

The report showed that at between 27-37 per cent, IoT adoption is significantly low across the agriculture value chain which is further hampered by unclear benefits and longer time to scale.

“Lack of IoT advantages in pre-harvest stages stems from low farmer incomes and large-scale tenant farming; while in the post-harvest stages, with more organized companies and higher investment potential, unclear Return on Investment (RoI) is a stumbling block,” the report said.

The study also found that the current state of IoT deployment in Indian agriculture is very nascent and disparate, both in available solutions, and in the initiatives taken.

“I think, given the state of Indian agriculture we don’t have enough people who make that kind deeper commitment to be able to invest in pre-harvest technological solutions and given that return on investment in post-harvest technological solutions in farming is low we feel that it here that government and industry should come together to provide a sort of ‘uberisation’ of tech solutions like IoT etc,” Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice president, and chief strategy officer, Nasscom told Business Standard.

The study found that awareness and use of IoT solutions in the pre-harvest stages of agriculture is limited to basic sensors, RFID, and limited IoT devices, while in post-harvest stage the most widely used technologies are sensors and RFID devices which are heavily used in processing operations, packaging, storage, and logistics.

Detailing the reasons for low adoption of cutting edge technology in both pre-harvest and post-harvest operations in agriculture, the Nasscom report said that workforce resistance as one of the main reasons for low adoption, along with, high cost of the solutions, limited proof of the technological solutions in reducing cost of farming and unwillingness to change as being the prime reasons for low adoption of tech.

The Nasscom-Cisco report recommended establishing local presence by tech companies along agriculture clusters by giving them access to government, industry, local NGOs and Farmer-Producer Companies (FPCs).

“Within farmer groups we found that response about technology solutions is mixed with some who are more adaptable to new options, but again cost of technology and the impact it can make on them remained a big question mark,” Gupta said.

She said findings of the report will soon be shared with the Central and state government for further action.

The report further advised that work should be done on establishing agriculture corridors on the lines of industrial corridors with PPP-mode development and farmers’ equity.

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