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A DATA REVOLUTION IN INDIAN AGRICULTURE

SYLLABUS: GS MAINS PAPER III

Recently, two significant documents relating to the Indian agriculture sector were released.

The first is a consultation paper on the Indian Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare (MoA&FW).

The second on Indian agriculture: Ripe for Disruption from a private organisation, Bain and Company.

 IDEA report

1. The IDEA-consulting paper is based on the Task force and Working Group Report.

2. It is constituted by the MoA&FW to design the blue print of “digital agriculture”.

3. Aim: The farmer and the improvement of farmer’s livelihood which can be achieved through tight integration of agri-tech innovation and the agriculture industry ecosystem to farming and food systems.

4. The principles of IDEA explicitly talk about openness of data, which means open to businesses and farmers, indicating the kind of integration it aims at.

5. Value-added innovative services by agri-tech industries and start-ups are an integral part of the IDEA architecture.

 Bain report

1. The Bain report is a data-based prediction on agri-business scenario-anchored to the agricultural set up and predicting its future trajectories in another 20 years.

2. It includes targeting the production of alternative proteins, and food cell based ingredients/food and initiating ocean farming etc.

3. The report has a ‘today forward-future back approach’ and it predicts a drastic investment opportunity development by 2025.

4. The agriculture sector (currently worth $370 billion), is estimated to receive an additional $35 billion investment.

5. The two enabling conditions for investment opportunities are:-

First, the changes in the regulatory framework especially recent changes in farm acts and Second, Digital Disruption.

6. As per the report, there are benefits from the huge investments into the agri-ecosystem. It can help to achieve the target of doubling farmer’s income in near future.

7. The report has also demonstrated the business opportunity available in supply chains between farm to Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandi and mandi to the customer, which can be realised with the support of digital disruption and the latest agriculture reforms.

What are the challenges with these reports?

1. The IT industry has opposition to IDEA mainly due to the ethics of creating a Unique Farmer ID based on one’s Aadhaar number and also the potential for data misuse.

2. These reports heavily rely on digital disruption to improve farmer’s livelihoods, without discussing how much farmer’s will be prepared to benefit from the newly emerging business environments.

3. The majority of small and marginal farmer’s are not technology-savvy. They are not having practical knowledge of technology. Most of them are under-educated for capacity building.

4. The emission, energy, and other resource foot prints and sustainability issues around these techniques must be carefully studied to confirm the projected trajectory (which is not a part of the report).

5. These reports ignored the protest of farmers against the reforms without considering it as a barrier or risk factor resulting in a repealing of these new farm laws.

Way Forward

1. We need to improve the capacities of the farmers in India- at least until the educated young farmers replace the existing under-educated small and medium farmers.

2. The capacity building can be done through a mixed approach-

● Building the capacities of individual farmers.

● Coping with the new situation by establishing support systems, through FPOs and other farmers associations where technical support is available for farmers.

Conclusion

Data revolution is inevitable in the agriculture sector, given its socio-political complexities; however we cannot just count on technology fixes and agribusiness investments for improving farmer’s livelihoods but would need a separate program across the country with considerable investment.

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