Modernization and digital transformation aside, the government is pushing for mindset changes, public-private partnerships, and climate change/sustainability priorities.
India’s agricultural industry plays a major role in the world’s food value chain, but vulnerability to natural calamities or socio-economic challenges can be a limiting factor for growth.
That is why the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech at the 50th celebration of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said that constant research and modernization have played an important role in making farming easy and sustainable during tough times.
His government has taken major steps to aid the industry with proven farming technologies, supportive policies and measures, as well as promoted the integration of digital technologies to manage crop yields and enhance sustainability by reducing water consumption and proper use of agrochemicals.
Despite being an agri-first nation, India trails most others on agricultural productivity. The country has been struggling to mitigate the impact of climate change amid a goal of reversing land degradation on 30m hectares of barren land by 2030.
Prime Minister Modi noted that holistic improvements in water/soil management; crop varieties; increases in farm diversity; livestock integration or collaborations with farmers have helped the industry, alongside stepped-up climate change and agritech research.
Noting that climatic changes impact the smaller farms the most, and these farms form nearly 80–85% of the country’s agriculture industry. To protect them from the impact of climate change, the government’s focus is on the fusion of its ‘Back to Basic’ and ‘March to future’ policies.
“Our focus is on that 80% of the small farmers who need us the most. This year’s budget also stressed on natural farming and digital agriculture. On one side, we focus on expanding the production of millets, ensuring chemical-free farming; on the other hand, we are also emphasizing on solar pumps to drones to promote advanced, modern-day technologies in the field of agriculture. Digital agriculture is an important part of modern-day India. This is our future, and our talented youths can play an important role in empowering our farmers through digital technology, which is a matter of constant research for us,” Modi announced, referring to the use of technologies such as AI for crop assessment; land records digitization; deployment of drones for spraying nutrients and insecticides, among other digital initiatives.
On top of these digital initiatives, Modi has also formulated a target to make India net-zero by 2070. He emphasized the need for a new mindset: Lifestyle for Environment (LIFE). In reference to the country’s Pro Planet People movement, he wants to connect every community, every individual with climate responsibility to tackle climate change. And since India has 15 agro-climatic zones and six different seasons, the government is working towards bringing a large area under irrigation by connecting rivers through water conservation while promoting micro-irrigation to increase water use efficiency in less irrigated areas.
FPOs and other partnerships
To provide cost-effective and hi-tech services to farmers, agriculture research ecosystems and private agri-tech players in the country have to work together.
The partnership between ICRISAT and ICAR has been successful in places with fewer irrigation facilities, semi-arid areas. It has also helped to provide farmers with better seeds, more yields, and better water management.
“Because of poor irrigation facility, a larger part of India’s land couldn’t become a part of the green revolution. Hence we are working on two fronts: One is water conservation, through which we are connecting the rivers to bring a larger land part under irrigation. The other is a stronger focus on micro-irrigation in areas with fewer irrigation facilities—to increase water use efficiency. This will help the crops that need less water or those that are not impacted due to shortage of water, while encouraging farming with the use of latest technologies,” Modi added.
The Prime Minister also emphasized that the nation is focusing on food security and nutrition security. In the last seven years the government has developed numerous bio-fortified crop varieties. It also wants to take area usage in the palm oil sector to 6.5 lakh hectares in the next few years.
Finally, the government is focused on building Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and the agriculture value chain. “By organizing small farmers of the country into thousands of FPOs, we want to make them aware of big market force,” Modi proclaimed, adding that the country needs to work on biofuels.