Innovative And Data-Driven Farming

According to the survey of 2018 Agriculture employed 50-60 of the workforce in India, accounting for 17-18% of the total GDP of the country, this number is declining with wide-ranging economic growth although the demand for Agriculture and food production is increasing as India is projected to overtake China to become the most populous country on earth with the growth rate of 1.13%. There are approximately 130 million operational small holdings in India that play a substantial role in agricultural production, genetic diversity and food supply.

With the rapid environmental changes in the world, Smallholder farmers are facing serious challenges in the form of climate change, soil degradation, and poor water quality, due to which they cannot rely on traditional ways of crop cultivation, historical crop cultivation data, and crop calendars to figure the best possible practices to follow. To draw correct and timely decisions about seed selection, fertilizer, and mulch to use; farmers need timely and responsive support.

However, it is found that the agriculture sector is at the bottom in terms of digitalization in India. But this is changing now. In 2021, there were over a 1.15billion unique subscribers in India. The widespread use of mobile phones paves the way to change the face of farming in India, where smallholder farmers comprise 78 percent of the country’s farmers.

Data can be directly and indirectly through service providers collected using their mobile tools, provided by farmers, flow the database for data management and accessed in real-time by multiple service providers such as financial, Agro processor, farmer cooperative, and input providers to engage, understand and provide better services to farmers. Mobile technology has the potential to help mitigate risk and strengthen and coordinate the value chain.

Broadly, four entities collect data from farmers. 

Researchers: Data is collected from both long and short-term efforts for impact measurement or pure research purposes. For instance, research is carried out by government entities such as IARI, ICAR, and other research organizations.

Government/NGO extension work: Data is captured for decades on crop conditions and weather trends and is used to target programs and services for farmers and day-to-day management. For example, the extension works and climate data of the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The project assisted/Project technical data: Short-time data is collected specifically for project use. For instance, an application is developed to collect data on farmers, marketing, and research.

commercial businesses: Data is gathered from farmers using business intelligence and advanced tools to create a farmer’s profile to sell the data to other service providers for their use.

Many recent improvements in the agriculture sector are the outcome of tools designed to tackle one factor—such as soil conditions—at a time and not the entire ecosystem. Incremental change in just one factor cannot solve the problem effectively, more sophisticated analytical tools are needed that can synthesize all forms of data. Hence digitally capturing farmers’ data using modern tools such as sensors, satellites, drones, and APIs and synthesizing plant science data with actual farming practices can create an opportunity for increasing agricultural productivity and provide feasible solutions to tackle challenges faced by farmers.

Data Collection Methods.

Service provider organizations currently rely on three main data collection methods: people facilitated, mobile phone facilitated, and remote sensing/remote capture.

People facilitated data collection method: In this method, data is commonly captured by extension agents, workers, and researchers in close interaction with the farmers. Most service provider organizations are leaning toward this method, which is human-centered qualitative research. However, nowadays technology-based applications are integrated into this method to digitally capture farmers’ data.

Mobile tools data collection method: In this method of data collection, farmers’ mobile phones are used in different ways to capture data about them.

Data is captured by sending SMS, phone calls, and chatbots that capture data directly or indirectly using social media platforms.

Data is captured using GPS location, movement, and usage.

Application developed for farmers’ use data is collected while registering for the app and during crowdsourcing. It assists farmers in managing data, mapping their plots, providing marketing services, soil testing, weather advisory, and mitigating risk to the farmers.

Remote sensing data collection method: 

Sensors connected to the internet (IoT) are used to collect data from farmers’ fields transferred through the cloud and made available in the database for processing and use, for example, soil moisture testing sensors and sensor-based irrigation systems.

Use of drones for data collection: drones are used to capture overhead images of farmers’ fields over a growth time interval to analyze these images for changes in the crop growth stages and crop health.

Use of satellite for data collection: satellite imagery uses spatial and geo-data to capture location-specific information on smallholders.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Capturing satellite data, weather forecasts, diseases, pest data, and soil moisture data to connect through APIs to the system database for analyses.

Combinations of all three models can feed data into robust datasets and benefit from dynamic levels of data analytics. In the future, more powerful farmer profiles can be developed; by leveraging all three models of data collection, cutting the input required by the farmers.

To build an ecosystem that better support farmers, it is crucial to aggregate available resources, fragmented data, and service providers in order to utilize the full potential of big data and data analytics to provide prompt and precise solutions and support to the farmers at the time of critical decision-making. There is an opportunity to create an ecosystem that connects farmers with multidisciplinary stakeholder groups committed to engaging and doing business in rural communities as the result connect farmers to the value chain, digitalization, and precision farming hence building trust and engaging farmers in the digital ecosystem support from all stakeholders is necessary.

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