Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to play a key role in relieving India’s agriculture sector from its stressful input conditions, catalyzing a shift towards data-driven farming, said a new Nasscom-EY report.
The report on India’s Agritech sector 2021, titled, Leveraging AI to maximize India’s agriculture output, said, “With increased government support, growing agritech providers, burgeoning start-up ecosystem, and rising AI adoption among the rural farming population, a strong transformation impetus is underway.”
Data consolidation (both at macro and real-time farm-level), lack of infrastructure awareness in data processing, and its availability have been some of the key challenges faced by the sector today. In addition to this, lack of awareness on agricultural inputs specific to the produce, access to quality seeds, lack of adequate mechanization and irrigation infrastructure, scarcity of farmer capital, frequent disease outbreak, and Inadequate storage facilities are the other value chain challenges faced by the sector.
Several AI-led use cases, such as precision agriculture and farm management, agricultural robots, automated weeding, crop quality and readiness identification, pest prediction and prevention, livestock monitoring and management, crop yield estimation, etc can solve improving farm productivity and empower farmers in improving operational efficiency through unified supply chains and intelligent farm operations.
“The Indian Agriculture Sector can utilize the potential of AI’s transformative capabilities through effective data practices,” Debjani Ghosh, President, Nasscom said.
Giving the example of the Netherlands in the effective AI adoption in agriculture, Ghosh said, “With just a small arable land the country has become the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products by value leveraging technology and AI.”
According to Ghosh, “For India to realize the full potential of AI a coalition of government, industries, and start-ups in providing necessary infrastructure and policy support, enabling AI innovation across sectors, and mentoring and providing financial support to start-ups is imperative.”
The Government of India is playing a leading role in making technology adoption in the sector. Both government and private players are focusing on driving better farm output through mechanization and digitization efforts paving the way for tech-enabled solutions. Several AI-led start-ups are developing innovative AI-led solutions, targeting specific challenges in the value chain.
Dr. Venkat Maroju, CEO at SourceTrace.com believes that India is going to witness major changes in agriculture due to interventions of technologies such as remote sensing, AI/ML and IoT.
“Data will be paramount important aspect of these technologies and all aspects of agriculture will become data driven. How we produce food, market it and conduct financial transactions in the value chain. There will be increased use of AI technologies in all aspects,” he said.
Precision farming, crop disease management and produce sorting and grading are top focus areas for start-ups.
Leading technology companies are also entering into multi-year partnerships with agribusiness companies and Agritech start-ups for solution developments, leading investments into research programs, and creating incubator programs dedicated to start-ups. Government entities are partnering with technology companies and agritech start-ups for driving AI initiatives, providing necessary support, mentorship and intellectual property commercialization to start-ups through various incubator programs.
To gauge the evolution of agricultural enterprises, and where they are in the AI journey, NASSCOM had conducted a survey targeting CXOs working with Indian enterprises, GCCs and large start-ups. As per the survey findings, with ‘Trust in AI’ as the key lynchpin, revenue growth, innovation and farmer/end-customer experience are priority areas for AI in agriculture enterprises. Additionally, companies are looking at a dedicated AI strategy and budget as key imperative to scale AI initiatives enterprise-wide post-COVID-19.
As agricultural enterprises scale up pilots, an AI maturity model can suggest “right-sized” interventions to ride over critical pitfalls and define the road ahead, the report said.