Indian agriculture could benefit from IOT, but acceptability and data concerns are hurdles
Jun 29, 03:06

Internet of things (IOT) and the fourth industrial revolution is covering all grounds, and agricultural lands are set to benefit from the data-driven innovations, according to a study.

The study, published by The US Association of Equipment Manufacturers in February 2022, shows that farmers could benefit in terms of increased efficiency and lowered costs by leveraging new technologies.

On average, new technologies yielded a four percent increase in crop production, seven percent reduction in fertilizer use, nine percent reduction in herbicide use, six percent reduction in fossil fuel use, and and percent reduction in water use, the study stated.

Agriculture, which employs majority of the Indian population, lags in its contribution to overall economic output of the country. Indian agritech startups, however, aim to change the economic trajectory of the sector using big data and artificial intelligence.

IOT, big data and artificial intelligence are often dismissed as buzzwords, but the technology offers several use cases for the agrarian economy, according to Indiaai, an initiative by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), National E-Governance Division (NeGD) and NASSCOM.

Bengaluru-based startup Cropin provides an interconnected data platform, which offers real-time insights to farmers. Labelled as the farm-to-fork model, the company aims to digitize various stakeholders involved in the supply chain of bringing the produce from the farm to the plate of the end-consumer. The company had raised $8 million led by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, in its Series B round of funding.

Fasal, another AI driven startup, aims to solve the uncertainty and guesswork involved in Indian farming by providing crop and farm specific advisory services to farmers. According to the company, only data-driven methods could rid the farmer of using guesswork in the cultivation process.

Brainwired, an agritech startup from Kerala, appeared in the first season of the popular investment reality show Shark Tank and won investment offers. The agritech startup aims to monitor the health of the livestock and notify farmers on their mobile phones of any diseases.

The drone industry is another sector which is boosting the agritech growth prospects due to interest from the government and industrialists alike. In the Budget 2022 session, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman promoted the use of kisan drones for crop assessment.

Recently, conglomerate Adani enterprises also invested in General Aeronautics Limited, which has business in the agritech drone space.

The agritech industry offers a data-based solution to the problem of agricultural productivity, according to the study published by The US Association of Equipment Manufacturers, but big data also brings certain concerns.

The Big Data industry is estimated to reach $1.4 billion and the prospect of enhanced profitability has attracted investments from billionaires such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The technology poses the risk of big organizations collecting and selling data of farmers giving rise to data inequity and security concerns, said the study.

In India, the agritech industry is faced with the problem of acceptance and funding, with only 2 percent farmers using mobile applications for farming related activities and 40 percent startups unclear about path to profitability, according to a 2020 study conducted by Industry body NASSCOM. along with Cisco titled 'IOT Adoption in Indian agriculture'.