While laying emphasis on the application of modern technologies in agriculture, Union Minister of State, Jitendra Singh said, agritech startups are critical to India’s future economy.
Addressing a Conclave-cum-Exhibition on AgriTech and FoodTech in Mysuru on Friday, Singh said, a new wave of agritech startups has come up in India in the last few years to address the problems of Indian agriculture such as supply chain management, use of outdated equipment, improper infrastructure, and the inability of farmers to access a wider range of markets with ease. The minister noted with satisfaction that young entrepreneurs are now quitting their jobs in IT sectors and multinational corporations to establish their own startups and these young entrepreneurs are now beginning to realise the fact that investing in agriculture is one of the very few safe and profitable businesses.
Addressing the conclave, the minister said, agritech startups are providing innovative ideas and affordable solutions to a number of challenges faced all across the agricultural value chain and it has the potential to change the face of the Indian agriculture sector and eventually raise farmers’ incomes. He said, these startups and budding entrepreneurs are bridging the missing link between the farmers, input dealers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers connecting each of them to each other and providing strong marketing linkages and quality produce on time.
Singh said, the third edition of ‘TechBharat’ on the theme ‘Transforming India’s FoodTech, AgriTech & Agronomic Landscape’ is a timely one as agriculture is one of the important pillars of the Indian economy as 54 per cent of Indian population depends directly on agriculture and it accounts for around 20 per cent of the GDP. He said, although, agriculture in India has majorly seen a steady growth in the last few years, not much has been done in encouraging young, fresh and unique innovative ideas in the sector.
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Jitendra Singh advocated the use of modern and new technologies in the agriculture sector and pointed out that countries like Israel, China and the US have transformed several agricultural practices in their country with the use of technology. He said, these countries have demonstrated that assortment of technology like hybrid seeds, precision farming, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, geo-tagging, satellite monitoring, mobile apps and farm management software can be applied at every stage in agricultural process to increase productivity and farm incomes.
Singh informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 100 Made in India agricultural drones across the country in February this year, which carried out farm operations in unique simultaneous flights. He also referred to the Budget Speech of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, wherein she said that the use of ‘Kisan Drones’ will be promoted for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, spraying of insecticides, and nutrients. The minister added that drones can also be used for assessing the health of any vegetation or crop, field areas inflicted by weeds, infections and pests and based on this assessment, the exact amount of chemicals needed to fight these infestations can be applied thereby optimising the overall cost for the farmer.
The minister underlined that the Indian agriculture space holds tremendous potential for technology adoption considering the sheer size of population involved in it. He said, agritech is nothing, but the application of modern technologies to the agriculture sector with a view to enhance productivity, efficiency and revenue. The concept extends to any applications, practices, products and services that enhance any aspect of the agricultural process, be it an input function or the output received, he added.
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The minister said that many agritech startups in India are mainly in the marketplace segment where e-commerce companies provide fresh and organic fruits and vegetables procured directly from farmers, but recently many startups have come up providing innovative and sustainable solutions for farmers’ problems. He said, startups are now providing solutions such as biogas plants, solar-powered cold storage, fencing and water pumping, weather prediction, spraying machines, seed drills and vertical farming, which is bound to increase farmers’ income.
In his concluding remarks, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he is quite optimist that upsurge in the internet usage, increase in smartphone penetration, emergence of startups and various government initiatives in rural areas are facilitating fast technology adoption in the farm sector. He said, the technological solutions for most issues in agriculture are present but the challenge is for these solutions to reach every farmer on a larger scale and not just only one farmer. It is time now that we adopt technology in this very crucial sector of our economy and on a mass scale, so that the agriculture and the farming community benefit and in turn the Indian economy also grows rapidly, the minister added.
Dr. GR. Chintala, Chairman, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD); Dr. Sridevi Annapurna Singh, Director, CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru; Mahesh Shenoy, President, Laghu Udyog Bharati, Mysuru Vibhag; Rajappa, Secretary, Laghu Udyog Bharati- Mysuru Vibhag and many senior officials and invitees joined the programme at CSIR-CFTRI campus, Mysuru.