E-technology in the aid of farmers

In the context of agriculture, the potential of information technology (IT) can be studied under broadly two outcomes viz. direct contribution to farm productivity and indirect contribution. The Precision farming is the result of direct contribution of agriculture technology for farm productivity. The indirect tools help farmers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way agriculture and allied activities are conducted. Indian farmer urgently requires timely and reliable sources of information inputs for taking decisions. At present, the farmer depends on trickling down of decision inputs from conventional sources which are slow and unreliable. The changing environment faced by Indian farmers makes information not merely useful, but necessary to remain competitive.

Precision Farming

Precision Farming refers to precise application of agricultural inputs based on soil, weather and crop requirement to maximize sustainable productivity, quality and profitability.  It includes the use of latest technologies such as remote sensing (RS), GPS, and geographical information system (GIS) with an objective to improve profitability and productivity. Read more about Precision Farming here.

Remote Sensing in agriculture

Remote sensing techniques play an important role in Crop identification, Acreage and production estimation, Disease and stress detection and Soil and water resources. Remote sensing applications have become very important for making macroeconomic decisions related to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the country.
  • Some of the specific applications are:
    • Soil Properties Sensing: Soil Texture, Structure, and Physical Condition Soil Moisture; Soil Nutrients.
    • Crop Sensing: Plant Population; Crop Stress and Nutrient Status.
    • Yield Monitoring Systems: Crop Yield; Harvest Swath Width; Crop Moisture:
    • Variable Rate Technology Systems: Fertilizer flow; Weed detection, pressure sensors

Autonomous Farming

Autonomous Farming refers to the use of machine for seeding, crop sensing, harvesting, weeding and other follow-up operations by using remote sensing and GIS.  Seeding is done by an attached seeding drill controlled by GPS. Crop growth, soil moisture and weeds are continuously noted via the remote sensing appliances.  It involves autonomous & coordinated harvesting and grain collection machinery.  The automation of agriculture is still in research level in many developed countries (US, Australia).

Use of Mobile Technology for Small Farmers

Indian Landscape is dominated by small and marginal farmers (80%) and increasing their productivity and incomes can make a major contribution to reducing hunger and poverty. So the future of sustainable agriculture growth and food security in India depends on the performance of small and marginal farmers. Various studies have established that small farms continue to produce more in value terms per hectare than the medium and large farms. It is true that small holdings have higher productivity than medium and large farms. The telecommunication revolution that too wireless connectivity made it possible to reach to unreachable corners of the country. During the present decade, India has seen an exponential growth in the telecom particularly in wireless. The overall teledensity in the country increased to 73.32 at the end of March 2013. To bridge the information gap between the farmers and to build productive and competitive market, different IT interventions support rural and under-developed markets to become efficient and productive. The mobile technologies have created new channels to communicate and disseminate information.

In Farming

Farming is dynamic activity and requires constant inputs at every stage. The crop production depends on weather, agricultural practices and management of pests and diseases at right time to save crops and gain better results.  The final produce should provide better marketable price to farmers, where the market intelligence is the key, which provides regular information about nearby markets in local language

Various E-technology projects in the aid of farmers

Keeping various farmers in mind, various applications and services have been deployed by different projects. Some of them are as follows:
aAqua Mini
This tool developed by Agrocom provides real-time decision-support tools to progressive farmers and organizations supporting progressive farming. The important services provided are as follows:
  • Remote crop diagnostic solution
  • Audio prompted guide application (in English/Marathi/Hindi)
  • Remote crop & land properties based disease diagnostics
  • Micro-weather info
  • Answers to agro query based via web / sms
Fisher Friend Project
  • Fisher Friend is a project of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. It leverages mobile technology to provide vital livelihood information to fisher folk in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
  • The foundation partnered with Qualcomm, Tata Teleservices and Astute Technology Systems for developing the Fisher Friend Mobile Application.
  • It provides vital updates on wave height, wind speed and direction, potential fishing zones, news, government schemes and market prices. All content is displayed in the local language – Tamil
mKrishi
  • mKrishi is the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Mobile Agro Advisory System which connects farmers with an ecosystem that empowers them to make efficient decisions about agriculture, drive profits, and conserve the environment.
  • This allows the farmer to make a query in a local language from a mobile phone and receive personalised advice or relevant information on the same in local language.
  • Services provided are broadly to farmers include, crop disease diagnosis; sensors based remote land & crop property recording (grape, cotton, soybean and potato); micro-weather Information (temp, cloud cover, precipitation). (http://goo.gl/lJ6xBd)
Reuters Market Light (RML)
  • RML offers Indian farmers up-to-date, local and customised commodity pricing information, news and weather updates. The project is working on public private partnership (PPP) revenue generating business model in Maharashtra and Punjab states.
  • The broad services provided to farmers include, localised – commodity pricing (Onion, Cotton, Soybean, Pulses, Pomegranate et al); weather updates; news (agriculture & general) and service is available on GSM networks only, but not on CDMA networks.
  • Reuters Market Light is a pioneering mobile phone-based highly-personalised professional information service specially designed to support the farmer community
IFFCO Kisan Sanchar (IKSL)
  • IKSL provides the farmer the much desired inputs on real time basis which is going to help him on agri-related issues and would guide him for his day to day chores. The project is working on public-private-NGO partnership based revenue generating business model across major states covering in two stages.
  • The services to farmers include telecom products and services of Airtel; free daily voice updates on VAS platform (mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts and fertilizer availability) and dedicated helpline for farmers to answer their queries.
Sanchar Shakti Scheme
  • Sanchar Shakti scheme has been initiated by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to contribute in the empowerment of rural women. “Sanchar Shakti” is a programme of pilot projects aimed at facilitating SHGs‟ access to ICT enabled services and their contribution towards ICT enabling services.

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