Smart Farming: Preparing Ground for Next Agricultural Revolution

November 03: According to a 2018 study, nearly half of the Indian population is known to be employed in the agriculture sector, with it contributing nearly 17-18% of the national GDP. It is evident that developing economies such as India are heavily dependent on the agriculture sector. With that said, there is limited technological adoption despite the immense scope of technological intervention in this domain.

The advent of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and future networks has broadened the working realm of knowledge-based systems for real-life applications. Development of heterogeneous systems that use a range of technologies to solve specific real-life challenges has seen significant progress lately.
 
“Agriculture is a classical use case for these systems presenting some unique challenges for future research,” said Dr.Samiya Khan, who is a Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, and an Alumna of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She has been actively involved in projects around smart agriculture and the use of diverse technologies to support diverse agricultural processes.

Dr. Khan added that the dependence of agricultural productivity on a variety of factors such as environment, soil conditions, seed quality, and fertilizers/pesticides, to name a few, makes the problem multi-dimensionally complex. 

Sensor and communication technologies have enabled the collection of real-time data from all these different sources. This data is then used to model an artificial intelligence system that can help not just farmers but everyone involved in crops handling, logistics, and supply chain management to optimize their work processes. 

Some of the apps that have already hit the commercial market include Bharat Agri, which a comprehensive smart is farming app providing solutions for Weather Forecasting, Smart Satellite Mapping, Water Testing, and Soil Testing. Another smart farming app available for Indian farmers is Agri App. This app provides services such as crop calendar, eCommerce module for buying crop solutions, and information in the form of videos and chat-based query management. 

Existing AI solutions are focused on predictive systems, and we are now drifting towards prescriptive systems that can provide end-to-end solutions for a range of agricultural applications. The future of smart agriculture lies in the development of systems that will not just tell ‘what is happening and why/how is it happening,’ but they will also inform the user on what he or she can do to increase productivity and profits or reduce wastage and costs. 

Technology adoption is one of the most overwhelming limitations for the agricultural sector. There are several reasons for this, which include low literacy rates of the employed personnel and infrastructural challenges. Dr. Samiya Khan emphasized the role of collaborative research between universities, R&D organizations, and farm-based setups to bring forth solutions that are realistic and usable in the Indian context. 

“From the Indian perspective, we can achieve realistic milestones only if solutions are formulated with inputs from people involved and tested on field-based real-life scenarios,” said Dr. Khan. Despite the challenges, advancing research in this field and the Government’s smart city vision are certainly hinting towards a tech-driven revolution in the agricultural sector.