Technology on farms is possible only with innovation and policy support in India. The country is witnessing uberisation on farms, with miniaturisation of equipment to sow and irrigate agricultural lands.

This was stated by Ashok Gulati, Indian agricultural economist and former chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) at the Bangalore Technology Summit, where he delivered an address on policy-induced innovations in agriculture.

“When farm lands are shrinking, concepts such as pay as per use basis, which are driven by technology, are now becoming a choice among Indian agriculturalists. The business model is cost-efficient and effective,” he added.

Gulati said that the country had already entered into an era of precision farming, where crop production was increased with minimum inputs infused.

Adding that Indian agriculture’s biggest disruptive expertise was the Green Revolution, he stated that now this was the age of the Brown Revolution, where soil was transformed with use of drip irrigation, that enabled slow water release that stalled its misuse too. There is the use of both hydroponics and aeroponics. While hydroponics is a technique of growing plants without soil, aeroponics allows cultivation in an airy or misty environment without the use of soil.

“The policies that propelled the Green Revolution were the import of seeds, along with the introduction of minimum support price (MSP) by the Agriculture Price Commission and Food Corporation of India (FCI). This, along with procurement and pricing, spurred success for the Indian farm lands,” Gulati said.

“Technology success on Indian farm lands when proper policies are in place. We have seen that the adoption of technology will enable farming to thrive and allow farmers access to the best markets and scale up cultivation practices,” he added, stating that genetic modification of crops was now much wanted.

However, there are challenges in every technology, whether it is green or gene. India needs to have intellectual property rights (IPRs) in place. The agriculture sector also needs to scale up investments in plant seeds to improve agricultural productivity, rural incomes and nutrition.

Another focus area for the government is innovation in harvesting solar crops. The Delhi government is already initiating a project with five companies to install solar panels on farm lands. Under the programme, every farmer will get Rs 1 lakh, as 500 solar panels and poles come up on every one acre of land. This will augment the farmers’ incomes.

In addition, there are several technologies like global positioning systems (GPS) and sensors to monitor the yield, nitrogen and moisture, besides unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones and robotics to encourage Indian agriculturists to invest,” Gulati said.

“Therefore, we see that India creates a conducive environment for the best policies in agriculture. Innovation in technology with precision farming will allow crop production move from food security to nutrition. Further, information technology and e-commerce will create larger and lucrative markets for the farming community. Drought- and flood-tolerant crops need to be developed with application of technology,” he added.

“Several efforts to develop staple crops like purple and blue wheat, which are proved to have higher micro-nutrients, are taking place in agricultural university labs. These scientists need recognition and opportunities to come forward and prove the local agri research expertise,” stated Gulati.