The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), in association with Ernst & Young (EY), has today unveiled the findings of India’s Agritech sector 2021, in its report titled, Leveraging AI to maximize India’s agriculture output.
Despite being an agrarian economy, a top producer and exporter of several agricultural commodities, and one of the key employment generators in the country, multiple challenges hold back the Indian Agriculture sector from performing to its potential. However, with increased government support, growing AgriTech providers, burgeoning start-up ecosystem, and rising Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption among the rural farming population, a strong transformation impetus is underway.
Data consolidation (both at macro and real-time farm-level), lack of infrastructure awareness in data processing, and its availability have been some of the key challenges faced by the sector today. In addition to this, lack of awareness on agricultural inputs specific to the produce, access to quality seeds, lack of adequate mechanization and irrigation infrastructure, scarcity of farmer capital, frequent disease outbreak, and Inadequate storage facilities are the other value chain challenges faced by the sector.
AI has the potential to play a key role in relieving the sector from most of its stressful input conditions, catalyzing a shift towards data-driven farming. Leveraging macro as well as farm-level data collected through sensors will help maximize yields and optimize the use of available resources. Several AI-led use cases, such as precision agriculture and farm management, agricultural robots, automated weeding, crop quality and readiness identification, pest prediction and prevention, livestock monitoring and management, crop yield estimation, etc can solve improving farm productivity and empower farmers in improving operational efficiency through unified supply chains and intelligent farm operations.
Speaking on the occasion, Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM, said, “The Indian Agriculture Sector can utilize the potential of AI’s transformative capabilities through effective data practices. The Netherlands is a stellar example of effective AI adoption in agriculture. With just a small arable land the country has become the world’s 2nd largest exporter of agricultural products by value leveraging technology and AI. For India to realize the full potential of AI a coalition of government, industries, and start-ups in providing necessary infrastructure and policy support, enabling AI innovation across sectors, and mentoring and providing financial support to start-ups is imperative.”
The Government of India is playing a leading role in making technology adoption in the sector, an imperative. Both government and private players are focusing on driving better farm output through mechanization and digitization efforts paving the way for tech-enabled solutions. Several AI-led start-ups are developing innovative AI-led solutions, targeting specific challenges in the value chain. Precision farming, crop disease management and produce sorting and grading are top focus areas for start-ups.
Leading technology companies are entering into multi-year partnerships with agribusiness companies and Agritech start-ups for solution developments, leading investments into research programs, and creating incubator programs dedicated to start-ups. Government entities are partnering with technology companies and agritech start-ups for driving AI initiatives, providing necessary support, mentorship and intellectual property commercialization to start-ups through various incubator programs.
To gauge the evolution of agricultural enterprises, and where they are in the AI journey, NASSCOM had conducted a survey targeting CXOs working with Indian enterprises, GCCs and large start-ups. As per the survey findings, with ‘Trust in AI’ as the key lynchpin, revenue growth, innovation and farmer/end-customer experience are priority areas for AI in agriculture enterprises. Additionally, companies are looking at a dedicated AI strategy and budget as key imperative to scale AI initiatives enterprise-wide post-COVID-19.
As agricultural enterprises scale up pilots, an AI maturity model can suggest “right-sized” interventions to ride over critical pitfalls and define the road ahead. NASSCOM CoE DS&AI will continue its drive towards catalyzing AI adoption in the country by enabling co-innovation and co-creation with start-ups, creating hackathon platforms for start-ups to ideate and build innovative solutions, facilitating research and work with the government in building policy framework for AI in the country.