The future lies in building a safer food system using agritech

By introducing technological solutions in the agriculture sector, we can change the entire narrative of the industry. Here are a few ways this can be accomplished.
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Over the last few years, India’s technology and the digital ecosystem have taken leaps and bounds, nurturing an environment that harnesses more efficiency and accessibility across industries.

These advancements have been the base for creating digitally charged economies and unearthing opportunities for innumerable sectors to amplify their capabilities.

For the agriculture sector, this transformative journey into the future has never been more evident and needed. 

As per an EY report on ‘Agritech - Towards transforming Indian agriculture August 2020,’ agriculture forms the backbone of the Indian economy, contributing almost 16 percent to the country’s GDP, and employing almost 43 percent of the country’s workforce.

However, for years, concerns around food quality, production, and distribution have plagued this sector. Consumers and businesses alike have chanted the need for more consolidation, streamlining, and standardisation across the sector.

Addressing the needs of a fragmented value-chain, constantly evolving consumer base, and unstructured business models require a solution that can disrupt and create a real potential for innovation.

Enter the dawn of tech enlightenment, and suddenly, we start to see the tailwinds of a sector on the verge of immense transformation. 

Tech-solutions play a crucial role in achieving the goal of ensuring high production, availability, and distribution of safe food to consumers across the subcontinent.

Food safety is an all-encompassing concept, which includes both pre and post-harvest activities. Its primary focus is to use scientific disciplines to monitor the preparation, handling, and storage of food items to avoid any harm caused to the consumer.

By introducing technological solutions in this mammoth segment, we can change the entire narrative of the industry.

Here are a few ways this can be accomplished:

Adoption of vertical farming 

As the name suggests, it involves crop production using vertically stacked layers. With the application of LED lights to encourage photosynthesis, crops can be grown day and night. Since crops are grown in greenhouse environments, they are weather independent, allowing cultivators to generate maximum yield throughout the year. 

As a result of its upward expansion, farmers can grow various crops on limited chunks of land. Further, it is more eco-friendly and requires minimal chemical usage.

All in all, vertical farming is a tech-driven approach to cost-effective, safe, and smart agriculture. 

Use drones 

Unmanned aerial vehicles use sensors and digital imaging techniques to better agricultural operations, boost crop production, and monitor the production cycle. 

Overall, they can prove to be extremely beneficial for enhancing farm efficiency, quality, and yield. The aerial view offered by them helps pinpoint issues related to irrigation, soil variation, pest, and fungal infestations.

Further, the multispectral nature of images allows farmers to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy plants. 

Data-driven farming 

Big Data can be used to supplement precision agriculture and improve decision making. In agriculture, data has a plethora of uses.

For decisions like what, where, when, and how much to produce, farmers can rely on internal information such as present soil condition, coupled with external data about weather and market conditions.

Again, by continuously monitoring crop growth, farmers will receive necessary data that will help them determine the apt amount of irrigation, the appropriate quantity of pesticides, and when to manure the field, among others. 

Encourage automation 

It talks about replacing or aiding manual labour via software and hardware solutions to eradicate redundancy, increase speed, improve accuracy, and reduce loss in quality.

When clubbed with Artificial Intelligence (AI), smarter automation platforms are created. One of its main benefits is the significant reduction in wastages, initially caused due to human error.

Further, by using advanced controls and parameters, automated processes can work effectively in controlling the output based on the demand in the market. 

Modern technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, have further changed the face of pre and post-harvest agricultural activities.

For instance, these advancements play a crucial role in making the food supply systems in India increasingly traceable and reliable. Consumers now have access to the entire journey of the food items — right from the farm to their plates.

Apart from driving home yield efficiency, the technology prevents numerous threats to the industry. A legacy sector is now walking towards relentless innovation.

The emergence of the agritech culture has made the sector eco-friendly, less chemical-dependent, cost-effective, transparent, and organised. 

However, tech incorporation is still in its nascent stages in India. By educating farmers about the benefits of modern techniques and expanding the support from the government, the nation is bound to witness another revolution, the wheels of which have already been set to motion.

Edited by Suman Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)