Making agriculture smarter, sustainable – Union Budget 2022 from an agritech perspective
Farmers in India still work on agri models that are input-intensive, which affects their overall profitability. By focusing on lean agribusiness models rooted in tech, the Government can empower farmers with more transparent, efficient, and profitable systems.
From an agritech perspective, the Union Budget 2022 has heralded new hopes for the Indian agriculture sector. The impetus to digitisation, shift to tech-enabled services and logistics, financial inclusion of farmers and focus towards empowering the rural workforce – all these transformative announcements will act as a game-changer for the AgTech sector.
Promoting tech In agriculture
In India, the average cost of owning a combine harvester, boom sprayer and drone for agricultural usage is around Rs 30 lakhs. Using these machines in agriculture immensely boosts a field's productivity, but the average daily income of a farmer from cultivation in 2018-19 was ₹27 per day, according to the latest Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) report.
This means the cost of availing modern tech and machinery in agriculture is more than 300 times the annual income of an average Indian farmer.
Mechanisation in agriculture would improve productivity and yield, and India needs significant improvements in both these spheres. Agritech plays an important role here to make such machinery accessible through shared economy models.
Boost towards the use of Kisan drones for crop assessment, spraying of insect pesticides, digitisation of land records, boosting financial inclusion of farmers through digital modes of payments – all these moves will go a long way in encouraging Indian AgTech startups to make the entire agri ecosystem transparent, seamless, efficient and cost-effective for the farmers.
Promoting sustainable agriculture
Another way to improve farmer incomes is to focus on adopting sustainable agricultural practices. Incentivising this for Indian farmers will have a two-pronged impact – on the one hand, it will improve the carbon footprint of agriculture, making it climate-friendly, and on the other, by leveraging carbon credits, farmers will have a scope to earn higher incomes.
With the second-largest arable land in the world, India can be a world leader in establishing the potential impact on climate and farmer incomes by adopting sustainable agriculture practices.
Putting climate action as one of the focus areas of the budget is also a mega move since I firmly believe that the budget should not only focus on economic development but sustainable development for securing the future of generations to come.
The AgTech sector plays an important role in educating farmers on sustainable modes of agriculture, scaling the operations, and reducing the carbon footprint of the Agri sector.
The launch of sovereign green bonds for projects signals India’s strong commitment towards a low carbon economy. It will help to bring down the cost of capital for green projects by attracting new investors and mobilising private capital towards sustainable development. This will further boost our efforts to make agriculture sustainable by helping farmers earn more through adopting sustainable agricultural practices.
Enabling digital modes of traceability and market linkage
Lack of visibility in the production and sales cycles of fresh fruits and vegetables, the precarious nature of the existing supply chain, and mismanaged inventories affect the Indian farmer's ability to position themselves as a sustainable and trustworthy producer.
By adopting tech-backed solutions for screening, warehousing, and inventory management of the Indian produce, we can make our agricultural output safe and reliable.
With the food market-facing intense competition globally, robust technological solutions to ensure quality and their immediate adoption by the farming community is the need of the hour.
The Union Budget 22 announcement towards data exchange among all-mode operators via Unified Logistics Interface Platform and implementation of the Gati Shakti plan will further enable efficient movement of goods, reducing logistics costs and time. This would give a major boost to the efficient management of food warehousing and processing industries.
A robust rural economy via jobs around agri sector
Since agricultural incomes are the slowest growing compared to all other economic sectors, many farmers are leaving for cities in search for employment in the unorganised sector. Their migration away from agriculture will be a wrong move in the long term since farmers are now required more than ever to feed an ever-growing population.
The need of the hour is to generate additional income for the rural economy around agriculture so that our food systems do not perish. Revision of agriculture syllabus to include modern Agri methods and creation of jobs in the rural economy through a digital ecosystem, as announced in the Union Budget, to skill, reskill, and upskill citizens through online training is another welcome move.
It would lead to formation of a trained and efficient workforce who act as machine operators, call centre executives, tech and sustainability guides for farmers. This will boost the creation of jobs and additional income for the farming community while strengthening Indian agriculture from the grassroots level.
Overall, the Union Budget 2022, gives the agriculture sector an impetus towards forward looking parameters based on tech adoption, financial inclusion and sustainable farming.
The budget ensures that the Indian farmers are ready to embrace a smarter and productivity-oriented approach towards agriculture, making not just the whole country but the entire world their potential customer base.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)