With the fast changing global environment and the adoption of latest technologies in farming across the world, it seems apt for Indian agriculture to look into the possibilities of leveraging technology to stay competitive. The world is no longer a cluster of Standalone Islands; rather it has become a conglomeration of interconnected territories. Today if the price of a commodity is changed in one corner of the globe; it surely does impact the price of another in a distant land which is thousands of miles away. The current context thus calls for industries to be aware and updated about the changing trading policies. And agriculture is no exception to the rule.
As it has been widely accepted by most that in today’s world the way information is being gathered and shared would play a very significant role in developmental process. And agricultural sector is also going to be positively affected if the flow of information increases. However, it is easy to talk about the collection and dissemination of information. But it is a difficult task to achieve the same, and more so in agricultural sector where the information infrastructure is at the most primitive stage. So when we talk about increasing the information flow and management of the same we are talking about a lot of investment. However the cost associated to achieve this target can be minimized and the information flow to the participants in agriculture can be enhanced by leveraging information technology. Let us see how!
IT adoption in Agriculture
The effectiveness and efficiency of the information used in agriculture can be increased multifold by the adoption of Information Technology in agriculture. Information access and improved communication is viewed as having direct implications for the socio-economic development of a nation. And in Indian context we can say that the social and economic development of the Indian agrarian community can be brought in with the effective use of IT. The farmers still face the problems of inadequate information related to cultivation of crops, the presence of which could have enhanced the decision making capability of the farmers. IT seems to be a promising medium through which relevant information can be communicated to help in farming and post harvest processes.
Areas of Importance:
The following can be looked upon as the areas of development in IT to leverage information in an effective way to decrease the order and delivery time. It would also help in customer relationship management.
- A database for crops can be maintained: The database repository can include important information about the types of crops and land holding pattern. This information can be transmitted via the internet to the database server. The information thus accumulated can play a significant role in the decision making process.
- Production techniques and information inquiry system should be created. This repository should ideally be having the best and innovative techniques developed by R&D institutes or some progressive farmers. Would be a great source of information for the farmers to access and utilize.
- System for inquiry about farm machineries: This system can be developed by the companies operating in the farm machinery sector. This can help the farmers to get information about the best equipments to use and similarly the companies can promote their farm equipments.
- A similar system for agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizers etc can be developed by the relevant companies.
The government is not only aware of these possibilities but they have also initiated steps to achieve significant goals in this regard. The National Agricultural Policy lays high importance on the implementation of IT for agricultural sector. And the Department of Agriculture has also led visionary plans for the same.
In future therefore we will witness a reduction in cost and time of information system through the use of Information technology. IT will enable farmers to take more precise and informed decisions through the enhanced control that they will have on the information channels.
Some of the key concerns that IT can address and help farmers decide better are:
- Information about the benefits of increased irrigation
- Cost-effective use of fertilizers and chemicals
- How and when to market the produce
- How and when to order the agricultural inputs needed for farming
So it seems that the use of information technology will enable the farmers to come up with cost-effective and profitable marketing and distribution strategies. Further it would be possible to trade online thus reducing a lot of post-harvest cost. And it would lead to a collaborative system of information sharing among the various key players in the entire agricultural supply chain.
However the picture is not that rosy a lot of problems beset the effective implementation and use of IT faces a lot of challenges. When we talk about the use of IT we are talking about users who have very low literacy rate. This would act as a barrier since most of the applications and software are built on English language. Other key issues are :
- The lack of proper communication infrastructure
- Cost of computers
- Small individual farmers’ incapability to adapt to IT due to financial and education constraint.
- Low adaptability to new technology due to lack of awareness.
Given these facts it seems difficult to implement IT systems for each individual, but an institutional approach seems to be more promising. In this regard India faces another problem of magnitude. Around 85 percent of farmers in India are small farmers who have less than 2 hectare of land. So to expect them to individually come up with information systems for their farm land would be a impossible proposition.Instead the Government should encourage small farmers to pool resources to form groups and start farming in groups so as to enhance their spending capabilities when it comes to use of IT. This would be beneficial and a commercially viable option for the farmers as it could lead to attainment of efficient trading and marketing practices for the farmers. It would not be an overstatement if we say that agricultural growth would be information driven and IT is going to be the solution for the growing challenges for the farmers which are brought in by rising cost, increasing competition and globalization. Some of the companies like ITC have already realized the business potential that they can generate through effective use of IT.
The internet kiosks set up by ITC under their e-Chaupal initiative is a step towards that direction. The future of agriculture is in IT or is it the future of IT is in agriculture! Did someone say collaboration?