Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
Government is in the process of finalizing ‘India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)’ which will lay down a framework for Agristack
This Ecosystem shall help the Government in effective planning towards increasing the income of farmers in particular and improving the efficiency of the Agriculture sector as a whole
- Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to run a pilot programme for 100 villages in 6 states.
- The MoU requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
- This will be a part of ‘AgriStack’ that the Govt. envisages to create.
- Agristack is a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture, on which everything else will be built.
- Each farmer will have a unique digital identification that contains personal details, information about the land they farm, as well as production and financial details. Each ID will be linked to the individual’s digital national ID Aadhaar.
- AgriStack will create “a unified platform for farmers to provide them end to end services across the agriculture food value chain.
- The government, through its MoU, aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organised agriculture’.
- Thereafter, the ministry signed four other MoUs that will include
- ‘farmer data sanitisation’, land profiling and crop estimation using remote sensing
- mobile applications, for pre- and post-harvest advisories.
- a mobile application for advising farmers on soil nutrition, accurate quantification on farmer crop and yield, fertiliser recommendations, and training farmers for using this application
- a “National Agri Data Stack” that can serve as a foundational data layer on which “agri focussed solutions” will be built.
- It will also offer its cloud services to solution providers to help build “solutions across agri value chain” and will also help agriculture related start-ups.
- a ‘national agriculture geo hub’, will provide the required GIS tools and technologies and create and collate farmer and other agriculture data services on GIS platform.
- With these, agriculture will become the latest sector getting a boost of ‘techno solutionism’ by the government.
What is the government’s new proposal
- The Centre published a consultation paper on an India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)
- It aims to keep farmers at the centre of agro-ecology by promoting free digital technologies. This is to be achieved through creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which all the other services/platforms can be built
- Recognizing the importance of digitization in agriculture, The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is preparing a centralised farmers database and formulating various services based on it in order to create a digital ecosystem for agriculture.
- This database will be linked with the land records of farmers across the country and unique farmer IDs will be generated.
- Under an integrated database for farmers, information related to all benefits and assistance provided through various schemes of the central and state governments can be kept at one place and it can be a source of information for providing benefits to the farmers in future.
- A database with the details of about 5 crore farmers has been prepared so far. It is expected that the database will soon be completed by incorporating the details of all landholding farmers into it.
- The available data related to PM Kisan, Soil Health Card and PM Crop Insurance Scheme have already been integrated.
- The process of collating data from other databases of the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the Ministries of Fertilizers, Food and Public Distribution is in progress.
Objectives of India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)
- To create a National Digital Agriculture Ecosystem, increase the efficiency and production of the Indian agriculture sector, and boost farmer welfare and income.
- Increasing farmer income through timely access to the relevant information and innovative services- To help reach the target of doubling farmers income by 2022
- Keeping policies, programmes, and plans of the federal and state governments, as well as the business sector and Farmers Producer Organizations, in sync with one another (FPOs).
- More efficient use of resources, such as land, water, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and farm mechanisation, by making information more accessible.
- To provide location-specific and customised extension services across the agriculture lifecycle while also protecting personal data privacy.
- To develop capacities in a variety of areas, including digital agriculture and precision agriculture.
- Encourage agricultural R&D and innovation by providing high-quality data.
- Adoption of standards to ensure interoperability and information flow across ecosystems.
Advantages India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)
- Enhances productivity and profitability of the farmers: Farmers will be able to make informed decisions about which crop to grow, what type of seed to use, when to sow and what best practices to adopt to maximize yield.
- Increases efficiency of logistics and supply chain system: Those involved in the agricultural supply chain can plan their procurement and logistics with accurate and timely information.
- Help in providing localized solutions and tailored recommendations to the farming community as per their needs . An accurate and smart farming can be possible by getting proper information at the right time.
- Integration with the market economy: Farmers can decide whether they have to sell or store their produce, and further when, where and at what price they have to sell it. In the process, farmers get benefitted from innovative solutions and individual-specific services powered by emerging technologies.
- Issue of data privacy and consent: especially in the absence of a data protection legislation (The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is currently still with the Joint Parliamentary Committee).
- This may result in exploitation of the farmers data by private players.
- Information asymmetry: tilted towards the technology companies, might further exploit farmers, especially small and marginal ones.
- Digital divide: as there is digital divide in rural India both in terms of the ‘access’ and ‘digital education’ of the farmers.
- Commercialization of agriculture extension activities: implied by the formation of ‘Agristack’, as they shift into a digital and private sphere. This may lead to exorbitant prices for these services, charged by the private companies.
- Risk of commodifying agriculture and farmer data: as Agristack could strengthen the asymmetry in information flow by providing all information about farmers and their farming easily to corporations.
- For example: supply of data to corporations who looked at farmers as a consumer base, be it agri inputs — seed, chemical fertiliser and pesticides,or fin-tech companies and to those for whom farmers were suppliers like the food industry, garment industry, etc.
- Exclusion of landless cultivators: As they don’t have any digital land records.
- Poor quality and implementation of the digital land records program: Many states have not implemented the digitization of land program and many have implemented partially.
- Diversifying the composition of the task force: by including experts and representatives of the farmers to ensure inclusive and accommodative policies.
- Create proper privacy and date security infrastructure: to ensure protection of farmers data. In this context, parliament should enact long pending ‘Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019’ with requisite modifications.
- Educating farmers to bridge information asymmetry and digital divide: this can be done by effectively utilizing various government schemes like PM Grameen Digital Saksharata Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) and other schemes.
- Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) can also play very important role in this respect.
Also read: AGRICULTURE