Friday, 22 January 2016

Role of Plant Scientists in Digital Farming and Digital India

Kapil Mohan Sharma, Jaykishan Amarcholi and Ronak Patel
Navsari Agricultural University,
Navsari, Gujarat


With advancement towards a digital nation, digitization of agriculture – the backbone of Indian economy can’t be left behind. Currently, due to many reasons farmers are leaving their work behind and moving towards other alternatives. By using wide network of digital information we can imagine a nation where farming will no more be considered as a neglected job and to feed the growing population digitizations can act as one of the best supporting pillar. Integrating digitial services to agriculture sector with the help of plant scientists, farmers can be empowered towards a better and lucrative farming. By using wide network of digital information it will be possible to step ahead in farm based activities starting from its cultivation, weather information, marketing, consultancy and many more. On its better adoption, farmers can access weather news and information on how to deal with it. Incidence of pest/disease can be predicted by remote sensing, alerting concerned people to take action. Good agricultural practices are updated in every farmer’s mobile. Farm consultancy will be at finger tips.
Varietal information, which variety serves best, which practices gives better result, how to extend shelf life and many more will be more available to farmers via plant biologists thorough this media. Visualization of problems of farmers and their solutions will be more real-time which will reduce uncertainty from farmer’s part serving a betterment of agriculture.

Agriculture and India

Undoubtedly, India is the country where the farming contribute the maximum engagement of  human resources. According to Agriculture Census 2010-11, the total cropped area is 193.76 million hectare out of 328.88 million hectare of total area that accounts for 58 % of total area. Moreover, this implies the huge nature of this group and need to work on this. Though by the same census it shows that there is a rise in cropped area, still many of the farmers are now turning out and the forthcoming generation is not taking up agriculture as their profession may result in steep decline of the most important sector of India particularly in employment. Presence of other lucrative employment opportunities might be another possible reason for migration from the farm sector. These migrations in different sector can directly or indirectly influence the farming sector and one of them is 'Digitization of farming sector and Digital India initiative.

Digital India

Digital India is a initiative launched by Government of India to digitally connect the whole India. Since farming is a integrated part of India’s economy, it is of necessary that we strengthen our system for the benefit to the users (farmers) with this digitization process. To do that government has taken many initiative, some of them are:
1. mKissan : It is an online advisory services that enables the farmers to receive messages directly in their mobile phone such that they can know when to, how to, what to particularly for the weather based problems.
2. Farmers’ Portal: It is the web enabled services that is linked up with mKissan and other services. “Its a one stop shop for farmers” where they can buy seeds or fertilizer, locate dealers, get advisory and much more. Only farmers are needed to register themselves based on the location of their work particularly their district in a particular state and based on this the farmers will get their advisory.
3. Crop Insurance: An helpful app for the farmers, also available in mobile app. This enables the farmers to calculate their risk, make the crop wise insurance, gets updated about prices of insurance and so on.
4. DACNET: This is a website developed to e-connect the farmers to farmers via their voices under an ICT application. It act as an information centre, interaction of day to day activities and availability of all extension and advisory services.
5. AgriCOOP: This is integrated services enabling to know about prices, weather, connecting institutes and many other.
6. Kishan Call Centre: Calling 1800 180 1551 have made a huge impact in farming group. This gives real time call based advisory services by the experts to the farmers, making them more informed regarding the crops.
7. AgMarket: This service has let the farmer know about the prices in the market and reduces the chances of getting cheated. They also enabled them to buy or sell commodities in the or from the market.

Role of Plant Scientists in Digital India

Although so many services have been launched recently by Government of India and the backbone lies with the Plant Scientists. The data collection is done at multiple centres and not so clear for the farmers about how to use them in their farm. Plant scientists can help farmers in digitization of the data and its utility. The farmers become the major beneficiary as they can now get better guidance in this regard and take correct steps in their farming practice. 
The role of plant scientist is not only concentrated in giving the advisory via digital platform but can act further to initiate better development that ultimately leads to precision farming.Further, by getting digitally connected, its easy to share technologies from one location to other and distribute it. New technologies will be faster distributed. Simulation models can be judged for multiple locations that will give better opportunity for new crops or cropping system. Crop can be regulated according to market need which is now at our finger tips. Biotic and abiotic stress can be judged based on apps simulated by plant scientist. This will reduce the farmers to regularly visit the farm centres. 

Way Ahead 

Currently, Digital India initiative has enabled the Indian farmers in a large way. It has provided services to the farmers to link up with plant scientist such that they get better knowledge but still there is more work to be done. In many of the advanced countries, where farming is taken as a commercial business, they have integrated their farm structure in such a way that they made the farm more in their control. The crop is regularly checked by satellites based on their infra-red spectra. By this they can see if the crop is in stress or not and if yes, what is the level of their stress. By getting such updates farmers get a feedback loop and necessary steps are suggested. This integrated loop is digitally connected it means wherever you are you can see what is happening in our farm. Such services are not yet available in India for commercial purposes, there lies the open window for plant scientists to work and integrate to make the farming system more advanced fulfilling the dream of “Digital India” to “Digital Agriculture”.
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