. “I see a big role for AI in empowering agriculture, healthcare, education, creating next-generation urban infrastructure and addressing urban issues,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while inaugurating the Responsible AI for Social Empowerment Summit, RAISE 2020. Artificial Intelligence-based agri-tech applications are set to unleash value in agriculture, especially in wake of the recent farm reforms that have opened doors to private sector investments in agriculture.
In the financial year 2019-20, Indian agri-food tech start-ups raised more than $1 billion through 133 deals. India’s exports of agricultural products rose to $37.4 billion in 2019 and with investments in supply chain and better storage and packaging, this is set to increase further. All these steps will go a long way in ensuring remunerative prices for farmers and reduce agrarian stress.
This growth in agricultural output and productivity is being further enhanced by investments in technology. Disruptive technologies like AI are making big positive changes across Indian agriculture, and an increasing number of agri-tech startups in the country are working to develop and implement AI-based solutions. Globally, AI applications in agriculture reached a valuation of $852.2 million in 2019 and this is estimated to grow to almost $8.38 billion by 2030, a nearly 25 per cent growth. The Indian agri-tech market, presently valued at $204 million, has reached just 1 per cent of its estimated potential of $ 24 billion.
Use of technology in agriculture will improve farmers’ access to markets, inputs, data, advisory, credit and insurance. Timely and accurate data coupled with analytics can help build a robust demand-driven efficient supply chain. With the use of sensors, photographs through phones, IoT devices, drones and satellite images, agricultural data can be collected and matched with weather data, soil health card data, mandi prices and help build predictive models that can greatly enhance decisions about seeds, fertilisers, pesticides that are of critical importance in both pre-harvest and post-harvest stages. Most of these AI models are low-cost and affordable and can add a lot of value to the agriculture ecosystem.
India has made rapid strides in the services sector, yet, agriculture continues to employ 49 per cent of the workforce and contributes 16 per cent of the country’s GDP. Improvement in agriculture would, therefore, positively impact the well-being of a very large section of the Indian population, apart from delivering food security to our country. Feeding over a billion Indians on limited land resources is a big challenge, a task that requires technological intervention on a large scale, to enable a giant leap in agricultural productivity.