To bring the technological advancement in the agricultural practices for reducing cost, increasing production and making it a viable profession, the Confederation of Indian Industry organised ‘Agri Technology and Mechanization Summit in New Delhi.
Addressing the inaugural session, Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI pointed out the challenges confronting the agriculture sector, and the distress caused to the farmers owing to high cost of credit, low price of produce, recurring drought like conditions, high cost of agri inputs and inadequate market access. He highlighted the role of technology in agriculture and hence urged the forum to deliberate on the whole gamut of technologies and not just restrict the discussions to mechanisation.
He also mentioned the need to consider and adopt technologies that cater to the local needs and conditions – relative low waged rural labour and small landholding. Hussain re-affirmed the commitment of the Government to make funding available for water conservation and optimal utilisation of water resources given the fast deteriorating condition in India.
In his opening remarks, S Sivakumar, Chairman, CII National Council on Agriculture and Chief Executive Agribusiness Division, ITC spoke said that agriculture is at a crucial juncture – economic viability, and dignity of labour are key concerns. He emphasised upon the importance of technology in overcoming the challenges put forth by erratic weather conditions, price risk, and drudgery of agriculture labour. In addition to technology, Sivakumar emphasised on the role of other institutions such as insurance and derivative markets that can address the risks involved in agriculture.
Experts opined that it is important to ensure that the next generation looks at agriculture as an attractive enterprise.
Sharing the expertise of Israel, Dr Daniel Chamovitz, Dean, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Director, Manna Center for Plant Biosciences, Tel Aviv University emphasized on the need for academia, industry and other stakeholders to come together to make technology achieve the much needed breakthrough in agriculture and address the bigger issue of attaining food security. He highlighted the fact that how Israel with less than 80 percent of its land classically unarable meets 80 percent of their food requirements through domestic production.
Dr Chamovitz mentioned about the possible partnership between India and Israel on technology development to benefit agro-science sector in both the countries and multilateral collaborations between academia and industry.
Highlighting the role of grassroot innovations in agriculture, Dr Vipin Kumar, Chief Innovation Officer, National Innovation Foundation presented the fascinating innovations which are extremely localised and address operational challenges in the agriculture sector. He emphasised on the need for participatory research to ensure that the right technologies are being ideated, developed that have a problem solving quotient. Availability of mechanisation for the entire value chain is important given the kind of issues faced by the farmers and primary producers in the agriculture sector.
Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) emphasised that technology plays an important role in Indian agriculture given the nature of farm holdings and pressure on natural resources and labour. Technologies such as remote sensing, drones, soil health cards, mobile money among others are very relevant and have the potential to address productivity challenges and overall growth of the sector. Dr Bergvinson pointed out to the need for an ecosystem of integrated services offered through public and private sector providers, civil society and farmer organisations.
Speaking on the occasion, Salil Singhal, Co-Chair, CII National Council on Agriculture and Chairman and Managing Director, PI Industries reiterated the need to understand that increasing economic unviability and drudgery in Indian agriculture are key concerns and need to be addressed through sustainable measures. Singhal emphasised on the need to ensure grassroot innovations need to be taken to fruition, commercialisation and successful uptake at the field level. With respect to digitisation of agriculture, he referred to the need to consider means and partnerships to achieve the same.
The Summit was attended by about 200 participants including government representatives, academia, agribusiness leaders, experts, international think-tanks, agri entrepreneurs, financiers and incubators from across India.