'Technology Crucial in Protecting the Efforts of Indian Farmers' Believes this Agritech Expert

'Technology Crucial in Protecting the Efforts of Indian Farmers' Believes this Agritech Expert

By: Anjami Nayyar, Agritech Expert

Anjami Nayyar is one of the few women in India working in the digital agri-tech space. She specializes in the latest digital farming technologies and is helping farmers improve their agriculture experience.

Anjami always found herself being interested in agriculture as a field. Having worked across industries in different locations, she watched farmers and their problems from close quarters. She views agriculture as an essential component of economies, and believes that it is imperative to bring structure and certainty to this industry. Anjami says that the current system lacks the necessary control, which is frequently governed by bigger entities.

It was this desire to empower farmers, despite the fact that humans are powerless over nature, is what inspired Anjami to foray into the agritech industry. Today, Anjami is working with different startups to create a sustainable and scalable ecosystem for farmers by creating new-age digital platforms. She is currently the Chief Transformation Officer for HyfunFoods; Founder & CEO, Knowledge Network Solutions (KNS); and Strategic Partner for Sales, Darktrace.

In a conversation with the Women Entrepreneur team, Anjami highlights the plethora of challenges faced by Indian farmers and the role technology can play in alleviating their plight. Anjami also talks about the impending growth of the agritech sector in India while outlining her hopes for industry’s future.

Q. The Indian agriculture sector is said to be the backbone of the country, providing food security and mass employment. However, being a farmer is not an easy task. In your opinion what are some of the toughest challenges plaguing Indian farmers’ farmer experience today?

A.  Indian farmers face several challenges in their farming experience. Some of the toughest ones include:

 1. Unpredictable weather patterns: Farmers have to deal with erratic rainfall, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. This can affect crop yields and lead to crop failures.

 2. Water scarcity: Availability of water for irrigation is a major concern, especially in regions with limited water resources. Farmers often struggle to access sufficient water for their crops.

3. Lack of access to modern farming techniques and technologies: Many farmers still rely on traditional farming methods, which may not be as efficient or productive. Limited access to modern farming techniques, machinery and technologies hinders their ability to improve productivity and reduce costs.

4. High input costs: The cost of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and machinery can be high, putting financial strain on farmers. This can affect their profitability and sustainability.

5. Market volatility: Farmers in India have a big hurdle as a result of the market linkage issue. Many farmers struggle to reach metropolitan marketplaces where their produce could fetch higher prices due to poor infrastructure and limited access to safe transportation. Due to their limited ability to negotiate, farmers are frequently forced to sell their products to intermediaries at cheaper prices. The problem is further exacerbated by knowledge asymmetry on market demand and prices, which causes income volatility for farmers. Investments in rural infrastructure, effective transportation systems, and digital platforms that give farmers access to current market information are all necessary to solve this issue.

These obstacles make it difficult for farmers to earn a decent income and sustain their livelihoods. Efforts are being made by the government and various organizations to address these issues through initiatives such as providing subsidies, promoting sustainable farming practices, improving irrigation facilities and establishing better market linkages.

Q. Technology has disrupted every industry however agritech’s true potential is yet to be achieved in the Indian context. In your opinion how has the Indian agritech sector evolved over the past few years? Which industry trends have caused the most significant impact on the sector?

A. In recent years, there have been significant advancements in the agritech sector. Technology has played a crucial role on transforming agriculture and addressing some of the challenges faced by farmers. For instance,

1. Precision Farming: Through the use of GPS, remote sensing, and drones, farmers are now able to collect comprehensive information on their farms. By utilizing resources like water, fertilizer, and pesticides more efficiently, crop yields are increased and costs are decreased.

2. Smart Irrigation Systems: Farmers can now monitor soil moisture levels and weather conditions in real-time thanks to IoT (Internet of Things) and sensor technology. This makes it possible to schedule irrigation systems precisely, saving water and reducing waste.

3. Crop monitoring and disease detection: To monitor crop health and identify illnesses early, cutting-edge imaging technology and machine learning algorithms are being used. This enables farmers to take prompt action to stop or lessen crop losses.

4. Farm Management Software: Numerous mobile apps and software programs have been created to help farmers effectively manage their farms. Tasks like crop planning, inventory management, financial tracking, and market analysis are made easier with the aid of these instruments.

5. Agri-Marketplaces: These new online and mobile platforms and applications link farmers and buyers directly, cutting out middlemen and ensuring fair prices. This increases farmers' access to a larger market and their ability to earn more money.

These advancements in agritech have the potential to revolutionize farming practices, increase productivity, and enhance the overall farmer experience. However, it's important to ensure that these technologies are accessible and affordable for all farmers, including small-scale and marginalized farmers. Several business trends have had a significant impact on the agritech sector. Few of these have made a big difference:

  1. Digitalization and Connectivity: Farmers now have easier access to information, markets, and agricultural services thanks to the growing affordability of cellphones, internet connectivity, and digital platforms.
  2.  Data analytics and artificial intelligence: Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence are being used to optimize farming practices, forecast crop yields, and identify pests and illnesses.
  3.  Vertical farming and indoor agriculture have drawn attention because of the rising food demand and the limited amount of arable land.

These industry trends have shaped the agritech sector, fostering innovation and driving the development of technologies that can address the challenges faced by farmers and contributes to sustainable and efficient agriculture.

Q. You have prior experience in transforming agri businesses with analytics and artificial intelligence. Can you shed light on how these technologies can be leveraged to improve the efficiency of agricultural sector?

A. Technologies can be used in numerous ways in the agriculture sector to increase effectiveness. In order to maximise inputs like water, fertilizer, and pesticides, precision farming uses GPS, sensors, and data analytics. This technique reduces waste and boosts output. Drones can be used for crop monitoring and aerial imaging, helping farmers see problems like pest infestations or nutrient deficits early on. Real-time monitoring of environmental factors, soil moisture, and crop health is made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT), which supports farmers in making informed decisions for improved resource management. Together, these technologies improve agriculture's production, sustainability, and profitability.

Q. Can you tell us about some of the key policies implemented recently that encourage farmers to implement sustainable farming practices?

A. Sustainability is a core principle guiding our approach. We are practicing farmers to embrace sustainable approaches with well formulated policies. Grants and subsidies encourage conservation activities, water-saving methods, and biodiversity preservation. We're aiming to improve the harmony between farming and nature by encouraging organic farming and integrated pest management. Governments and other organisations keep introducing different measures to encourage farmers to use sustainable agricultural methods. There are initiatives that support water conservation techniques like rainwater collection and drip irrigation. Initiatives to construct wildlife habitats and save natural areas on farms are being taken in an effort to conserve biodiversity. Additionally, initiatives are being made to decrease the use of dangerous pesticides by supporting organic farming and integrated pest management. For the long-term benefit of the environment and agricultural output, these policies seek to assist farmers in converting to sustainable practices.

Q. Going forward what is your hope and wish for the Indian agricultural sector? What would you like to see change in the way the Indian agricultural sector functions?

A. Looking ahead, I envision a transformed agricultural landscape. I hope to see an environment where farmers are no longer pawns in a complex credit cycle. Instead, they're empowered with fair access to credit and market linkages. We must overcome challenges like the influence of middlemen and political agendas to create a truly sustainable ecosystem for our farmers. Let's together rewrite the story of Indian agriculture for the betterment of our nation and its hardworking farmers.