IoT for Indian Agriculture

Published on: Jan 15 2016 by Sachin
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IoT in Indian Agriculture

What is IoT

There are tons of material explaining IoT. Hence without attempting to explain IoT yet again, I will only mention a statement about IoT that I find very interesting and relevant to my understanding of IoT – “IoT is the coming together of electronics engineering and computer sciences to solve problems”.

Can IoT indeed be used in Agriculture?

Generally when we talk about technology, the focus is on a better quality of life, more convenience/ ease, hi-tech gadgets and trendy youth as the customers. Therefore it is very difficult to view any new technology through agricultural lens. However IoT changes that perception. IoT and its applications are ubiquitous. They range from the most hi-tech of applications to the most rudimentary and un-thought of use cases. There is no doubt in my mind, that agriculture will be one of the most prominent beneficiaries of IoT in India and globally. IoT has the capacity to reform some basic aspects of Indian agricultural practices.

Use Cases in the context of Indian Agriculture

Globally there are many success stories where IoT has been used to manage farms, crops, farm vehicles, greenhouses and cattle. The results are positive and encouraging. However there is a fundamental difference between agriculture in the western world and agriculture in India.

In India, even today, agriculture is heavily dependent on natural factors. Any unexpected variation in these natural factors negatively impacts the crop yield. Crop yield is the amount of crop (grains, vegetables, fruits) that is produced per unit of fertile land. The crop yield of Indian farms is amongst the lowest globally. The problems India faces in agriculture are totally different than those of the western world. Availability of water, quality of soil, destruction by pests, and correct utilization of fertilizers are some of the key agricultural problems faced by Indian farmers. This is precisely where IoT can play a huge role in eliminating or reducing the impact of some of these external factors.

Some of the use cases that IoT is finding in Indian agricultural scenario are: Monitoring of water levels in different water beds, continuous monitoring/ testing of soil parameters, controlling the amount of pesticides used in the farms and alarming the farmers for farm conditions that can breed pests.

There are pilot tests that have already started in these areas and I hope that very soon we might hear some breakthrough ideas in agriculture led by IoT based solutions.

Smart Agriculture – A Government of India Initiative

The Government of India (Ministry of Communication and Information Technology) has released a draft policy on IoT towards the end of 2015. The department of Electronics and Information technology belonging to the ministry has included, in its draft report, many aspects on how digital transformation and IoT will impact the various facets of Indian economy. It is a pleasant surprise that in section 5.1.6, the government of India has also included the vision for digitalization of Indian farms. The key areas of implementation that the government of India will focus on for smart agriculture are:

  • Projects for precision farming – monitoring and data analysis of soil moisture, vibrations, earth density and pests to detect patterns in agricultural conditions.
  • Online Projects to update information and retrieve data and insights for farmers.
  • Farmers to receive alerts for threshold variance in storage conditions and pest control requirements.
  • IoT based solutions like unmanned tools for spray of pest control and other insecticides.

Final Thoughts

IoT is not just a technology but an ecosystem of technologies that can have a profound impact on our lives – personal, professional and social. India is still a land of villages with 75% of population living in rural areas and almost 70% of the population depending on agriculture and agricultural related services/ labour. For India to develop further, it is important that any effort to raise the socio-economic parameters need to start rurally and touch the agricultural based job creation. Unless the concept of Digital India can in some way or another reach the rural population, the results and the outcomes are going to be very minimal. It is therefore, heart rendering that the government of India has recognized it and in some ways laid down the vision for the digital rural India through Smart Agriculture. ‘Financial Inclusion’ and ‘IoT for Agriculture’ can be the two pillars to kick-start the journey of rural India towards socio-economic equality. It is now upon the private sector and start-up communities to bring innovations that can help realize these dreams.

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