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Digital AgriStack

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  • Last Updated : 01 Nov, 2022
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Agristack is a collection of digital information and technology aimed at farmers and the agricultural industry. AgriStack will give farmers a standardized platform to offer end-to-end services along the entire agriculture and food value chain. It seeks to give India a stronger push toward the digitization of data, from land titles to medical information. As part of the program, each farmer will receive a special digital identification (farmers’ ID) that will contain personal data, information on the land they farm, as well as productivity and financial data. Every ID will be connected to the person’s Aadhaar ID. In addition, the government is creating a centralized platform for farmer services that will assist in digitizing the provision of agricultural services by the public and commercial sectors. The architecture for AgriStack was described in a paper on the India Digital Ecosystem Architecture (IDEA) that the government released in June 2021. IDEA is anticipated to make sure that state and central data are separate architectural components that can work together to provide farmers with the information they need. 

A Memorandum of Understanding was recently inked between the Ministry of Agriculture and Microsoft to operate a pilot program for 100 villages across six states. According to the MoU, Microsoft must use its cloud computing technologies to develop a “Unified Farmer Service Interface.” AgriStack, a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture, is the foundation upon which the ministry intends to build the rest of its initiatives. The Indian Agritech Market was worth $204 million in 2019 and about 50 start-ups receive private capital each year. The industry continues to receive a lot of attention and enough funding. But the market is still modest, just collecting 1% of the potential market.

Features of AgriStack:

  • In order for Microsoft to create a farmer interface for “smart and well-organized agriculture,” the government intends to supply “necessary data sets” of each farmer’s personal information under AgriStack.
  • The officials noted that the digital archive will help with the exact targeting of services, programs, and subsidies.
  • Every farmer in the nation will receive what is known as a FID, or a farmers’ ID, connected to land records as part of the initiative. India currently owns 140 million acres of farmland.
  • There are no private sector businesses engaged in the Agristack’s construction. Leading Technology/Agri-tech/Startup companies, however, were acknowledged and invited to collaborate with the Indian government to build Proof of Concepts (PoC) based on limited bits of data from the federated Farmers’ database for particular regions (Districts/Villages).

Importance of AgriStack:

  • The government has a goal of tripling farmers’ income by the year 2022. An Inter-Ministerial Committee has been established by the government to investigate issues pertaining to the real-terms doubling of farmers’ income by the year 2022 and to recommend a plan of action.
  • Agriculture-related inventions have great promise and are rapidly advancing. The most recent technology are helping farmers greatly in their efforts to maximize inputs, streamline farm management, and increase production.
  • The successful implementation of technology is essential for the Ministry’s ambitions. The committee has recognized the value of digital technology in, among other things, updating and organizing how rural India manages its agricultural activities. Modern agriculture makes use of cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, blockchain, internet of things (IoT), GPS, and others.

Issue Related to Agristack:

  • AgriStack’s accuracy and usefulness are limited by outdated land records: 92% of India’s villages had computerized land records by the end of the 13-year Digital India Land Records Modernization Program in 2021. However, according to government statistics, just 68% of village cadastral maps—which document the size, ownership, and value of land—had been converted to digital format. The maps’ accuracy is also questionable. According to a 2009 government research, the “average age of village/cadastral maps available in most of the states is more than 50 years.” According to a September 2017 PRS Legislative report, States have forgotten to update the records through surveys and have not used maps to determine actual boundaries on the ground.
  • Commercialization: With the creation of “Agristack,” agricultural extension activities that migrate into the digital and private realm would be commercialized. By producing a unique ID, connecting Aadhaar with the transfer of farm subsidies and other advantages, and other methods, AgriStack attempts to turn a small farm into an economic unit. However, the reality is that such digital short-cuts might alter our agriculture.
  • Absence of Dispute Settlement: Although the MoU’s call for the physical verification of digitally generated land data, they make no provision for what would happen if disputes arose. This is particularly concerning given that past experience has shown that resolving land disputes can take years. 
  • Data Protection Laws Are Not Existing: Without regulations, it might lead to a situation where private data processing companies are given access to more information about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself and are free to use that information anyway they see fit. Due to the lack of laws governing data privacy and protection, commercial organisations with MOUs for pilot programs in different districts will determine which data are non-personal. For instance, Microsoft’s SOP states that its team must guarantee that data acquired are “checked and reconciled 100%,” although it is unclear how they would do so, whether by comparing with official government data or in some other way. IFF obtained the SOP through a Right To Information request.
  • Privacy and exclusion concerns: Aadhaar-seeding the planned farmer ID could lead to new privacy and exclusion concerns. In addition, the farmer database will not include tenant farmers, sharecroppers, or farm laborers if it is built on land records.
  • Low Literacy Rate: Farmers may not be able to use AgriStack even if it becomes a reality. In rural India, there were only 36.2 internet customers for every 100 persons between January and March 2021, compared to 60.7 in metropolitan India. In India, 38% of families have some level of digital literacy. This proportion is 25% lower in rural areas. The issue of tiny landholdings is also a problem, with approximately 90% of the 93.1 million agricultural households having less than 2 hectares of land. And because of all these factors, specialists think AgriStack may not be helpful in India.

Adoption of Digital Technologies in Agriculture:

The prevalence of segregated small-holder farms in India is a major reason for the slow adoption of digital farming in that nation because it makes data collection more difficult. The sector’s use of digital solutions has also been significantly influenced by the low penetration of mechanization equipment and frequent natural disasters including droughts, floods, and excessive monsoon rains. In order to deploy digital agriculture on a typical Indian small farm, a customized strategy is therefore required; this can then be scaled up and made available to many Indian farmers. 

  • Platforms for renting and sharing agricultural machinery and equipment: Due to limited financial resources and small farm plots, there is a possibility for online platforms that provide equipment renting and sharing services rather than outright purchases. A few agritech startups already offer services for renting out equipment.
  • Academic support: Through various locally run programs and government initiatives, the local agricultural organization and academic institutions frequently interact with farmers. The availability of training resources from various academic institutions and agricultural organizations will increase farmers’ adoption of digital technology.
  • Low-cost technology: An Indian farmer typically makes over $1,000 per year. The precarious financial situations that a typical farmer in India’s faces are explained by their poor revenue. Reduced technological costs will therefore be beneficial.
  • Movable equipment: Plug and play hardware has a greater chance in the Indian market due to the tiny size of typical Indian farms. Additionally, agricultural land leasing is very common under different farming arrangements, so a farmer may transfer to another farm plot the following season. For farmers in such situations, purchasing portable equipment is preferable.

Conclusion:

The Indian government has taken a positive step with this. Agriculture has changed over the previous few decades by utilizing technology, changing the genetics of crops, and mechanizing farm activities. As the Indian agriculture and allied sector is about to adopt contemporary technology, it can play a crucial role in supplying farmers with these contemporary technologies. In order to reach goals like doubling farmer incomes and sustainable growth, it is in the national interest to take a holistic ecosystem approach to solving the problems the Indian agriculture industry faces. The widespread adoption of digital agriculture in India would therefore require a multi-stakeholder strategy, with the government playing a major enabler’s role in the ecosystem.


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