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Technology in Agriculture: Policy Review on Food Security


TECNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE  : Food Security

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.

 

Introduction


India had a population of 1.1bn in 2001 and is now set to become the world’s most populous city by 2030, overtaking China with 1.5bn population (YoY~1.8% growth). And a major chunk of this population, as per the historical trend, is going to be staying in Rural India (~65%). Not only a good chunk of this population is going to be in Rural India, the food to support the entire nation will also be coming from the agriculture sector of rural India.


Unfortunately, though, food security has been a concern as with the latest Global Hunger Index report, India scores a serious 27.5 and ranks 101st out of 116 nations.


Table 1 - The Global Hunger Index


The Green revolution has helped India to successfully achieve self-sufficiency in staple food but vegetables and fruits can still be an area of concern with the exploding population. This article attempts to look at supply and demand of all types of food crops by 2030 and how technology can help bridge this gap by increasing production to be able to meet the needs of the 1.5bn population.


Table 2 - Projects supply and demand gaps for major food grains. (in Million tons) [Source - ResearchGate, NSS Consumer Data]


Rice


The domestic production of rice under the baseline scenario is estimated to be 108.1 Mt by the year 2020 and 122.1 Mt by the year 2030. A look at the past trend reveals that India has been marginally surplus in rice production and has been even exporting rice in small volumes (2-4 Mt). As per these projections India is not likely to remain rice surplus and may even become deficit in rice production to the extent of 3 to 5 Mt in the coming years.


Pulses


The domestic production of pulses is projected to be about 21 Mt in 2020 and 26 Mt in 2030.The supply of pulses will fall short of their supply by about 1.3 Mt in 2025 and India will have to continue their imports to meet the domestic needs


Edible Oils


Similar to pulses, the deficit in edible oil supply is projected to be about 4.5 Mt by the year 2022, and it may reduce to about 2 Mt by the year 2030. Thus, India will continue to depend on imports of edible oils even in the coming decades. The domestic production of edible oils is projected to be about 12 Mt by 2020 and 19 Mt by 2030.



Fig: Rice Cultivation Life Cycle


Aim


This article, particularly focuses on ways to improve paddy production using technology as rice production has the most manual intensive process right from plantation to cultivation. This labour-intensive cultivation process is key to productivity challenges across rice/paddy cultivation.


We will also look at the factors that have been affecting the adoption of technology and recommendations to enable and increase adoption percentage.


Below is the data for the annual yield of rice for the last 20 years.



Annual yield of rice in India from financial year 1991 to 2020, with an estimate for 2021 (in kilograms per hectare)


Rice Production


The process of rice cultivation


Paddy crop cultivation starts from land preparation and ends at threshing before going on its journey to packing and distribution. The biggest area of concern has been the literal back-breaking manual labour in the process, specially so at the time of plantation. The current mechanisation levels are popular at land preparation - 60% of the process is mechanised, whereas transplanting and harvesting haven't been mechanised to a large extent. Meaning, one hectare of area needs about 900-man hours for cultivation.


85% of rice cultivation is done by small scale farmers and 15% is contributed by medium and large farmers.. Farm Mechanization adoption amongst the small scale farmers is the key to increase productivity and reduce costs in paddy cultivation in India.

Farm Mechanization in India for rice is around 40% which is much lower in comparison to the US at 95% and China at 60%. Key reasons for low adoption of technology are; poor socio-economic conditions, smaller holdings, high capital ask, seasonal demand and fluctuation in market price.


Automation in farming saves time to complete plantation processes, which provides crops with more time to mature and allows farmers to be more flexible. It also saves 5% of harvesting loss over manual methods. This in turn also improves productivity by enabling timely sowing of seeds and efficient control of weeds etc. The modern tech also helps in conservation of natural resources like water, soil and air. Rice cultivation is a water intensive process - 1kg of rice needs about 2500 litres of water.


We will look at

a) What technologies can be adopted to improve productivity & associated benefits.

b) How to help adopt these technologies.


(a) Technology use cases to mechanise paddy cultivation.


(i) Paddy Transplanter.


Use of paddy transplanted reduces manual labour by 40% and also helps in large scale adoption. This is a self-propelling machine based on diesel and creates uniform plant density making weeding operations effective as well. This also helps in seed growth given uniform depth of transplanting. This technology helps automate a very manual area of paddy cultivation, also making the downstream operations easy.


(ii) Weeder


Weeding using machinery increases the gain yield by 10% vs the manual weeding. Manual weeding a labour/energy intensive process. The weeder is moved back and forth horizontally and vertically - which provides aeration and root trimming.


(iii) Thresher


Threshing is basically done manually using animals, which is labour intensive and has yield loss of xx due to unthreshed paddy. Power operated threshers reduce yield loss and manual labour.


(iv) Combine Harvester


This is a self-propelled machine which cuts, conveys, threshes, cleans and bags the produce from the field. It can harvest even a lodged crop. Wheel and chain combines are available. The chain combine is having more manoeuvrability by having a lesser turning radius. It has a working width of about 4.2m. It can harvest 0.8-1.2 ha/h of paddy. Use of combined harvest will ensure the timely harvest of rice. During the peak time of harvest, availability of labour is a major problem. Delay harvesting causes shattering of grain in the field.


(v) Drum Seeder


A row seeder (also known as drum seeder) sows the pre-germinated paddy seeds in the rows at a spacing Indian Farming April 2021 5 of 20 cm or 25 cm in puddle soil. There is a saving in the cost of cultivation to the tune of 35% by using this device.


(b) How to improve adoption of technology in India


(i) Customer Hiring Centre


  • Custom Hiring Centre (CHC) are basically a unit comprising a set of farm machinery, implements and equipment meant for custom hiring by farmers. The main objective of CHC is to supply farm implements to small, marginal and poor farmers at subsidised rates on hire. This enables the small and marginal farmers to take up farm operation on time. Awareness around this unit are low among farmers because of which they do not avail these benefits


(ii) Skill Development Centre


  • Increase and promotion of skill development centres in rural areas so that farmers can learn the technology and take advantage of CHC’s to improve production/yield.


(iii) Forging public private partnerships


  • The public sector’s mandate for provision of information and services can be best achieved through harnessing the potential of the private sector to add local context in a commercial environment. Agriculture, being the backbone and support system of the rural economy, should be strengthened, if we want a paradigm shift in the approach and its development. With the advent of many popular and appropriate technologies, many innovations are also brought in the field of agriculture. This is now an ominous task before the policy makers and government to feed the ever-increasing population while preserving and conserving the resources as well. Hence, PPP has an immense role to play in the agriculture sector offers a win-win solution for all stakeholders. PPP allows the government to tap the private sector’s capacity to innovate.


(iv) Improved Access to Credit


  • The growth in the agriculture sector is less than 4% and 40% of the labour workforce are dependent on this sector. The availability / access to credit is a key enabler of growth in this industry which needs increase in production via use of technology and upskilling farmers.



Conclusion


Indian agriculture has been the backbone of the country's economy for many decades. However, in recent years, the percentage of the population depends on agriculture and the contribution of agriculture to total GDP is decreasing. Yield stagnation and increasing production cost further threaten the country's food and livelihood security. Farm mechanisation has a scope to increase productivity besides cutting production cost significantly. Adequate awareness creation about the government subsidy to various farm implements and machineries is highly needed. This will not only increase mechanisation percentage in India, but also helps in attracting and

retaining youth in agriculture.


Meet The Thought Leaders



Shreya Ravichandran was a consultant at McKinsey and Company, with a background in economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She loves problem-solving on social issues to make an impact on people's lives. She is currently working at The Antara Foundation as the Chief of staff to the founder, working on maternal and child health in rural India. She is also an avid musician and spends her free time experimenting different styles.





Meet The Authors (GGI Fellows)



Ruchi Singh is currently working as a Senior Associate - Strategy & Operations at Vahan where she looks after some of the largest clients and their P&L. She has completed Bachelors of Mass Media from Jai Hind College, Mumbai and is a candidate for GGI MBA fellowship. Ruchi also loves to travel, consumes plenty of OTT and reads in her free time.




Naveen Agarwal is currently working as a Senior manager at BT where he heads the India teams for BT Business customers. He is responsible to manage the well being of people, ensure operational excellence and help deliver organisations growth strategy. He is also the D&I lead for BT India leading the gender pillar as an impact project and helping to improve female participation in the workforce across all levels. Naveen has completed Bachelors of Computer Application and is a Digital IT Strategic Leader.


If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.

 


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