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Inaugural Session: Global Dialogue on Digital Pathways in Agriculture 2.0

The agricultural sector is the most critical economic sector and the agriculture industry will become arguably more important than ever before in the next few decades. Big Data Analytics, Data Science and Internet of Things(IoT) can provide critical in-depth data and information that can be utilized to achieve greater production capabilities and ensure food security for the nation.

It is imperative for the farming industry to embrace the use of precision agriculture and harness the benefits of IoT to better understand the wider conditions that lead to variabilities. Embedding intelligence into the design and operation of machines will allow sensor information to be combined with other data for the best possible knowledge usage of the farmer.

Technology has been a major driver of agriculture growth and played a key role in improving the livelihood opportunities of the farmers. The spectrum of technology solutions for improving efficiency and productivity as well as reducing the costs along the value chain is huge and diversified. Digital pathways in agriculture is about exploring the potential of such technologies that allow farmers to manage their farm activities better, thereby increasing the income and contribute to the overall agricultural growth.

The Inaugural session provides the platform for discussions on establishing partnerships and financing to supplement transfer and adoption of efficient and emerging technologies essential in achieving the objectives of increasing the agricultural productivity, ensuring food security and reducing wastage of resources. The session will also deliberate on availability of advanced digital technology, the scope of adoption at the farm level, barriers to adoption, its impact on policy and scaling up in the Indian scenario. It will also highlight the progress made globally and the evolving role of technology and entrepreneurship in agriculture.


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Session I: Precision Agriculture

A key component of precision ag farm management approach is the use of information technology and a wide array of items such as GPS guidance, control systems, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, GPS-based soil sampling, automated hardware, telematics, and software.

The primary aim of precision agriculture is to ensure profitability, efficiency, and sustainability while protecting the environment. This is achieved by using the big data gathered by this technology to guide both immediate and future decisions on everything from where in the field to apply a particular rate, to when it’s best to apply chemical, fertilizer or seed.

Like any other industry, we need more advocates to drive greater adoption and hence greater efficiency. Farmers need support with training and expertise to successfully implement innovative technologies to ensure success.

The amount of data that can potentially be captured by technologies such as drones, and satellites on a daily basis will give agricultural business a new ability to predict changes and identify opportunities. Satellite machine vision applications (for weather, crop health, predicting crop yield, etc) will become more and more commonplace for large industrial farms in the coming years.

It will be important that farmers are equipped with training that is up-to-date to ensure the technologies are used and continue to improve. This will help to prove the value of these tools over the long haul.

This session shall deliberate the current state of precision agriculture technologies available globally. How farmers are using them to increase production and where the next wave of development should focus on to achieve food security for the country.

Machine Learning &
Artificial Intelligence
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Session II: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence led Solutions

Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Machine Learning are today providing crop and soil monitoring solutions, predictive agricultural analytics as well as helping build supply chain efficiencies thus empowering small-holder farmers to increase their income through higher crop yield and greater price control. Other AI based solutions that have huge scope in Indian are programmed drones for crop dusting, and deployment of robots as a service to replace larger tractors.

Although the use of AI and Cloud Machine Learning is very promising when it comes to farming, the requirement of large amounts of clean data is a key constraint particularly in the context of agriculture as much of the data is only available once per year during the growing season, making research cycles limited. For India in particular, given that majority of our farmlands are still remain fragmented, a mass assertion, or holistic data collection is a key challenge.

Extensive testing and validation of emerging AI applications in this sector will be critical as agriculture is impacted by environmental factors that cannot be controlled unlike other industries where risk is easier to model and predict. The session will dwell upon the new age Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Machine based solutions relevant in Indian context and measures for holistic data collection for scaling of these solutions in India.

Spotlight on

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Session III: Spotlight on Innovations

The Indian agritech ecosystem is being revolutionized by enterprises providing technology based innovative agri solutions making farming more sustainable and profitable for farmers. Another interesting development is increasing interest of entrepreneurs with non-agricultural backgrounds to foray into innovating in agriculture given the huge need and opportunity in the segment. Farming as a service, Big Data analytics for improving farm productivity, market linkage models for farmers are some of the emerging segments of interest for the agriprenuers.

The session with innovators will focus on showcasing the emerging Innovators and agriprenuers, highlighting their innovative solution for the farm sector and mainstreaming these solutions.

Challenge Summary: The farmer’s limited knowledge about soil health; inadequate availability and access to accurate information impede him from taking appropriate decisions with respect to soil nutrition. Equally important is the aspect of soil organic health which is characterized by organic carbon content in soil. It is well observed that soils in certain parts of India are either overfed or underfed with fertilizers, causing a severe imbalance in usage of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) fertilizer as well as depletion of soil organic health.

While the Government’s flagship Soil Health Card Scheme aims at ensuring that farmers have better access to soil testing services and are able to use the information for making smart choices to adopt sustainable agricultural practices. However, the period between sample collection and test reports given to farmers is still quite long.

The practical challenges which farmers face in terms of the method of testing;
1. Time taken to collect samples,
2. Mobility to the laboratories
3. Cost of undertaking testing
4. Method for sharing the results
5. Understanding and implementing the results
6. Following this method on a long-term basis.

We are therefore looking for a product/service that -
a) Provide easy to use and interpret soil health assessment tools and devices through which farmers can access information in a timely manner and utilize the information for effective decision making.
b) Allow the farmer to monitor the soil condition by integrating his/her observations with available location-specific open data and share this knowledge with other farmers.
c) Calibrate uptake of nutrients (macro and micro) into the plant – that would enable pinpointed supply of nutrients
d) At the macro level, allow mapping of areas according to soil health conditions for strategic interventions both at the policy and business levels. The USP of the solutions will be portability. Such a comprehensive solution will help economize usage of inputs save costs and improve productivity of crops, net returns in addition to adopting sustainable agricultural practices that are environmentally less damaging.

Challenge Summary: Assessing crop health to prevent potential damage is important and extremely time sensitive. Given farmers limited ability to assess crop health, identify potential damage, risk factors, prevent spread and outbreak of damage and/or solve the problem on the spot results in the losses of 20-30 percent of crops due to pests/diseases and hence income losses.

Given the scale of crop & incomes losses due to pest and diseases it is critical for the farmer to assess the risk of crop damage as well as contain onset of any damage.

Currently, much of the advisory on crop protection is undertaken through extension services (provided both by the public and private sectors) with personnel visiting farms and/or through mobile phones remotely. Often the extension services are free, and the degree of effectiveness varies given the quality and frequency of the services delivered. But in most cases, especially in the most remote areas, access to these services is still limited and irregular. Rural small holder farmers do not understand crop health and manage it on a periodic and routine basis, not assessing potential risks associated, and not undertaking preventive measures.

Even if commonly prevalent pests, weeds and associated diseases are easily identifiable by the farmers, there remains a risk of new and/or rare weeds, pests and diseases that are not understood or identified easily.

Considering the extent of crop protection issues in India, technology solutions are needed to help farmers access information and/or images that allow him to assess any potential risk, readily identify the weeds and pests, and further map it with the preventive measures for taking a timely decision to prevent crop loss. The solution should be able to help in

a) offline identification and estimation of acres of crop coverage and crop impacted by pest & diseases;

b) yield estimation as the season progresses as it is very useful for farmers and also for B2B industrial clients;
c) identify pests and provide the linked advisory services;
d) check the quality of the crop produce using digital means and also estimation of yield without manual intervention

Also given that these issues are extremely time sensitive and farmers need to take immediate measures to prevent outbreak or spread of diseases, cutting down the time involved in delivering these services and the extent of human interface will be critical components of the technology solution.

Solutions will be evaluated on
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