Adopting scientific agriculture models by equipping farmers with modern technology can play a significant role in bringing down the rising expenditure in the agriculture sector, said former director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) Raghunath Mashelkar.
Mashelkar said, “The shrinking land holding coupled with erratic climatic changes are going to bring bigger challenges for the farmers by 2030. Every farmer will have to revert to scientific farming and double the production and minimise investment expenditure.”
However, he admits, greater adoption of technology would bring down the use of human resources per hectare of agriculture land.
Citing an example of use of drones for spraying fertilizer in the fields, he said, “Now, what can be done in 30 minutes would require deployment of a dozen farm workers who would labour for more than 8 to 12 hours.”
Individual farmers may not afford the drone but if they pool using community farming system, the cost would be divided and become affordable, he said.
Exuding optimism for innovative start-ups in the field of agriculture, he said, “Agriculture innovation system’s biggest challenge will be to strive for more for less.” Explaining the concept, he said, “The system will have to gear up the farmers to work towards higher productivity using lesser resources namely land, water, energy and money. This should result in higher output to benefit more people and not be measured in terms of profit alone.”
He substantiated his theory of “more for less” with statistics on how demand for foodgrains across the country would increase from 192 million tonnes (2000) to 342 million tonnes (2030).
Whether it is in context of Maharashtra or across India, the land holding size has been drastically shrinking which makes farmers more vulnerable to rising expenditure because of age-old traditional agricultural practices, he said.
Indicating an average size of the land holdings decreased from 2.30 hectares (1970) to 1.32 hectares (2000), 0.68 hectares (2020) and expected to further decline to 0.32 hectares (2030).
With less land available for farming caused due to multiple reasons— soil erosion, soil salinity—scientific solutions will have to be provided to empower the small and marginal farmers.
While advocating for food processing infrastructure at the source of the farm produce, Mashalkar stressed a technology driven supply chain through use of RIFD, hi-tech GIS/GPS along with traceability system.
The growing use of GIS/GPS and sensor for planting, irrigation and monitoring yields, he believes, would help in both improving the quality and quantity.
Recommending technology for crop insurance, he said, “A mechanism can be evolved to source real time data from weather stations for predicting rainfall which can be used for calculating the insurance payouts. This can be automatically transferred to the farmers accounts using mobile banking.”