Seeding the future of India’s agriculture
written by Parth Trivedi, Skylo CEO and cofounder

By 2050 India will need to feed more than 10 billion people, requiring a 70% increase in global food production. India is among the world’s highest producers of food, and has the opportunity to substantially improve crop yields to meet both domestic and international demand through modernization. An estimated 40% of local produce is lost due to a lack of storage infrastructure and the forward distribution chain, signaling a massive opportunity to improve the efficacy of Indian agriculture end-to-end.  

There is a phenomenal opportunity and need right now for a technology-aided approach to food production, in making our food supply chain more resilient and in making our farmers more self-reliant.

Mechanization and digitization of farms is transforming farming globally. Computing and sensing is being integrated into farm equipment, farmland, and food distribution infrastructure at a faster pace than ever before. The average cost of a sensor has now fallen by more than 4-fold in a decade, with an even sharper drop in the cost of cloud computing — providing for data to be generated from soil moisture sensors, irrigation pumps, diesel gensets, tractors and machines & equipment that were previously entirely analog and unconnected. 

Data from these machines, sensors and devices have the potential of transforming agriculture in our country, by assisting farmers in their day to day operations. 

For instance: not all farmers can afford to buy tractors or other farm equipment, which is used seasonally and sparingly by any one farmer. Through hiring centers though, farmers can now rent out shared time on their tractors or harvesters, allowing millions of farmers to access mechanization and productivity gains on their farms while reducing the idle time of these machines. 

Similarly, the fulfillment chain carrying the country’s harvested produce requires comprehensive geographic connectivity to ensure that food reaches on time, without theft or wastage, and is stored appropriately within the right temperature thresholds.

Indian farmers now have access to affordable data on every square inch of farmland, allowing entrepreneurs to build solutions that couldn’t exist before — such as digitizing the soil health card program, automating irrigation based on the soil and crop type, or allowing fertilizer to automatically be re-ordered when stocks are running low.

Having sensorized farms regularly report their health and categorizing that data has significant benefits for farmers and notable implications on India’s food production capability. For one, it can give farmers access to rich insights and specific interventions that can improve their livelihood. Second, this data can give farmers access to more precise insurance and financial services that were previously unviable — imagine each acre of farmland having its own credit score. 

Data from connected sensors in agriculture saves time and reduces extravagant use of resources such as water and electricity, helps convey the impact of weather conditions, anticipates the effect of ambient temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, rainfall, wind speed, and dew on crops. End-to-end agriculture solutions can also help manage water output to meet budget requirements and align with local government regulations and allocations.

On a personal note, coming from a family with farming roots in Kachchh, Gujarat. Our ancestors had to negotiate some of Earth’s most hostile terrain, while facing severe water shortages coupled with a lack of farm infrastructure. From an early age, their hardship inspired me to become an engineer — finding my way to develop affordable means of machine connectivity that now gives the remotest farmer in India access to the most powerful tools to transform their lives — from accessing mechanization affordably, to having the means of reducing water consumption and improving yield sustainably through soil data.

India is at an inflection point of ubiquitous computing, sensing and machine intelligence. It is humbling to imagine the different ways in which our farmers and entrepreneurs will leverage technology to grow food sustainably, improve productivity, and make our agriculture sector more self-reliant than ever before.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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