Govt propels digitisation for innovative farming with slew of measures

The government announces various initiatives to drive innovative farming, including funds for agri-tech startups, MoUs, and initiatives to make drone technology more affordable

govt announced measures for innovative farming

The government has launched several initiatives to improve the country’s agriculture sector. These range from announcements made in the budget 2022, to the signing of MoUs with technology startups for a digital agriculture ecosystem, the unique advantages of Drone technologies, and the creation of funds to increase agri-tech startups in the country.

On March 15, 2022, the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, informed the Lok Sabha that the department has formed a high-level Task Force that is in the process of finalising the “India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA)” report, based on which the department plans to establish the country’s first ‘Agristack.’ It will develop innovative agri-focused solutions that will leverage digital technologies to increase farmer income and improve the efficiency of the country’s agriculture sector.

leading technology and agritech startup companies were called to sign MoU on a purely pro bono basis and develop the Proof of Concepts (PoCs) to help in understanding the uses of Agristack and the service and solutions that can be built using available data of select districts and villages. Some of them, if found beneficial to the farmers, will be scaled up at the National level.

Along with the startups, the government signed MoU with Microsoft India for consolidating the Agri ecosystem across the value chain (farm to fork) to empower the farmer using data analytics. 100 villages in 10 districts across several states have been selected and a pilot is being carried out by Microsoft and their local partner and access to the federated Farmers’ database will be with the government only. 

Besides that, MoAFW also announced to make drone technology affordable to the farmers and other stakeholders, financial assistance at 100 per cent cost of drones together with the contingent expenditure is extended for the demonstration of the technology on farmer’s fields. 

This financial assistance has been extended under Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) to the Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes, Institutions of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs). 

Additionally, to provide agricultural services through drone application, financial assistance at 40 per cent of the basic cost of the drone and its attachments or Rs 4 lakhs, whichever less is provided for drone purchase by existing and new Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) under Cooperative Society of Farmers, Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Rural entrepreneurs. 

The agriculture graduates establishing CHCs are eligible to receive financial assistance at 50 per cent of the cost of the drone up to a maximum of Rs. 5 lakhs. So far, funds of Rs. 2.25 Crores have been released for Drone technology promotion based on the proposals received from various eligible entities under the scheme and during the current year.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has also published ‘Drone Rules 2021’ to regulate the use and operation of Drones in India, which have to comply with all Drone operations. According to these rules, the Unique Identification Number for drone operation is necessary however, the requirement of Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit has been waived off. 

In continuance to FM’s budget announcements, the Union Minister, Piyush Goyal announced that GoI is considering creating a fund specifically for agri-tech startups.

Goyal said, “Technology and innovation will be the driving force behind India’s prosperity. We are looking at the significant participation of startups in defence research and development. We are also looking at creating a fund for agri-tech startups. It is these startups that will fuel India’s Aatmanirbhar drive.”

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