Automation: The New Sustainable Agricultural Revolution
Guest Author: Jaisimha Rao, Founder & CEO, TartanSense
17 February 2023, New Delhi: An increasing population to feed and a declining workforce, the Indian Agriculture sector has a big challenge cut out for itself. Farming by no means is easy. Each stage of input, growth, harvest, and post-harvest is strewn with hurdles like the volatility of input pricing, lack of reliable labor for time-bound seasonal tasks, and lack of access to technology for efficient crop yield to name a few. There is a dire need to farm sustainably and produce efficiently to make agriculture viable for future generations. Traditional farming practices are simply not up to this monumental task, making agriculture particularly ripe for tech disruption. Past few years, many Agtech start-ups are leading the way for this much-needed innovation in the sector.
Automation in Indian Agricultural was ushered in by tractors almost half a decade ago but unfortunately, it has been stuck in that era. The relationship between Indian Agriculture and the tractor is stronger than ever with last year (FY2022) seeing tractor sales soar, touching almost one million units sold, one of the highest globally. Tractor-led automation is just the first step as tractors are just machines that do work faster but not necessarily smarter or with scientific precision. The next leap in Automation is bringing intelligence to automation. This can be achieved by marrying Artificial Intelligence (AI) with robust hardware that can do farm work like seeding, spraying, and harvesting with precision. AI-enabled farm robots are going to be at the forefront of the next automation leap that is going to revolutionize agriculture.
The main objective of automation is to improve workflow for better accuracy, reliability, and productivity. Farming involves hours of intensive and repetitive labor often done manually. Come season time, farmers face great difficulty in getting labor to perform tasks like spraying, weeding, and harvesting which are time bound and has a huge impact on ROI. AI-enabled Ag robots are a one-stop solution to this problem faced by farmers at the ground level. With hardware getting cheaper and software getting more powerful robotics is all fuelled up to skyrocket.
At TartanSense we believe that reliable and accessible AgRobots that automate farming tasks can make farming exponentially easier by reducing input time, effort, and costs. Our AI Spot Spraying Robot is one such tech breakthrough. Equipped with cutting-edge computer vision, our AI robot can spray chemicals only on the plant without wastefully spraying on the soil, saving up to 60% on chemical input costs for farmers.
A growing number of traditional agriculture companies have incorporated farm automation technology into their operations even though these technologies are new. As of today, more than 7,000 farmers use the technology to test soil, monitor the health of their crops, and perform quality control. Agtech has also matured to a point that it is creating a farmer-first solution to deliver results at the ground level. The 2023 budget, for the first time, shines a spotlight on Agtech. The plans to converge contemporary technologies with farming, to provide cost-effective solutions to the farmer, through initiatives like the setting up of The Agriculture Accelerator Fund and research labs is a welcoming move by the government. While there is excitement about pure play digital solutions in agriculture, truly sustainable business in agriculture can only be built through software and hardware coming together to bring intelligent automation delivering impact at the ground level.
The elixir Indian agriculture truly needs a sustainable farming solution. For the last 40 years farm automation has essentially meant ‘tractorization’. India will sell over a million tractors this year, a record high for any country. But unfortunately, tractors sold in India are just pieces of metal on wheels which no intelligence or precision. We believe the next decade of Indian farming requires precision in seeding, spraying, and harvesting. To achieve this, there is a need to marry AI and hardware to deliver ROI in cost-cutting or time taken.
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