Most of us are unaware of the fact that the fruits and vegetables we consume are brimming with pesticides, fertilizers, chemical adulteration, and more. Even though such products are cost-effective, they ultimately harm both the consumers and the environment.
Over the past few years, the agricultural sector has woken up to the benefits of adopting sustainable farming practices. An increase in health issues brought on by consuming chemical-laden food, growing environmental pollution, reduction in soil quality, etc. are a few issues that can be directly attributed to the uninformed usage of fertilizers and pesticides. The agricultural sector has now realized that sustainable farming has much to offer including enhanced productivity, better utilization of resources, and natural pest control.
Conventional farming vs sustainable farming
Sustainable farming involves systems like organic farming, natural farming, permaculture, etc.. Along with this, it also takes into consideration practices like crop rotation, rainwater harvesting, mulching, floating farms, vermicomposting, etc. In many ways, it is a return to age-old farming techniques that were popular before the Green Revolution.
Unlike conventional farming, sustainable farming is gentle on the farmers themselves. In fact, the switch to natural farming methods began as a result of farmers in Punukula, Andhra Pradesh, reporting severe health issues due to chemical poisoning in 2000. The culprit – expensive chemical pesticides. They shifted to natural methods like natural insect repellants for improving crop yields and soon saw improvements in their health. In 2004, Punukula declared itself completely pesticide-free, and soon other villages followed suit.
How is sustainable farming growing in India?
A study conducted by ICAR- National Academy of Agricultural Research Management in 2020 said that sustainable farming is a solution for smallholder farms in low-input areas. Despite this, less than 4% of Indian farmers have adopted it. Stats show that farmers practicing natural farming in India only account for 0.7% of total Indian farmers. Lack of proper studies and tests, unsatisfactory government budgets, lack of information, and improper marketing of sustainable products have prevented sustainable farming from gaining popularity.
How can agritech help?
Proper government support and targeted agritech solutions could make all the difference here. Farmers have already started exploring agritech solutions like indoor vertical and hydroponic farming techniques. Similarly, precision farming allows farmers to take stock of soil health by accessing on-farm sensors through smartphones. And this is just the beginning.
Maple Capital Advisors, in a report titled ‘India Agritech—Investment Trends, Initiating Coverage’ said that the sector is expected to attract investments worth over Rs 3000 crores by 2021. The Indian government announced in 2020 that it would fund 112 startups with a sum of ₹11.85 crores. This Is based on the promising growth of tech-based products in agritech. Bijak is a prime example. It began as an app that facilitated trade between commission agents and suppliers across the country. Now they facilitate trade between suppliers and institutional buyers. Taking things one step further, they recently launched ChargeERP, a cloud-based accounting software for their commission agent (aadathiya) customer base. Improved internet connectivity, extensive use of smartphones, and growing digital literacy in rural areas have led to this changing attitude towards digital solutions.
Sustainable farming is the next logical step in Indian agriculture. However, it cannot live up to its full potential without the right support. If done right, agritech and government support can play an important role in bringing about the next green revolution.
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