Strengthening Techno-Culture in Agriculture

CII Agri Technology and Mechanization Summit 2015
Strengthening Techno-Culture in Agriculture
01 September 2015 (Tuesday)| TheLalit Hotel, New Delhi

Press Release

Shri Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI launched the Network of Agri-startups, Venture Financiers and Incubators (NAVI), exclusive platform for dialoguing with Venture Financiers, Incubators and Mentors. Encouraging agri entrepreneurs to Pitch, Present and Promote their ideas.

Indian agriculture is increasingly driven by technology and the shift from mechanization to technology adoption has begun. The opportunity before India is to push the production frontier beyond just catering to rising domestic demand for food but expanding exports and investments beyond India. With limited natural resources (land and water) and labour and increasing pressure to grow more, the focus should be on effective utilization of resources, ensuring more per unit of land and drop of water. Clearly, sustainable agricultural growth through massive productivity enhancement will be the key to the structural shift.

The Inaugural session was addressed by Shri Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI. He pointed out to the challenges confronting the agriculture sector, and the distress caused to the farmers owing to high cost of credit, low price of produce, recurring drought like conditions, high cost of agri inputs and inadequate market access. He highlighted the role of technology in agriculture and hence urged the forum to deliberate on the whole gamut of technologies and not just restrict the discussions to mechanization. He also mentioned the need to consider and adopt technologies that cater to the local needs and conditions – relative low waged rural labour, smallholding (average farm size of 1.16 hectares and projected to shrink to 0.24 hectares by 2050). Shri Hussain re-affirmed the commitment of the Government to make funding available for water conservation and optimal utilization of water resources given the fast deteriorating condition in India. He pointed out the need to look at technologies from Israel and other countries who have successfully tackled these problems. He also mentioned about the Custom Hiring Centre model of the Government designed to give farmers an option to hire machines, and equipment and not be compelled to take loans to buy such machineries.

In his opening remarks, Mr S Sivakumar, Chairman, CII National Council on Agriculture & Chief Executive ABD, ITC spoke about the relevance of the Summit given that agriculture is at a crucial juncture – economic viability, and dignity of labour are key concerns. He emphasized upon the importance of technology in overcoming the challenges put forth by erratic weather conditions, price risk, and drudgery of agriculture labour. It is important to ensure that the next generation looks at agriculture as an attractive enterprise. In addition to technology, Mr Sivakumar emphasized on the role of other institutions such as insurance and derivative markets that can address the risks involved in agriculture.

In the Theme address, Dr Daniel Chamovitz, Dean, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences , &Director, Manna Center for Plant Biosciences, Tel Aviv University made an interesting presentation on the need for academia, industry and other stakeholders to come together to make technology achieve the much needed breakthrough in agriculture and address the bigger issue of attaining food security. He highlighted the fact that how Israel with less than 80% of their land classically unarable meets 80% of their food requirements through domestic production. Dr Chamovitz mentioned about the possible partnership between India and Israel on technology development to benefit agro-science sector in both the countries and multilateral collaborations between academia and industry.

Delivering the Keynote Address, Dr Vipin Kumar, Chief Innovation Officer, National Innovation Foundation presented before the forum fascinating innovations which are extremely localized and address operational challe nges in the agriculture sector. He emphasized on the need for participatory research to ensure that the right technologies are being ideated, developed that have a problem solving quotient. Availability of mechanization for the entire value chain is important given the kind of issues faced by the farmers and primary producers in the agriculture sector.

Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) delivering the special address emphasized that technology plays an important role in Indian agriculture given the nature of farm holdings and pressure on natural resources and labour. Technologies such as remote sensing, drones, soil health cards, mobile money among others are very relevant and have the potential to address productivity challenges and overall growth of the sector. Dr Bergvinson pointed out to the need for an ecosystem of integrated services offered through public and private sector providers, civil society and farmer organizations.

Mr Salil Singhal, Co-Chair, CII National Council on Agriculture, Chairman and Managing Director, PI Industries in his concluding remarks reiterated the need to understand that increasing economic unviability and drudgery in Indian agriculture are key concerns and need to be addressed through sustainable measures. Mr Singhal emphasized on the need to ensure grass-root innovations need to be taken to fruition, commercialization and successful uptake at the field level. With respect to digitization of agriculture, he referred to the need to consider means and partnerships to achieve the same.

The Summit was attended by about 200 participants including government representatives, academia, agribusiness leaders, experts, international think-tanks, and agri entrepreneurs, financiers and incubators from across India.