Transforming Agriculture in India
An Indian farmer helps thresh a harvested wheat crop in a field in Allahabad on April 21, 2018.
©SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP
India’s agriculture sector reform story has been inspiring with sustainable investment at the heart of its recent initiatives. With rapid technological advancement, the marriage of agriculture and innovation has become essential to ensure food security, sustainability and economic prosperity.
The Government of India, under the Digital Agriculture Mission, has introduced a series of agriculture reforms to empower farmers with agricultural technology and ensure transparency in farming assistance. With the estimated number of farmers exceeding 200 million, constituting approximately 55 percent of the country’s workforce, agricultural policies are of paramount importance to the government.*
Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) and the Government of India, NEC in the role of a technology partner is set to jointly launch a centralized one-stop portal for agri-investors to access the benefits of various government schemes implemented by different departments related to agriculture and allied sectors like the National Horticulture Board (NHB), the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, the Department of Fisheries. This initiative utilizes information and communication technology (ICT) to boost agricultural productivity with sustainable investment and improve farmers’ lives in the country.
India holds a prominent position in the global agriculture sector. The country boasts the world's largest cattle herd (cows and buffaloes). The nation ranks as the largest producer of milk, pulses and spices; and the second-largest producer of fruits, vegetables, tea, farmed fish, cotton, sugarcane, wheat, rice and sugar. India's agriculture sector encompasses the second-largest agricultural land area, making farmers an integral part of the sector responsible for the country’s sustenance.
Due to the vast diversity and the involvement of a substantial population in agriculture, a majority of Indian farmers are small with less than one hectare of landholding. This attributes to disaggregated and distributed farms as well as lower levels of efficiency and productivity. The Indian government is channelling its efforts through various initiatives to augment farmers' income through direct benefit transfer schemes, thereby enhancing transparency and prosperity for farmers.
One of the reasons for the low production efficiency is the lack of centralized information on farming technology and investment opportunities offered by the central and state governments under various farmer-centric schemes. This fragmentation has made it challenging for farmers and potential investors to access timely and useful information.
If such information is easily accessible through ICT, investment in the agriculture sector can contribute to enhancing farmers' productivity potentially from domestic and foreign investors, thereby revitalizing Indian agriculture. This ground-breaking initiative has already commenced.
NEC Selected as Partner to Develop ‘Integrated Portal for Farming Investment’
The journey began with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's quest to take on global challenges, including eradicating diseases and poverty, with agricultural development being one of its key initiatives. It has provided significant support to India’s agriculture sector, recognizing it as an effective means to improve the lives of millions of citizens.
Collaborating with the MoAFW, the foundation initiated the development of the "Krishi Nivesh Portal," an integrated platform for agricultural investment.
NEC has been entrusted as the technology partner for this project. NEC was already engaged in agriculture businesses, developing a blockchain-based traceability platform for Indian spices. The program, supported by the Foundation, was also expanded to farmers in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The Foundation’s confidence in NEC's capabilities led to the firm’s participation in the latest project.
Essence of the Project
Numerous government schemes are rolled out by various ministries and departments in India, each with its separate portal for accessing these schemes. Farmers and investors have been required to navigate multiple steps and procedures to access investment opportunities. As government agencies, ministries and departments introduced their own systems for information on farming, agricultural technology and financing schemes, users had to check various sources of information and sift through a considerable amount of materials to obtain the necessary information on investment avenues.
Furthermore, loan applications have been diverse across different schemes and departments, which slowed investments in the agricultural sector. This could result in farmers missing out on necessary support in the form of interest subvention on various agricultural investments.
To overcome these issues, the development of an "integrated and visualized platform" became imperative. This platform would allow all stakeholders to access related information in a centralized manner. In other words, a single portal site would provide access to all pertinent information.
Eight Months to Build the Platform
The project commenced in December 2022, but constructing the platform capable of organizing and centrally managing information from different ministries and departments was not an overnight task. Also, it was difficult to present it in an easily understandable manner. After eight months of close coordination with various departments and ministries, the first phase of the portal was finally completed and is set to be launched with the hope that it will prove user-friendly, accurate and convenient.
The portal features various access points, including “ministries," "schemes," "financial institutions for loans" and "projects," with real-time counts of cases. By clicking them, users can navigate to respective pages, which provide detailed explanations. The system enables users to complete loan applications and directly contact ministries and financial institutions.
Additionally, the site includes dashboards that visualize data from multiple sources and reports, presenting numerical values, graphs and charts for both users and administrators such as governments and financial institutions. This allows all stakeholders to readily grasp the status, leading to the continuous use of the platform and decision-making for efficient policies.
Through the integrated portal, users and providers as well as the government can centrally manage information related to agricultural technologies and investments, efficiently accessing visualized data in real-time. This streamlines the information-gathering process and application procedures, enhancing productivity and encouraging investment. Ultimately, farmers can achieve greater income and improve their lives, further activating farming in India.
Challenges to Achieve Sustainable Society
This project was initiated in recognition of NEC's achievements in the Indian spice industry. NEC utilized state-of-the-art blockchain technologies to track and accumulate information at each stage of the spice value chain from output to processing, distribution and sales. Technology is expected to play a vital role in enhancing efficiency, and agriculture is no exception.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Labs along with its technology partner NEC Corporation having expertise in blockchain has been working with the Spices Board of India to track the Indian spices chain for quality assurance and fair pricing for farmers.**
Another highly regarded project is NEC's agricultural ICT platform, "CropScope," which visualizes the growth status of agricultural products and the farm environment through farming sensors and satellite imagery. The platform provides farming advice using AI technologies, offering instructions on the optimal timing and amount of irrigation and fertilizer application. This ensures stable harvests and lower cultivation costs regardless of each farmer's skill levels, making India's agriculture more environmentally friendly.
This service has already been demonstrated in 11 countries worldwide, including Australia, Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and India, with successful outcomes across various crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, corn, wheat, spices and soybeans.
Due to these achievements, the Indian government, farmers and other stakeholders hold high expectations for the latest project, with NEC's local representatives showing great enthusiasm for its success.
The NEC India Global Development Center (GDC) team is overseeing the rollout of the Krishi Nivesh Portal and the spice blockchain project. They are committed to supporting the further development of a more inclusive and functional portal.
“We, NEC India are proud for being selected as a technology partner of BMGF for this important challenge and shall spare no effort to support further development for more inclusive and functionable portal,” said Solution Factory of GDC in NEC India.
“The Krishi Nivesh Portal has been developed to serve as an integrated, centralized one stop IT solution for all agri-investors to avail themselves of benefits from various government schemes related to agriculture and allied sectors. We envision this platform will allow modern agri-investors to fully leverage the incentives given by the Government of India through its various ministries and departments and benefit from convergence. The portal has been a model collaborative project between the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Invest India, with technical development by NEC Corporation.”
Miho Hara, a member of NEC's International Organization Group, said: "This is a sustainable and very significant project aiming to support the expansion of the farming sector by activating agricultural investment. I am pleased to see ICT playing a role in realizing a system that is not just a one-time subsidy but genuine support for farmers. With the technology and activities of NEC India, we aim to expand this kind of solution in India and abroad."
Satoko Suzuki, also with NEC's International Organization Group, added: "ICT has not been widely used in the agricultural sector, but we are confident that ICT can support farming effectively. I have personally been involved in trial projects. After several years, we were able to jointly realize this project with NEC India, which is a tremendous achievement. This project represents our efforts to not only harness the power of technology but also explore the potential and significance of supporting local strengths."
Building on its achievements in India, NEC aims to expand its integrated agricultural investment portal initiative globally in the future. This endeavor reflects NEC's commitment to creating social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency, promoting a more sustainable world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
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- *Pocket Book of Agricultural Statistics - 2020