In order to keep up with the challenges of ensuring nutrition for growing populations, the need for specific and reliable data to mitigate risks to agriculture from climate change, and to include smallholder farmers as stakeholders in the data revolution, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India recently launched ‘FarmerZone’.
Envisaged as an intuitive and collective open-source cloud-based data platform for providing climate smart high-tech solutions to smallholder farmers, FarmerZone is targeted at improving the lives of farmers by catering to a variety of farming needs – from coping with climate change, weather predictions and soil, water and seed requirements, to market linkages to sell produce directly from the farm.
The DBT organized a Smart Agriculture Conclave between 29 August – 1 September 2017 in New Delhi to launch the platform and invite collaborations from leading international experts.
At the conclave, experts from private, public and non-profit sectors along with farmers, brainstormed implementable solutions and discussed their potential role in designing and developing FarmerZone. The main aim of this platform is to design a model that can be scaled up and applied across a number of different agro-climatic zones.
Dr Suhas Wani from ICRISAT highlighted the needs and challenges of smallholder farmers and explained how these can be overcome through specific and quality data. For example, soil analysis data is crucial for decision support tools and timely advice to farmers. Many smallholder farmers depend on rain for agriculture and they suffer when monsoon becomes erratic. ICRISAT scientists have successfully implemented a sowing app which informs the best time to sow, in partnership with Microsoft. This cloud-based real-time sowing app has already supported 150 farmers in making climate smart decisions.
While many such initiatives exist discretely, or even as joint public-private initiatives like Krishidoot which leverages the power of ICT for enhancing agricultural productivity, the challenge of providing smart agriculture solutions to 46 million farming families need a more consolidated effort by various actors. The DBT also aims to establish sentinel sites and delivery systems using artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate the accuracy of solutions to address the needs of farmers in real time.
The conclave was held in collaboration with the Research Council UK (RCUK) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
You can read the summary of the conclave here.
DBT’s FarmerZone will be an intuitive cloud-based platform that will collect, collate and curate field and remotely sensed data along with market intelligence to create smart agriculture solutions to smallholder farmers. A MarketZone will connect farm produce to viable markets.
International partners to this initiative are – The US Department of Agriculture; FAO; IDRC; ICRISAT; GODAN; Penn State University; John Innes Center UK; Innovate UK; University of Reading; The Roslin Institute; Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); and Aberystwyth University.
These partners will collectively contribute knowledge and resources to the FarmerZone.