Vinod Kumar Samanthul, Director, Aegis, demonstrates a drone. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Joining hands with the biggest rural bank to make agriculture more efficient and climate smart

Vinod Kumar Samanthul, Director, Aegis, demonstrates a drone. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Vinod Kumar Samanthul, Director, Aegis, demonstrates a drone. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

India’s apex rural bank and the international crops research institute explored science-driven digital technology options to transform the rural sector.

In a unique initiative, ICRISAT ihub, an incubator for agri-tech entrepreneurs, conducted a three-day training for senior officials from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), India’s foremost financial institution for sustainable and equitable rural development.

More than 50% of NABARD’s senior staff trained at ICRISAT are trainers themselves, who are a significant link in scaling-out Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the benefits of digital agriculture across India.

Digital technologies for agriculture can be a promising pathway for smallholder farmers to make farming more profitable. It is therefore critical to scale-out proven digital technologies to engage every farmer.

The training on ‘Digital Agriculture and Internet of Things (IoT)’ took place from 12th to 14th March and was significant because capacity and skill building focused on ICTs to increase income and attract youth is one of the priority areas for NABARD.

During the training, ICRISAT scientists presented climate-smart agriculture using geographic information system, remote sensing and climate models. Partners discussed real time applicability of ICTs, precision agriculture and IoT.

Digital technologies have the potential to positively transform agriculture by delivering need-based context-specific and timely information to smallholder farmers. With the help of ICT, farmers can better manage risks (climate, production and market risks). By using the Sowing App developed by ICRISAT and Microsoft, 150 farmers increased their yield by 30%.

“Farmers can also opt for ICRISAT’s intelligent agricultural systems advisory tool (iSAT), a Big Data-driven technology and receive a whole range of farming advice through text messages in their language automatically every week throughout the cropping season,” says Dr Dakshina Murthy Kadiyala, Senior Scientist-Systems Modeling, ICRISAT.

The potential for digitizing agriculture is huge. ‘Kalgudi’, a social media platform for information exchange in the local language connects one million farmers with agriculture value chain stakeholders. ‘Khetinext’ digital platform connects 30,000 farmers directly to quality inputs, consumers and financial institutions. Through Khetinext, farmers could reduce input costs by 30%.

‘Kisan Raja’ an innovation that allows farmers to remotely control agricultural motors to manage water more efficiently was demonstrated during the training.

“We are happy with the training and would like to organize a series of knowledge transfer sessions with ICRISAT to our staff and partners,” says SK Jahagirdar, senior faculty from NABARD’s National Bank Staff College in Lucknow and a primary initiator of the training program.

In the past, ICRISAT and NABARD have worked to enhance technical capacity of stakeholders in agribusiness. While NABARD has expressed interest in collaborating with ihub partners, this unique and successful training initiative may have set off a trajectory for a strong partnership with ICRISAT.

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