August 6, 2020

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Indian farmers to have better access to technology

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According to a press release, for farmers to have access to more tech-based farm machinery on a rent-basis, the government is promoting Custom Hiring Centres (CHC) through the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM) project.

Under the scheme, subsidies are provided at 40% to individual farmers for projects costing INR 60 lakhs (about US$ 84,185) and 80% to a group of farmers for projects worth up to INR 10 lakhs (about US$ 14,030).

The release said farmers of the northeastern region (NER) will be given “special consideration”. A 95% subsidy for a project cost of up to INR 10 lakhs (about US$ 14,030) is provided to groups of NER farmers to set up custom hiring centres.

For the establishment of hi-tech and hi-value agricultural machinery CHCs, financial aid of around 40% of costs for individual farmers for a project worth INR 250 lakhs (about US$ 350,771) will be provided.

In Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, to reduce the amount of air pollution that comes from crop burning, a new central sector scheme called the Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for the In-Situ Management of Crop Residue has been launched.

Through the scheme, financial assistance at 80% of the project cost will be provided to the farmers.

The government has also developed a multi-lingual mobile application called CHC Farm Machinery. It helps farmers get rented farm machinery and implements through CHCs in their area.

Presently, 44,607 CHCs with 139,319 agricultural machinery for renting out are registered on the app. A total of 114,461 farmers as users are registered on the platform.

The agricultural sector contributes about 16% of the country’s GDP and its third-largest sector, after the services and industrial sectors. The digital transformation of agricultural processes is crucial to the sector’s growth.

Last year, OpenGov reported that India hosts more than 450 start-ups in the agri-tech segment and in the first six months of 2018 it received more than US$ 248 million.

Over the past few years, the agri-tech sector in India has witnessed some of the global and sector-focused funds directly investing in agri-tech start-ups. In June of last year, the sector received funding that was a massive growth of 300% as compared to the previous year.

Every ninth agri-tech start-up in the world is originating from India. There has been a 1.7-times increase in average farmer income in the last decade, enabling farmers to try new tech solutions.

More than 50% of agri-tech start-ups offer supply chain solutions like market linkage, better access to inputs, etc.

Emerging areas like market linkage, digital agriculture, better access to inputs, FaaS (functions-as-a-service), and financing are gaining traction.

These technology adoptions are enabling numerous agri-tech start-ups to bring forth farming-related advanced technological mechanisms to help local farming become a sustainable and profit-yielding enterprise. The government should set up micro-funds to promote innovation, offer support in terms of incubation, acceleration, and catalytic funding, and open incubation centres.

To thrive, the ecosystem needs to focus on driving innovation, data collaboration, easy working capital, and providing digital infrastructure to enable real-time access to farmers across the country.

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