How Digital Is Transforming The Farming Industry With #AgriTech – Interview With Anil Kumar Singh
At this defining moment of digital transformation, #AgriTech is emerging to help farmers become smarter, more efficient and to grow faster. This, in turn, will help our planet to become smarter where everyone has enough to eat while respecting the people and natural resources around them.
We had a very deep discussion with Anil Kumar Singh, Director, and CIO of DiGi-Agro Consulting and ex-CIO of Krishak Bharati Co-Operative Limited on how technology is transforming the farming industry with #AgriTech in India.
Here is the detailed conversation:
Q1. Technology is transforming the industry with #AgriTech startups in India alone raising $53 million in 2017. How have you been leveraging digital to meet farmers dynamic requirements?
It is True that a lot of technological developments have taken place in order to improve the life of Farmers in Agriculture sector and manual efforts have reduced. The yield has also increased across the country. More and more farmers have started adopting new technological products /tools in their farming.
With more technological developments, the requirement of farmers to update their knowledge in their specific field have also increased.
A number of Digital apps and portals have been made available for the farmers so that they can access them to get their requirement fulfilled. Digitization of manual records in the Government departments has also made things easy in making their day to day requirement of loans, land sale purchase, fertilizer purchase on subsidy by using POS Machines across the country. By sharing the problems and solutions across the country through e-mail, mobile, on social media, through Kisan Sewa Kendra and contact centers, using Mobile Applications, improvements are being observed.
Q2. How are you tackling the challenge of digital penetration in India, especially, among the rural dwellers, which largely form your target market?
Digital penetration in rural areas has started but at a slow pace. There is a number of challenges that needs to be addressed:
1. Basic computer training, operational skill development training to use wallet payment, Paytm, money transfers electronically etc.
2. Internet connectivity availability in the area
3. Power availability
4. Skilled manpower to execute the IT project
In rural areas, empowerment to farmers and especially youth, on how to use the computers and how to access the information of their needs, to be demonstrated by skill development program for every village. The government should ensure data connectivity and power availability.
It is observed that no. of one time programs are being launched and then it is left with no monitoring of progress and resources. Continuity and support are required till it is fully adopted by the farmers/ people.
So the Digital training campaign should be on regular intervals especially to village level youths.
Q3. Are the farmers (finally) willing to trust computers and researchers more than their age-old traditions? What is your experience?
Everyone believes in execution and demonstration. Once they see how new technologies have helped in getting their work easier and in return produce more yield, they try it out and get convinced. We visit them and demonstrate our farm performance through video and pursue them to come to nearest Kisan Sewa Kendra and Agriculture centers, they have experienced these traits after spending a number of years on the farm. Once they start using computers and see the information of other areas, they shall believe. Seeing is believing. It is not that age-old info is not important but by encashing their rich experience and adding latest developments in agriculture field one can convince anyone to adopt the technology. And this is happening these days. They are not to be neglected but they need to be empowered to make use of information available and use digitally.
Q4. What are the top technologies you are counting on to fight challenges in areas of storage, improving supply chain, quality seed procurement, increased production, logistics, and distribution?
By adopting the following technologies, challenges to spread the digital scenario can be minimized:
1. Mobile technology
4. A Supply Chain Management software Application to get linked with all other related sites to purchase and sell products.
Q5. What are the Digital agriculture platforms which you recommend for farmers?
As declared by Government, the following steps shall help farmers in getting available services:
1. Enrollment of Aadhar number and linked with Bank Account number to get a subsidy on fertilizers and seeds.
2. Access to payment gateway like Paytm, E-wallet, Valid E-mail Account
3. Internet Connectivity with Laptop, or Desktop or Smart Mobile
4. Knowledge to use these facilities through Computers.
Number of Government developed agriculture platforms are available to make use like e-mandi, e-bazar, e-agri which provides all related information and their marketplace facilities to purchase and sell crops and related items like fertilizers, seeds etc.
Q6. I understand that you need to maintain your algorithmic secrets. Could you tell us about the biggest digital challenge(s) that you are currently working on?
I have worked in Agriculture sector for more than 30 years in fertilizer manufacturing industry like IFFCO , KRIBHCO and OMIFCO in India and Overseas having marketing network across the country. During the implementation of Digital network to connect the farmers and making them aware of the various types of fertilizers, seeds, and its methodology to use it properly through digital platforms.
What I could gain that lot of knowledge need to be imparted based on the soil nutrients, seed quality, type of fertilizer and quantity to apply for a particular yield to get. In spite of a lot of resources made available for them to access the data, connectivity and power are the main constraints at rural areas.
After superannuation from service of KRIBHCO , I started my own startup as DiGi-Agro Consulting which main focus on making information available digitally on Mobile and to provide all training materials on how to use e-wallet, Paytm, Purchase and sell thru e-portal of various companies, how to start their own agriculture-related queries and get their answers in the initial stage. Once they started enjoying the power of tools either on their desktops or laptops or on Mobile, the Digital mission shall be achieved.
Q7. How do you suggest, any CIO or business leader can achieve Digital Success?
A CIO of a company is one who understands the business along with technology. Gone were the days when the role of CIO/ IT Head were only to look after IT Infrastructure.
At present, CIO is very close to CEO role and are taking over the role of CEO as they need to align the business with technology and reap the benefit of adopting suitable technology to increase productivity and Efficiency.
Change management needs to be implemented before any Digital transformation to be initiated. Look for the business processes which need to be re-engineered as per your Digital plan. Like before implementation of any ERP, see that your company business processes are studied carefully as per compliance and development an awareness program for all the stakeholders along with employees thru change management process.
Replace the repetitive manual work with the digital workflow system and start aligning the business with applicable technology.
Q8. What keeps you motivated?
Always eager to make people aware of available knowledge which I have attained to especially rural areas youth and farmers. Dream of making Farming as an industry and making it a lucrative career for the young ones.
With the Govt. Dream of Digital India and Rural India, I shall put all my effort to be in the direction.
I profusely thank Anil, for his time and insights. We need leaders like Anil to share more information like this so that the CIO/CTO community can benefit from it.
LinkedIn Q&A is a series on #DigitalSuccess, we are coming up with more such Q&A sessions. Keep watching.
Read the past LinkedIn Q&A’s below:
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