Multiple Rewards of a Career in Agriculture

Career in agriculture is economically and emotionally satisfying

As long as there is life on this planet, we will need food for sustenance. And food, for human beings in particular, can only be produced through agriculture and its allied services. As a qualified engineer, I was set on an enviable career in the corporate sector, when a chance conversation with my grandfather threw up many questions in my mind. An 88 year old farmer, he was disillusioned with the hardships faced by farmers and low profitability in the occupation. He predicted a bleak future for agriculture in India. Unconvinced with his argument, I set out to understand the farming ecosystem. What I discovered at the end of my travel changed my life. I found that agriculture as a career of choice is a goldmine waiting to be discovered. Its potential is huge and largely unrecognised. I came across many studies which revealed that the demand for food will double in the next decade. Without doubt, this sector is poised to grow – more so than any other sector! And hence, even at a  very young age, I started to wonder why a corporate job in an urban environment should seem more alluring?

Why could Agriculture not be seen as a ‘career of choice’ among India’s youth? Over the last few years of working within the sector, many reasons started to unfold. For one, farming used to be a labour intensive occupation. With more people migrating to urban locales, farmers often found themselves without enough helping hands. In addition to this, the farming community, by and large, has been slow to adopt technology. The cost of tractors and other farm equipment is exorbitant and it is not feasible for a small farmer to lock up finances on such machinery. Low internet penetration in the villages continues to be a challenge that
prevents farmers in India from having access to global knowledge sharing platforms. They, therefore, rely on traditional know-how rather than adopting global best practices. In addition to all of this, inadequate banking facilities in villages and low access to capital acts as a further deterrent to farmers in rural areas. Urbanisation, rising cost of real estate, aspirations of having steady, salaried white collared jobs also play a big role in taking youngsters away from the land that traditionally belonged to their forefathers. Unfortunately, farmers are painted erroneously in the media and on celluloid. They are portrayed as an exploited, uneducated, underprivileged, unhappy lot and they are most often in the news for all the wrong reasons. While this may have been true decades ago, today farming in India is a highly scalable profession. Farming is a sector that is ripe for disruption: there are 120 million agri-households in India, most of them holding less than 2 hectares of land. To meet the challenges of the future, many of these households require access to finance, machinery and modern technology. Young entrepreneurs who are successful in bringing products and services to these millions stand to gain a lot, as the numbers are compelling, and opportunities aplenty.

Young India needs to be made aware of all the different ways in which they can swing the ball towards a big win- for themselves, as well as for the country. A host of companies have identified challenges that are faced by farmers and offer solutions that encourage them to pursue agriculture. For example, today we have companies that rent out farm equipment to farmers. Normally, vegetable farmers grow 2.5 to 3 crops cycles in a year. With machine renting facilities, vegetable farmers can sow and harvest around 5 to 6 cropping cycles. Now we also have smart-phone applications that communicate with underground sensors, to deliver easy-to-understand data such  as soil moisture and mineral levels, to a farmers’ mobile devices.

As a result, a farmer can earn anywhere up to Rs 5,000 in a day!

The development of many such recent innovations in Biotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Data  Analytics, Machine Technology have made farming more scientific, less labour intensive and more rewarding. All this, by no means, paints a dismal picture for agriculture, agriculturists or ancillary services that young India can build on. At 157.35 million hectares, India holds the second largest agricultural land in the world. Comprising 20 agri-climatic regions, all 15 major climates in the world exist in India. This makes India the ideal food producing bowl of the future. Already, we are the largest producer of spices, pulses, milk, tea, cashew and jute; and the  second largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane, cotton and oilseeds. We are second in the global production of fruits and vegetables, and we are the world’s largest producer of mango and banana. India also has the highest productivity of grapes in the world. With a total food grains production in India reaching an all-time high of 251.12 million tonnes (MT) in FY15, India is among the 15 leading exporters of agricultural products in the world. To encourage farm labour, the govt has tired a minimum wage for unskilled agricultural labour in C-class towns at Rs 350 per day. The Government of India also introduced several projects to assist the  agriculture sector.

They are Pradhanmantri Gram Sinchai Yojana, a scheme which aims to irrigate the field of every farmer and improve water use and achieve `Per Drop More Crop’. In addition to speaking to a number of farmers and understanding their potential, today, career aspirants who are exploring agriculture as an option must have a detailed understanding of the entire agriculture allied ecosystem. This will help students and entrepreneurs to make informed decisions, while they get off the beaten track and look for more innovative career options.

Alekh Sanghera, CEO, Farmart