Innovation is not new to agriculture. Man has managed to innovate in agriculture with simple changes – from crop rotation to drip irrigation. With Indian companies, entrepreneurs, agriculturists and scientists working together to make a difference in the sector.
As Indian efforts come of age, it is interesting to see how innovation is ingrained at all levels- individual, community and corporate. With the latest turn of events in the country, I have penned a few examples that stand out for me as ways of true manifestation of Indian innovation and expertise.
Girish Badragond, a 28 year old guy from Bijapur District came to Bangalore in 2006 with a laptop, a wireless router and one way bus fare. Today, he is a successful partner at a fast-growing technocrat proprietary firm in the field of agricultural technology manufacture. His company provides simple solutions to basic agricultural problems. He invented bore well scanners that helps in measuring groundwater level and has a camera with a flash and 180 degree rotation in horizontal space. The equipment can click pictures, check inflow and outflow of the water. Another such major innovation from India is the advanced mode micro irrigation system. This unique irrigation controller helps to operate the pump sets and irrigation valves from remote places without physically being there. So this piece of machinery is helping farmers to avoid over-irrigation and helping them save their crops.
This was a game changer at a time when traditional farming practices led to wastage of almost 60% of water On the other hand, the usage of drip and sprinkler methods of irrigation can increase the water efficiency to 60-70 percent, and when it is controlled electronically to regulate timing and quantity, water efficiency goes up to 80 percent. A Bangalore-based start-up has developed an affordable irrigation controller for farmers has four irrigation controllers- the Sensor-based irrigation controller (which enables automatic irrigation based on certain conditions like soil moisture, temperature and humidity), the Volume-based irrigation controller (which ensures the efficient use of water for irrigation purposes), the Timer-based irrigation controller (which enables irrigation according to fixed time periods), and the Mobile app and web login controller (which enables the farmer to access data in graphical representation, and controls irrigation through GSM technology). With innovative irrigation techniques like these, Indian agriculture is developing largely.
Coming to the third and perhaps one of the greatest creations of the scientists is in agriculture- seed innovation. While many are sceptical about the impact of biotechnology it is often a result of misinformation.
18 million farmers in 28 countries sow biotech crops in almost 185 million hectares of land. Biotechnology has shown fast progress across the country as well and the current development of GM Mustard by Indian scientists is no mean feat.
GM mustard has been proven to increase yields by 30% and will reduce farming costs. The approval of GM mustard can be a game changer for our mustard farmers as they will be able to grow more and increase productivity from the same resources they have right now. It will be very beneficial commercially as mustard in India is generally used to procure oil. We import almost 50% of our edible oil. The approval of GM mustard can largely help in bringing down that number.
With a majority of our population working in agriculture, it is very important for us to promote innovations like machines, irrigation facilities, GM crops etc. as this will increase the output of the industry and improve the lives of our farmers.
By Dr Narendran M Nair, Scientist