Centre plans a database on India’s 140m farmers: A kind of UPI for agriculture

10th March 2021

10th March 2021

The Centre is in the process of creating a “digital agri-stack” a hi-tech national farmers’ database, which would enable the government and agribusiness unprecedented insights into rural economy, it’s learnt. 

Under this programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings. Being developed under the Nationale-Governance plan in  Agriculture, the data repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, policies and services like cheap crop insurance and dissemination of mobile-based crop advisories. It can be considered as a UPI for agriculture- with all the records and history of farmers stored in a digital mode. 

Revealing this last year, the joint secretary in the Union Agriculture Ministry and CEO of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) Ashish Kumar Bhutani had said “This will act as a one-stop-shop for data, including access to finance by farmers, startups and researchers for developing new apps, so that the benefits reach the grassroots.”

Government’s schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), PM-KISAN and Soil Health Card will be integrated through a common database along with land record details over a period of time, he said in a statement. The creation of a single unified digital agri-database agristack for India will enable financing for small and marginal farmers.

As per officials, as many as 4.3 crore farmers who were linked with land records have already been verified and soon the details about them will be provided in public domain. 

The database uses Aadhaar-based data generated from key farm sector programmes such as PM-KISAN and then will connect seemingly simple data points: the number of occupational farmers who avail of subsidies, how much land they own, what they grow and which agro-climatic zones they fall in. “These data points will be triangulated by a software that will throw up a far more complex but illuminating picture of the rural and agricultural economy,” the official said. The next step would be to create a model to monetise the data, the official added.

The NITI Aayog states that diverse problems such as inadequate access to credit and information, pest infestation, crop wastage, poor price discovery, and yield forecasting can be sufficiently addressed by use of digital technology. 

Talking about how despite technological development, there’s still lack of accurate farm-economy data, Ravi Saran, the CEO of Upajak, an Indore-based farmer producer organisation welcomed the initiative by the government and said, “We have a longstanding problem of accurate farm-economy data. We mostly depend on periodic surveys and the agriculture census. Real-time data will connect farmers and service providers in real-time,”

The Centre’s Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income has also  recommended boosting digital initiatives in the farm sector with tools such as remote-sensing, geographical information system, data analytics, cloud computing and drones.

Apart from this, the government has also planned to invest approximately Rs 36.71 crores in the agritech startups and out of which, Rs.11.85 Cr has already been invested in 112 startups so far and will be investing the rest of the part soon in other 234 startups.  The entire investment is a part of a ‘component, innovation and agri-entrepreneurship development programme’ under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in this domain by providing financial support. 

India has strong advantage in the agriculture sector and it will be interesting to see how these efforts from the government including the development of digital agri-stack will act as a key enabler for online marketplaces and smart agriculture.

(This report is largely a take on a report in Swarajyamag which we acknowledge with gratitude). 

 

 

 

 

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