27 Oct 2022

Importance Of Data Science In Agriculture Sector

Ekeeda Moderator
Works at Ekeeda

The time is right for India’s agricultural sector to adopt best practices with data science, deploy smart farming techniques, build integrated supply chains, and Improve yield & productivity.

Agriculture Sector: An Overview

Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy, however, the industry currently needs more support in terms of enhanced productivity, hybrid crops, smart farming, and more. India is a country with over a billion people and around 70% stay in rural areas. With 40% of the nation's workforce, being deployed in agriculture & its allied sector, it is one of the major industries and influencers of the Indian economy. The agricultural sector contributes 16% of India’s GDP growth which stands at a staggering $2.3 trillion.

GDP in India

India is one of the largest agricultural product exporters in the world. For 2021-2022, the nation recorded US$ 49.6 billion in total agriculture exports with a 20% increase from US$ 41.3 billion in 2020-21. India’s agriculture sector primarily exports Agri & allied products, marine products, plantation, and textile & allied products. Agri & allied products exports were valued at US$ 37.3 billion, recording a growth of 17% over 2020-21.

But even with the largest land area under agriculture, the agricultural yield per hectare is quite low for the majority of crops in India, indeed a matter of concern. The gap in productivity and efficiency creates a major dent in the Indian farm & agriculture sector.

Data Science In Agriculture

Data-driven agriculture offers cost savings and business opportunities. The adoption rate of data science services and big data analytics in farming is consistently increasing. 

Why India’s Agriculture Is Reeling Behind?

The agriculture sector in India lacks attention, financial support from banks, and farmer welfare schemes and suffers a range of other disasters like depleting groundwater levels, climate change, droughts or floods, unfair market pricing on crops, migration of farmers towards city leaving aside farming for better-paying jobs, etc. These challenges make mechanization difficult and the implementation of technology tougher. Other challenges include - untimely access to genuine and HD quality heavily intermediated supply chains, dependence on monsoon rains, and inadequate storage facilities. With incomes already under pressure, farmers are unable to modernize these agricultural practices to smart farming and improve yield.

Factors That Affect Agriculture Sector

On top of this, the demand for food continues to increase manifold as the population keeps growing. The productivity challenges in the agricultural sector need urgent solutions. Also, inspite when basic food security is achieved, there is rising demand for healthy, fresh, and nutritious food variety for a healthy lifestyle. Conscious customers want to know how & where their food has been produced, the process, and storage until it reaches their plate.

Thus, with government bodies and institutions failing to upgrade agriculture, the time has come for technology to take over the change. It’s Data Science that will rescue the agricultural sector!

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Data Science To Address Agriculture Challenges

Data Science is the art of deriving meaningful insights from data. It will make use of real-time and past data to form valuable insights on buyer’s spending patterns, customer credit, product or service testing, cropping patterns & more. Data science plays a significant role in banking, healthcare, e-commerce, both nationally and internationally. The principles of data science can also be applied to the Indian agriculture industry across the value chain – right from farming to processing and distribution or retail outlets.

For instance:

Farmers Edge – The Canadian-based company collects daily satellite images of farms & combines it with other relevant data. It has the information of 4000+ interconnected weather stations!

Improve Crop Yield And Productivity

One of the major challenges Indian farmers face is the lack of access to the best practices - Sowing Harvesting & storage. Farmers will need to tailor the choices of crops & their care-taking techniques to the soil, weather conditions, and water resources to derive the maximum yield & production. Data science will give valuable insights into farmers' land and farming patterns like – what to plant when to plant, and what are the best farm practices in given climate conditions. Thus, this well-informed decision will save a fortune and help farmers increase profitability and income.

Want to learn more about data science? Read: Future Of Data Science And Important Skills For Data Scientists 

Implement Smart Farming

The solutions to make real-time monitoring of crops will help farmers deploy corrective measures on time. For instance, early crop detection in crops and monitoring of soil moisture levels on farms will help optimize yields.  Smart Farming is the breakthrough application of science & technology in the agricultural field. It even involves applying techniques like IoT, Big Data and Data analytics in the agricultural field. The application of Big Data and data analytics creates an impact on the realm of supply-chain, gives accurate predictive insights on the best farming practices & operations, helps re-design business models, delivers real-time decisions on operations, etc.

It will even use technologies like the Internet of Things, cloud computing, Machine Learning, and AI to enable farmers to develop better insights on necessary actions to take better and more informed decisions on farming practices. Such solutions will even help farmers to automate and optimize the processes like pesticide spray, irrigation, rejuvenation of soil, and other important farming activities.  Smart farming will help farmers to solve the shortcomings and pitfalls of agriculture.

Farmers Financial Solutions

Banks and other financial institutes don’t have adequate data on the performance of crops, and farmers' income. Data science techniques on farmlands and cultivation trends will help financial companies to work out a suitable loan & insurance products for agri-related financing. Higher variable costs & limited access to data has made lending & farmer insurance, not so-viable business – particularly where the majority of farmers own small piece of land across India. 

But, modern-day solutions are now using satellite images and various combinations from non-traditional data sets such as weather forecasts, and satellite images to track progress in field cultivation, weather patterns, hybrid crop growth, etc. Such solutions will help predict farm-level yields and make financial institutions help farmers with financial and insurance products, loans to work capital, and capital expenditure for farmlands.

Build Integrated Supply Chains

The recent pandemic attack across the globe has urged the need to integrate the supply chain in a robust manner. Crisis or not, everyone needs food on their table. Thus, data-led and tech-enabled processes will enhance procurement capabilities, farm-level tracking, and make sure there is a smooth supply chain and help reduce unnecessary waste of food. Business models in other markets have proven themselves with the use of data in agriculture. Several companies have recognized the applications of data science to solve agricultural obstacles.  For instance, FarmBee - RML Farmer provides fertile agriculture content and information at every stage of the crop life cycle. A farmer can choose from 450 crop varieties, 1300 markets, and 3500 weather locations. It also provides mandi prices and weather forecasts based on a user's location. The last decade has also witnessed an increase in agri-tech investment through sector-focused & early-stage general funds.

Data Science In Agriculture

Sources: surveysindia.com

Why Digitalization In Farming?

India has the second-largest road network in the globe. The connectivity between cities, towns, and rural markets has improved a lot in the past couple of years. Most Indian villages now have better access to electricity, water supply, and other things. Infrastructure is ready to offer a digital arm to the agriculture sector and make it more efficient and quick. Right from buying crops to doing a weather forecast and projecting the crop yield everything could be done at the click of a button - on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Data science plays a crucial role in this to generate statistics and provide security to the overall process. 

Road Map Ahead

The cost of mobile data & technology costs such as IoT devices, controllers, chipsets, etc. have reduced significantly in the last couple of years. Smartphones have penetrated nearly every activity of life and the use of mobile devices is bound to rise in near future. India is rapidly digitizing, & it will produce a voluminous amount of data. The number of companies that use data to improve farmers' income and farm productivity is increasing day by day; thus the need for skilled data scientists in the market. The digital revolution of the agricultural sector has begun and innovative business practices will find their niche while addressing the agriculture sector’s pressing needs.

Real-Life Instance Of Data Science In Farming

One of the great examples is Egypt – where farmers use water pumps to collect water from the Nile river for their crops. With the help of advanced water sprinklers, farmers irrigate large fields and help the crops to get sufficient water which is essential for crop nurture and growth. Data science practices make processes easy and cut down the time and energy in watering crops.

Some Great Apps In Farming

Krish-e, a popular agriculture app from Mahindra & Mahindra, provides a personalized crop calendar for farms as well as useful agriculture information such as land preparation, crop sowing, crop planning, fertilizer management, seed treatment, pest and disease management, crop diagnosis, and treatment, weed treatment, and irrigation.

Crop Insurance is a wonderful app that helps farmers to calculate insurance premiums for notified crops and provides information on cut-off dates & company contacts for their crop and location. It can be used to get details like normal sum insured, extended sum insured, premium details, and subsidy information of any notified crop in any notified area

Shetkari Mitra is a multi-functional mobile app made for farmers in India. It provides information and knowledge about Governmental schemes, crop management, Agri-Business & Guidelines, market rates, and Success Stories in agriculture.

Thus, technology is helping farmers to create a personalized farming calendar, easily track agriculture, pay premiums or file claims, track government schemes, and do loads of other activities on smartphones.

These were just a few of the cases where you can put data science techniques at work for agricultural corporations right away. Also, we can predict the opportunities that it can bring in the future. Technology has played a huge role in developing the agricultural industry. Today, it is possible to grow crops in desert areas with the help of agricultural biotechnology and there is a lot of scope for it.

On A Concluding Note – 

Data-driven agriculture will boost productivity and help to fight agricultural-based challenges including food supply-demand, crop security, and starvation. Businesses supported by reliable technology providers have demonstrated the tangible benefits of smart farming. The rate of investments in this domain only confirms the upward trajectory of Big Data For data-driven agriculture development.

'Data Science' is the fastest-growing, most in-demand technology worldwide. Data scientists leverage the power of technology to gain valuable insights from the reams of data businesses. Data Science Jobs are in huge demand across India, and there will be nearly 2 lakh+ openings for data science in 2022. The market analysis says over half of the current IT-talented individuals, engineers and commerce graduates, and statisticians should equip themselves with data science skills since their existing skills are getting simply getting outdated or nearly extinct. Data Scientist skills are well-equipped since data is the most important element in any form of business or even government bodies. These skilled data professionals are now an integral part of any industry or company; not mere consultants. As advanced techniques like face recognition cameras, biometrics, AI tools, and drones are on trend, important elements in the agricultural sector compile more & more data thereby increasing the reliability of skilled data scientists' insights.

To know about the salary of data scientists read: The Ultimate Guide: Data Scientist Salary in India

There are several platforms online wherein you can learn data science in the comfort of your home or office. Learn data science with industry experts and gain an edge over the competition. Industry-focused curriculum, assignments, case studies, and real-life projects will help get hands-on practice on data science concepts & trends. Mocks, resume writing, and profile-building sessions will further boost your confidence to secure jobs in top data science companies in India.

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