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Is Indianized precision farming possible, or hybrid precision farming?

Notes by Narsi

With global warming adding to the list of challenges that the agriculture sector in India has to deal with - in addition to a fast growing population and increasing cost of inputs - the Indian agriculture sector can really use precision farming, especially given the unorganized way many of the tens of millions of farmers in India have been operating so far.

But precision farming comes with its own challenges - chief among them being its high cost. 

So, two questions arise in my mind: 

  • One, how do we significantly reduce the cost of precision farming for Indian farmers?
  • Two, is it possible to achieve the above by Indianizing precision farming?

One way simply could be relying on economies of scale, which should be applicable at least to the hardware portions. Here, the government could play a role - if, through subsidies or other means it is able to generate scales for precision farming equipment manufacturing, could costs come down significantly?

The second could be through business models. Is it possible for precision farming solution companies to provide precision farming as a service rather than as a product? If yes, then the capex becomes an opex, and if precision farming results in better yields and lower costs, the farmer will be able to pay off the amounts at the end of each payment period with his new-found surplus.

The last part that I'm interested to know is how much of the Indian farmers' wisdom has been incorporated into the precision farming algorithms and intelligence? I agree that such "wisdom" could be a double-edged sword - without scientific support, it might be difficult to say which of these is "good" wisdom and which is not. At the same time, it is possible for the agritech firms to accumulate these "wisdom", and then use scientific analyses to test which of these are indeed valuable - this way, you get the benefit of both qualitative and quantitative analyses. Extending this thought further, will it be possible for hybrid of wisdom-based farming & precision farming? If this could work, then is it possible that the costs could come down to that extent it is a hybrid? I know I'm vague on this point, but sometimes, I just feel that it is worth making a point, and this is one such time :-)

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