With a total food production of 960 million tonnes (MT), the estimated gross value added (GVA) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries to the Indian economy stood at INR 19.48 lakh crore ( USD 254.17 billion) in FY2020. Contributing 20% to GDP (FY2020) and providing employment for over 55% of India’s population, agriculture is one of the important sectors in the Indian economy. India is the largest producer of milk, spices, pulses, tea, cashew nuts and jute, as well as the world’s second largest producer of rice, wheat, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, sugar cane and cotton. Covering around 45% of the peninsula, agricultural activities in India have been increasing their contribution to the global food trade every year.
At the same time, India continues to face complex challenges which are a source of concern for the growing economy. As the second most populous country in the world, food demand continues to grow while agricultural yields are 25% below global averages for major crops. India uses at least twice as much water to produce one unit of food as comparable countries like China and South Africa. Nearly 80% of India’s fresh water is used in agriculture, and more than half of India’s cropland is devoted to water-intensive crops. Averaging 6.8% of total production, agricultural losses amounted to over INR 1,30,000 crore (USD 16.96 billion) in 2020. Desertification or land degradation due to over-exploitation , deforestation and soil erosion cost the country USD 48.8 billion. the country’s chessboard impacting 2.5% of GDP each year.
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Demand for food grains is estimated to increase to 355 MT by 2030 (from 296 MT in 2020). As India strives to achieve grain self-sufficiency, agricultural production continues to be resource-intensive and regionally biased. Climate uncertainties coupled with unsustainable livelihoods drive people away from agriculture. With a heavy reliance on water-intensive crops, the gap between water demand and supply is widening every day. With 30% of India’s land area already degraded, deteriorating soil and water quality is impacting crop yields while threatening food security. Supply chain inconsistencies lead to large-scale wastage of agricultural products. Low farm incomes and slow adaptation to changing times, compounded by climate change and natural disasters, are making farming more difficult day by day. With the increase in population, the pressure to convert cultivable land will continue to increase. The demand to produce “more and better with less” will continue to increase.
The Indian farming community has been slow to take advantage of scientific methods and technologies. While agricultural mechanization in the United States and Europe exceeds 95%, India lags far behind at 40%. IT adoption also continues to be very low at 10% in India. The relatively lower position of India’s agricultural production and crop yields compared to other nations, the depletion of natural resources and global warming, highlight the need for sustainable science-based approaches, without which India as a nation will look harder times.
The need of the hour is to adopt technologies that can provide better situational awareness and actionable intelligence and help the farming community make informed decisions. There is a need for technologies that can help improve the life cycle of crops from farm to fork, help optimize water use for irrigation, minimize product wastage while monitoring uncertainties and help farmers take the right steps at the right time.
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Geospatial technology and its applications
Given the complex multi-disciplinary challenges facing the agricultural sector, geospatial infrastructure, through intuitive mapping and analytics, offers unparalleled capabilities to reveal deeper insights into relationships and patterns, answer complex questions and support informed decisions to foster sustainable agriculture. With the proliferation of location information, improved access to geospatial data, rapid data acquisition via drones, and affordability, geospatial technologies are demystifying complexities and helping to unlock value throughout the agricultural value chain.
Advanced GIS capabilities, including spatial modeling and predictive analytics using artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics, provide enhanced location-specific intelligence for accurate forecasting of likely scenarios to mitigate, plan for and react to. With the high proliferation of internet in rural India, mobile GIS tools are playing a vital role in democratizing geographic information and empowering smallholder farmers with real-time information for informed decisions and risk mitigation.
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Impact on geospatial value
Playing a central role in bringing together data on land, soils, geology, weather, crops, water, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, supply chain, markets and market conditions. market through a common visual language, geospatial technologies provide powerful tools to plan, design, monitor and manage activities throughout the life cycle of crops. By integrating smart IoT-based devices and agricultural infrastructure, geo-enabled precision agriculture offers transformative economic potential for sustainable, climate-smart agriculture, improving crop yields by 18-25%. Integrating location-aware supply chain infrastructure with finance and agricultural activities on a GIS platform can strengthen market linkages and reduce losses by 25-30%, in addition to significant fuel savings and a reduced carbon footprint.
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This, coupled with the economic value offered by geospatial technologies to support sustainable agricultural practices, including land restoration and natural resource management, has a significant impact on agricultural economics. A conservative estimate of the impact of geospatial value (GVI) on the agricultural sector is given in the table below.
Being vital to the economy, the role of the agricultural sector is essential in ensuring food security, increasing farmers’ incomes and creating employment opportunities. Harnessing geospatial technologies for sustainable agriculture is a huge untapped opportunity to improve productivity and achievements in the sector. With the impact of climate change getting tougher by the day, geo-enabled digital transformation is the need of the hour to tackle the multi-faceted challenges. Geospatial infrastructure also provides evidence-based information backed by scientific rigor to strengthen the governance and regulatory framework that can accelerate much-needed agricultural reforms in the country.
 Considering a conservative 5% improvement in crop yields and a 5% reduction in wastage
 Assuming INR 100 per person per month can be passed on as productivity improvement and reaches 50% of the country’s population
 Based assuming that the current cost of environmental degradation in India is set at INR 3.75 trillion ($48.9 billion) and that good planning can reduce degradation by at least 2% per year