India has a tall advantage over China, America, and Russia; which, if capitalized, could make us the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products. Here are three technological tools to capitalize on that advantage and help India set a milestone.

Predominantly an agrarian economy until the 1980s, India witnessed the rise of sectors such as services, manufacturing, and even e-commerce in recent years. The dip in agriculture’s contribution to the national economy, however, has been stark and steep – from nearly 50 percent in the 1970s to 20 percent as of 2021.

Contemporary issues in India’s farming have revolved around weather and pricing inefficiencies of vegetables such as Tomato, Onion and Potato. Sudden spikes in essential vegetables have an unimaginable impact on the common man’s finances. Unexpected spikes also have a cascading effect across canteen/mess, restaurants, hotels, food delivery apps, and everywhere.

People on a Cropland. (Image Credit: Kelly from Pexels)

In the age of artificial-intelligence, keywords such as blockchain may seem assuring. However, these jargons mean nothing to Indian farming, which identifies with a unique set of problems such as small farm-lands, unseasonal weather, and the need for a safe way to store harvest. India’s farming also has to meet additional objectives – it must provide employment, food for a large population, and also contribute to exports.

Although India has achieved several distinctions such as being the world’s largest producer of Wheat, Rice, Sugar, Dairy and Horticultural products, the country also has a tall leverage. That is the availability of arable resources. Compared to China, India has 4-times more arable land resources – more than the United States and Russia.

With a leverage as strong as this, India has potential to feed more than what China does. And the following three technologies may help augment the Indian farming industry.

Plant protection drone. (Image Credit: DJI-Agras from Pixabay)


Usage of Drones can revolutionize India’s farm output. Drones could be used to assess land topography, identification of water-sources, spraying of pesticides, mapping of crop health, and even perform advanced seeding techniques. A common problem is the aspect of farms being located in remote or difficult-to-reach areas for farmers. Drones help farmers overcome these challenges and provide rich, valuable, and live insights.

During a cursory visit to a farm association in Nashik in 2017, I had the opportunity to observe farmers exchanging weather data over a WhatsApp group. Nashik, considered India’s grape-capital, has had a tough time with destructive hailstones. Installing safety nets is a preventive step. Some farmers are also advised to apply chemical compounds such as Hydrogen Peroxide which helps avoid crop-rotting after a hailstorm. The application ought to be swift and in a specific manner. There are specific problems in this example – determining arrival of a hailstorm; estimating the extent of damage; how much peroxide to apply; and lastly where to apply.

Having real-time data transmitted through drones can help farmers take proactive and preventive decisions. Post an incident, drones can help monitor and salvage a crop.

Drones could also help keep a continual watch on livestock. Drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can help identify sick or lost animals, check on their health and behavior, and aid in locating them in vast grazing areas.

The drones specifically built for farm purposes are expensive. However, given the acute labor shortage, there may be interesting use-cases and business models. In 2013, the International Crop Research Institute spotted this worrying phenomenon while more recently, the CFO at Coromandel, an Indian fertilizer provider, reported enthusiasm for their drone-startup. That, attributed to labor shortage in the country.

While drones have wide applications, their usage is still nascent. Perhaps, owing to a high capital investment. Larger drone models with payload-range varying from 10-15 kilograms could cost 8-10 lakhs. The banking regulator has asked banks to provide financial assistance in the form of affordable loans.

Agricultural Robots. (Image Credit: Flickr)

Agri Robots:

Given the labor unrest, automation of manual work such as plucking fruits, tubers, and packaging could be outsourced to a robot. Robotic automation promises better efficiency, labor savings, precision, and consistency.

India has recently witnessed ingenious developments such as Manohar Sambandam’s Cotton harvesting robot. The Thiruvarur based tech-entrepreneur turned to farming on a 12.5-acre land after a successful career with after a successful career with Texas Instruments and Broadcom. In 2016 Sambandam announced that his agri-robot would sell for Rs 5 lakhs.

There are numerous accounts of Indian entrepreneurs building robots for farm purposes. Genrobotics Innovations, a Thiruvananthapuram based firm popular for its manhole-cleaning bot, recently unveiled a robot that automated the process of weed removal. TartanSense or Niqo Robotics (Name changed recently) too offers robotic sprayers and a weed remover. In Kochi, a startup entrepreneur devised a robot that could extract coconut sap from trees. For the power-conscious farmers, a US based startup recently announced a completely Solar-powered robotic service.


Despite India’s large arable resources and output, a whopping 40 percent of food gets wasted owing to inefficient and fragmented supply chain systems. According to a 2016 report from the ministry of food processing, the loss attributed to just fruits and vegetables was a staggering Rs 40,811 crores. Within the category of farm operations, maximum losses were reported with fishing and poultry meat.

The ministry has therefore made provisions for better preservation and augmentation of facilities at abattoirs. Dehydrators are also a good strategy to preserve food. Unlike refrigeration, dehydration works on the principle of drying at low temperatures over long hours. Examples of dehydrated products include dried fish, dried onions, tomato powder, etc. Dehydrated products remain shelf-stable for nearly two to three years. That with vacuum-packaging, zero preservatives or salt.

Although dehydration is practiced actively in the US, the consumer market has moved into new-age concepts such as freeze drying. US consumer appliance maker HarvestRight, for reference, has found renewed consumer interest for its freeze-dryer. This machine could freeze dry anything from vegetables, fruits or meat. Post rendering, the shelf life of products is a crazy two decades. That, without any preservatives.

Compared to freeze-drying, dehydration processes are much simpler – it involves consistent heat (generally under 70 degrees Celsius) circulated at an optimal speed over the commodity to be dried. India’s DRDO has done inspiring work in the form of MRE (Meal, Read to Eat) food for Indian army jawans, but interest from brands and farmers so far has been lackluster. This could be majorly an awareness issue.

To those curious, an entry level 10-tray dehydrator could cost nearly a lakh.Although the proposition sounds expensive, it is reasonable since the pricing involves the cost of SS 304 (SS Grade 304 or 316), heaters/blowers, fabrication and support services. Such technological solutions offer a new perspective to farming. In fact, technology may provide reasonable solutions to the economic challenges of farming. Besides, the intent to apply technology may spur new innovations which could help us solve several short-comings within the farm. 

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Sairaj Iyer is a Mumbai based financial and business journalist. His articles have appeared in Banking Frontiers, The Dollar Business,, and recently The Economic Times and The Times of India. Besides Technology, he writes on strategies, trends in the BFSI industry, policy-making, and personal finance.

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