Agricultural technology needs public private partnerships

  • India’s plan to deliver agricultural technology services to farmers through public private partnerships is likely to boost the country’s farming sector and address the challenges of sustainability, efficiency and inclusivity.
  • The country expects to unlock an economic value of $50-65 billion through digital agriculture by 2025, according to a report.
  • Leveraging technology will be critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change and ensuring farmers are financially resilient.
  • Public and private bodies should work together to pool resources and funds to leverage agricultural technology.

The Indian Government’s proposal to deliver hi-tech services to farmers through public private partnerships (PPPs), recently presented in its annual budget, is likely to offer critical support for the agricultural sector at a time when it is greatly needed.

The COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine has massively disrupted the global food system, putting huge pressure on agriculture-focussed countries like India to provide more sustainable options.

This is where agricultural technology could prove key. India has potential economic value of $50-65 billion through digital agriculture by 2025 translating to 23% addition to the current value of agricultural produce, according to a report by the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and McKinsey & Company.

Such investment can also have a significant impact beyond the economy. With 60% of India’s agricultural land being rain-fed, climate change poses a critical threat to food and agricultural systems.

So using agricultural technology and precision tools will be more important than ever to prevent hunger and eliminate food waste, and making these technologies more available to India’s 130 million smallholder farmers can ensure greater financial resilience for them.

As new technologies present a major opportunity to transform agricultural systems, every stakeholder must play a role in realizing this potential. This is where public private partnerships (PPPs) will be vital.

Public private partnerships key to leveraging agricultural technologies

Public private partnerships involve collaborations between a government agency and private sector body to finance, build and deliver a public asset or service. They combine the strength of the government’s mandate and ability to deliver public services, with the private sector responsible for investments, technology, products and distribution systems.

Under a PPP model for agriculture, a start-up ecosystem can drive emerging tech innovations and agile business models, while universities and research institutions can bring in domain level agricultural expertise and help validate the solutions for scaled deployments. In addition, the role of farmer producer organizations (FPOs) and non-governmental organizations are critical for building capacity and extending digital products and services to farmers.

Fundamentally, there are four pillars needed for successful public private partnerships in agriculture and how they are already being applied in India:

  • Open up the data ecosystem.
    Why it’s important: Through an extended discussion with 35-plus leading agricultural technology start-ups and some of the largest industry players, opening up critical datasets are the most important factor for unlocking the $65 billion digital agriculture economy. Farm level digital advisory services can enhance productivity by 15%, but they need datasets of soil
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