We hear about drones, IoT, satellites and blockchain being thrown about rather liberally out there as a savior for indian agriculture. How much is this gas?  Governments going gaga, startups mushrooming courting bureaucrats and investors with fancy presentations and projections, media gushing with platitudes and hyperboles, its a crazy scene.  One might go blind with all the sunshine pumping about tech.  Lets take a peek and see what has potential now, and what might be still far away.

Drones:  the govt of india does not allow drones beyond line of sight and drones with payloads. so drones cannot fly far, and they cannot carry any pesticides or anything for spraying on fields.and they wont allow both for a while, as they have some serious security issues that arise. rogue drones could fly anywhere if beyond line of sight is allowed, and installations, institutions, public places, venues and ports like airports don’t have any anti/counter-drone neutralizing capabilities. and those are very expensive at the moment.  carrying payloads also presents challenges as they could carry toxic chemicals and could be dropped anywhere. more closer to farms, spraying from drones could drift to neighbouring fields and damage those crops.  who is liable then?  lastly the business model for running a drone operation by a village entrepreneur is unviable at the moment. what if the costly equipment malfunctions? requires spares? whats about skillset to maintain? is there power in rural india to charge the batteries for continuous operation.  more on a separate post on this.

IoT:  sensors are great.  but what to do with all the data?  who is going to maintain this out in the field? how many of them fail?  what if the crow shits on them, the tractor or some implement is run over it or someone steals them?  the environment in the field is very harsh, and there are only more questions than answers.  at this point, these are more like a hobby or for richer farmers to throw their money to play and showoff. well, maybe the grape and the pomo farmers benefit.

Satellites: good stuff but some years away for it to get affordable. and then it still needs a lot of interpretation and extension to small farmers for it to be useful to them. not only that, land mapping to farmers is still years away as land records digitization is lagging, land ownership data is sketchy, and land use patterns has to be chronicled over time.   who is or who will be using it? most of the action is centered for weather companies, governments, banks and insurance companies at the moment.  and maybe many large companies that are engaged in contract farming.  but its all in the experimental, pilot stages.  and then during rain, cloud cover for four months, what? is the technology robust to peer through clouds?  shade, tree cover also present some challenges for specific scenarios.  and lastly privacy of all this data when it comes to individual farmer’s rights is very very concerning.

Blockchain:.  complete waste of time, fishing expeditions and tech companies taking everyone for a ride till they get a bait.  will only result in white elephants.  as far as indian context is concerned.  for it work, all stakeholders and competitors need to participate.  we are years away.  everything that blockchain claims can be done with existing tech if really there’s a need. as someone said, blockchain is a solution searching for a problem.

Thats it for now.  more on detail on each in follow up posts.  thanks for reading.