Kharagpur: In 2015, the Government of India had launched the Digital India programme to transition India’s public service sector into the digital space. Agriculture being the largest employment vertical with a GDP share of 14% holds a key place in this mission to digitization. Over the years, India has witnessed substantial increase in yields, crop diversity due to mechanization and knowledge dissemination programmes. However, the steeping consumption due to population explosion and rising income has been a constant challenge despite the progress in the agricultural sector. While the Govt. of India has set up several programmes to achieve the dual solution of automation and digitization, technical institutions can facilitate the transformation. Towards this end, IIT Kharagpur is training the farming community and organizing outreach programmes.
The Dept. of Agricultural and Food Engineering at the Institute is launching an online course on “Application of Digital Technologies in Agriculture” under the Centre of Excellence for Digital Farming Solutions for Enhancing Productivity by Robots, Drones and AGVs project, NAHEP-CAAST, ICAR, New Delhi. The short-term course by IIT Kharagpur will focus on engaging smart technologies for enhancing productivity with minimal effort and cost. These would include Sensors, Drones, Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Machine Vision Techniques, Computer Aided Design and Advanced Digital Technologies application in Agriculture.
“Outreach projects in agricultural digitization are of paramount importance towards development and adoption of knowledge-intensive agriculture education. Globally researchers have been extending their support to precision farming and smart farming through innovations and data analytics. While our Prime Minister had announced a digital marketplace for the farming community, the technical institutions like ours also need to facilitate farming technology requirements of India. The recent calamities and their aftermath has shown why we need to be ready for bad monsoon or climate change or even return to organic farming ways while enhancing agricultural yields by means of technology,” said Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur and Principal Investigator of NAHEP-CAAST-IIT Kharagpur.
The NAHEP centre is integrated by three interdisciplinary research divisions such as Agribots, Agri-Drones and Agri-AGV’s based on four portfolios – 1. Climate-based Digital Knowledge Support Centre; 2. Seed/Seedling Processing and Nursery Automation Centre; 3. Smart Portable Machinery Centre; 4. Food Processing Automation Centre. It envisages the enhancement of quality and relevance of agricultural higher education to the agricultural university students. “It is crucial to empower the human resources with digital technologies in the field of agricultural science and technology, particularly in less-explored domains. The penetration of such knowledge will drive further R&D and create a culture to understand and expedite the adoption of advanced technologies in agricultural practices,” said Prof. Rajendra Machavaram, joint Principal Investigator of NAHEP-CAAST-IIT Kharagpur. The current course will pilot with the postgraduate and doctoral students, faculty members, and scientists from the Vasantarao Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, Maharashtra.