The Rising Significance of In-Season Crop Tracking in India

Published by – Ritabrata Mitra, AGM – Sales, RMSI Cropalytics

India grows more than 40 different crops in its 6.65 lakh villages 1 . Such has been the diversification and cropping intensity that India ranks amongst the top three countries globally for more than 20 different agriculture commodities. This growth in Indian agriculture started with the onset of the green revolution in the early 1970s & has been fueled ever since by various factors such as improved irrigation, availability of high-yielding hybrid seeds, usage of compound fertilizers, usage of selective pesticides & improved farm mechanization.

 India is the world’s largest producer of pulses & jute and ranks second in Paddy, Wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruits, and cotton 2. Although Paddy still contributes to 25% of the total cropped area, contributing to 40-43 percent of the total foodgrain production 3 , gone are the days when Indian farmers only used to grow paddy or wheat to sustain themselves.

Indian farmers now understand domestic & international market needs and diversify their cropping patterns. The government of India supports diversification by declaring minimum support prices for 22 different crops4—commodity exchanges such as NCDEX & MCX trade seven different agriculture commodities. 

The export of Indian agricultural commodities has also grown significantly, and today, India is amongst the top ten countries globally in terms of agricultural commodity exports. In fact, agriculture commodity exports contribute to 11.9% of the total export revenue for the Government of India.6

These factors indicate that Indian farmers will experiment and will continue to grow different crops in the next decade to improve their profitability & livelihood.

Hence, the bigger question arises: how do policymakers in different public and private agribusiness organizations navigate ever-changing diverse cropping patterns and make tactical decisions for the welfare of farmers? How do agri-input companies (seed, crop protection, crop nutrition & farm machinery) reach the farmers with the required solutions just in time?

In addition to the above, there is the ever-increasing threat of global warming, because of which there is uneven & erratic rainfall, leading to shifts in the cropping calendar. Such is the adversity of global warming in 2023; a few districts in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Gujarat saw extremes of flood and drought within the same season, affecting crop production—variations in crop production lead to price fluctuation. Warehouses need to be optimized as staggered sowing results in staggered harvest. These variations have to be factored in by agri-output companies such as commodity buyers and food & beverage manufacturers.

Thus, to tackle the above challenges and understand farmer behavior better, tracking agriculture commodities from seed to harvest is important in every village in India. But again, the following question arises: how does any organization track such a vast land mass with small fragmented landholdings?

Organizations will need to look beyond human intelligence. They will need to move to smarter and more affordable technologies such as remote sensing, satellite imaging, and precision farming that can cover vast stretches of land and give real-time information with high levels of accuracy.  

RMSI Cropalytics has been a forerunner in addressing these challenges through GIS & Remote sensing technologies. It has been tracking crop production from seed to harvest for the past three decades in India and abroad. It has helped Government organizations, Agri-input & Agri output manufacturers, and Financial institutes such as Insurance & Lending organizations.

Cropalytics has created a unique interactive portal called PInCER™ that has defined land boundaries for 6.65 lakh villages in India. It estimates what crop is grown within these village boundaries, how many acres are sown for different crops in a village, the health status of the crops, soil moisture, and many other valuable facts. All these insights help agri-input manufacturers understand crop diversification and provide customized solutions for various crops to farmers on time.

Previously, agri-input manufacturers would stock up inventory before the season & wait for farmers to utilize them. Nowadays, they use satellite data granularly at the village level and then plan logistics, warehouses, and customized market campaigns. This helps them delay credit outflow, avoid stocking up on inventories months before the application, target specific villages based on sowing status & provide customized solutions to farmers.

Agri-output manufacturers can plan things better by using GIS technologies. The price of any agricultural commodity depends on multiple factors such as volume, period of arrival at the mandi, etc. All these factors can be studied and analyzed village by village for each crop. In addition to estimating crop acreages across villages, Cropalytics will provide yield estimates on a rolling basis using validated remote sensing-based AI tools. The portal can track the harvesting time of crops in different villages, which will help agri-output manufacturers optimize storage efficiency and plan for the effective procurement of agricultural commodities.

Insurance companies can estimate crop loss damage through natural calamities using remote sensing rather than conducting on-ground field surveys. Through remote sensing, lending organizations can evaluate farmers better and more cost-effectively before loan disbursement. Validation of checkpoints and tracking crop production & harvest can be done through remote sensing, allowing banks and NBFCs to remain more vigilant and reduce their NPAs. Cropalytics is partnering with multiple insurance and reinsurer companies and has also built a robust farmer credit score using remote sensing data to help lending organizations be alert before loan disbursement.

RMSI Cropalytics is a global organization connecting the entire Agri-value chain from farmers to decision-makers and bridging the information gap by delivering smart analytics.


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