Bihar Govt has rightly recognized the potential of agriculture in growth of Bihar. For this purpose a separate “Agriculture Cabinet” has been formed. Road map for agriculture for next 10 years with a massive outlay has been planned as well.
In November and December 2011, I made two visits to Bihar and interacted with Agricultural Research Institute, Farmers and some young Social Entrepreneurs focusing on agriculture. I have also noticed the fact that some of the farmers in Bihar have done world record production of paddy and this encourages me to write this brief note.
In 2011, on behalf of IIT Alumni (Gujarat Chapter) I signed an MOU with Gujarat Govt to “Improve Agricultural Yield using Technology”. I feel that some of the points mentioned in that MOU are also relevant to Bihar. I am willing to work together with Bihar Govt to develop these technologies. The technologies that I am talking about are not part of standard agricultural technologies being covered but are more recent and are under development worldwide. While I would have hesitated to discuss such technologies in Bihar earlier since they would only be beneficial after farmers have started utilizing existing technologies. However now that I have noticed Bihar making fast progress in agriculture, I feel that time is ripe to take up research and development, which would take Bihar to next level and keep it ahead in Nation and World. I would mention these as follows:
Precision farming using sensor network– using the localized sensors linked with wireless communication system to provide real time feedback on various parameters which affect crop yield. As compared to the developed countries, our farm sizes are very small hence we need to develop low cost solutions based on latest advancements in MEMS sensors, micro radio transceivers and processing systems. This would allow us to monitor the spatial variation in moisture, soil properties, hardpan, nutritional status etc. on a much smaller scale.
This kind of technology would allow us to improve the quality of our fruits and vegetables as well as products being developed in green houses. While the basic concept is not new, it is critical to develop such technology at very low cost to make it economical to farmers in Bihar.
Use of Space Technology through Hyper Spectral Imaging– Using the advances in Communication and Remote sensing to create a systematic natural resources database and also to research in the advance area of Hyper Spectral remote sensing to compliment the Soil Health Card Program at ground level.
Soil health card system uses ground level periodic monitoring of soil related information(e.g. every 6 months) based on mobile soil labs to farmers in the villages. This measurement can be supplemented by Hyper Spectral Imaging already available in public domain to provide much greater spatial information and complements the information provided by “Soil Health Card”.
Low cost non-invasive sorting systems – It has now become possible to develop low cost sorting non-invasive machine based on advances in CMOS image sensors and LED light source to sort the agricultural yield based on their attributes such as their quality, size and maturity stage. This would allow farmers to get a better price in the market and would also make it easier for them to access the export market.
Traceability systems development – Traceability is a very important factor in today’s fresh produce industry. With more and more export market coming up with rules for food traceability, it is important to develop low cost technology to meet the needs of food traceability from “seed to plate”.
Traditional systems are very expensive and we need to develop low cost system so that farmers in Bihar are able to export their product in International market, which is going to be crucial for Bihar in next few years.
GIS based planning : Today it has become possible to collect information through remote sensing as well as ground survey using Mobile phones (e.g. Android based systems) regarding crop, water resources, soil condition, weather and all other parameters and add them to a Geographical Information System (GIS) to allow easy access to information and use them in planning. Some of this data can be made available on real time basis through wireless sensor network such as Agro-Weather Sensor Network. It would give a big boost to the way we manage and plan our agriculture.