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Ahuja Harps On Agritech

New Delhi: Manoj Ahuja, Secretary Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has said that the Union Government has always been emphasizing on use of technology for the benefit of Agriculture sector and Farmers.

Mr.Ahuja said this while chairing the First meeting of Technical Advisory Committee for Strengthening and Transforming MNCFC into a Center of Excellence (CoE).

He said that the Central Government has taken several initiativestowards promoting Digital Agriculture. Agriculture Ministrysetup a specialized organization ‘Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC)’ in 2012 as an attached Office of Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (DA&FW), focusing on enhancing satellite remote sensing and GIS technologies in crop estimation.

Considering the recent advancements in the geospatial technology, DA&FW has recognized the need to scaleup the technology solutions in agriculture decision support.

Expertsfrom ISROCentres, International Rice Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Studiesand senior officials from DA&FWparticipated in the meeting.

Mr.Ahuja highlighted the need to scale up utilization ofsatellites, drones, smart phones, AI/ML techniques to develop scientific information products and services for informed decision making by multiple stakeholders in the agriculture sector.

Dr.ShaileshNaik Director National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru and former Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, praised the current initiative of upgrading the MNCFC as a major technology hub and advised to take part in global initiatives on crop surveillance.

After deliberations, major recommendation of the committee includedadoption of new technologies and data products,utilization of recently launched Indian microwave satellite  RISAT- 1Adata,  use of bio-physical products, better use of AI & ML techniques for automated crop mapping, crop health monitoring and crop yield estimation, collaborations with national, international, private and Start-up organizations.

The Committee also discusseddeveloping National framework at MNCFC for all scalable technology solutions to standardize the methodologies and to enable mainstreaming of these solutions into the decision making processes. The major themes for developing such national initiatives include Crop surveillance and estimations, Disaster risk reduction in Agriculture, Farmer centric services – weather, pest/disease surveillance advisory, Nutrient management advisory and Agro-forestry decision support and Environment & Energy.

It was emphasized by Additional Secretary, AbhilakshLikhi, that satellite based assessments be extended to Horticulture sector by pooling the data and expertise currently available in the existing projects and schemes in the Ministry and ICAR.

JS (Digital Agriculture), Dr.Pramod Kumar Meherda, expressed the hope that with the support of technology agencies like ISRO, MNCFC would be fully geared up to reap all possible benefits of digital technologies in a holistic manner in Agriculture sector.