Hold agricultural hackathons to boost economy: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday directed the agriculture ministry to hold agricultural hackathons twice a year to solve problems in the farm economy by harnessing information technology solutions, an official statement said.

At a review via videoconferencing of agricultural research activities, Modi asked these hackathons to be organised for efficient solutions to on-ground problems faced by farmers, including for farm management, farm tool designs, and crop protection, said an official, requesting anonymity.

Hackathons are events where software developers, domain experts, and programmers come together to collaborate for developing problem-solving software products.

Modi also held discussions with senior officials of the department of agricultural research and extension as well as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the top farm research body.

“The Prime Minister directed that start-ups and agri-entrepreneurs need to be promoted to ensure innovation and use of technology in agriculture and allied sectors. He highlighted the need to leverage information technology to provide information on demand to the farmers,” the statement said.

Such hackathons should “meet design needs for tools and equipment that can reduce drudgery in farming activity, given that a large number of farmworkers are women”, the statement quoted Modi as saying.

Scientists, who took part in the review, made presentations on India’s preparedness for climate-change-induced agricultural impacts, such as heatwaves, droughts, cold waves, and submergence due to heavy rains. They showcased various varieties developed to withstand these shocks, according to the statement.

The country has seen a rise in agricultural start-ups. “Agritech startups are helping farmers monitor crop and soil conditions using internet of things sensors. Many are using artificial intelligence to forecast sowing time as well as realtime weather inputs,” said Avi Anand, the director of Agritex Ecosystems, a Bengaluru-based startup.

In addition to the senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the secretaries from departments of agriculture, animal husbandry, and dairy and fisheries were also present in the videoconference review.

Modi stressed the need to adopt organic and natural farming practices on a cluster-based approach.

He lauded efforts to develop crop varieties focusing on specific requirements for agro-climatic zones and stressed the need to provide strong market linkages for better returns to farmers, the statement said.

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