Agriculture is the world's largest industry and an estimated 1.1 billion people are engaged in agriculture globally. The agricultural sector plays a crucial role in a country’s economic growth. Most developing countries rely on agriculture for food to meet the consumption needs of their people. Agriculture also provides labor and capital for industrial growth.
Exporting agricultural produce and products is a source of foreign exchange earnings. High agricultural productivity keeps inflation under control, lowers food prices, and reduces poverty. Thus, improving agricultural productivity directly impacts rural livelihoods and the economy. It benefits landless laborers, farmers, and rural poor through greater employment opportunities.
As arable land shrinks with the development and expansion of urban areas, farmers try to balance it with increased usage of agri-input resources to improve agricultural productivity. Excess use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other toxic farm chemicals can pollute water sources, soil, air, and marine ecosystems. They remain in the environment for a long duration and pose a health hazard for humans and wildlife. In this way, agriculture has become one of the leading sources of pollution in many countries. There are multiple ways agriculture negatively impacts the environment, such as stubble burning.
Negative impacts of agriculture on the environment
- Changes in land use: Agriculture is a major cause of deforestation. Forests are cut down or burned to clear land for farming and crop rotation.
- Pollution due to overuse of agri-input resources: Excess use of agri-input resources (like fertilizers and pesticides) leaches into water and soil. It can destroy the delicate ecological balance of habitats and affect biodiversity.
- Loss of topsoil: Unsustainable farming practices cause loss of fertile topsoil and erosion. The land is rendered infertile, resulting in a loss of agricultural productivity and desertification.
- Water conservation: Agriculture consumes about 70 percent of the earth's freshwater, says the Food and Agriculture Organization, maybe more in farming-intensive countries. It also adversely impacts freshwater systems.
- Contributes to climate change: Agriculture significantly contributes to greenhouse gases and climate change, with agriculture residue burning, methane release, etc. Additionally, clearing land for agriculture leads to the release of carbon stored in forests.
Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the negative impact that farming can have on the environment and look for ways to mitigate damage. The world must implement sustainable agricultural practices for soil health improvement and water quality, encourage biodiversity conservation, protect watersheds, preserve and restore critical habitats, and adopt practices based on climate-smart agriculture.
Agriculture plays a significant role in protecting the planet's resources and contributing to sustainable rural development. One way of doing this is through the digital transformation of agriculture and adopting methods associated with modern agriculture. Digitalization has the power to improve efficiency and profitability of agriculture. It enables farmers to increase productivity sustainably to feed the world’s growing population.
Technology and data enable precision agriculture drive towards sustainable farming
Precision agriculture leverages digital farming technologies to efficiently use land, water, pesticides, fertilizers, and fuel to enhance sustainability as listed below:
- Crop and soil sensors, maps, GPS, and yield monitors use variable rate technology to determine application doses of seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides to optimize use of agri-input resources
- Auto-guidance technology steers equipment used for tilling, planting, spraying, and harvesting to avoid overlap, thereby reducing labor, time, and materials
- Cut down fuel consumption and increase asset utilization through real-time monitoring of equipment using machine and fleet analytics
- Precision irrigation allows different areas in fields to be irrigated with different amounts of water, which improves water management without affecting crop performance
- Agriculture accounts for 15%-20% or more of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Satellite farming and remote sensors are used to monitor and control deforestation, methane emissions during rice cultivation, and agricultural residue burning, which are some significant contributors to GHG emissions
How Cropin drives sustainable agriculture
Cropin brings together multiple solutions on board its intelligent agriculture cloud platform – Cropin Cloud – to enable swift digital transformation with far-reaching effects across the agri-ecosystem. Cropin Cloud’s innovative solutions enable food producers to adopt climate-smart agriculture that benefits the environment and allows for sustainable farming. It enables knowledge-sharing with smallholder farmers and helps them implement the best package of practices (PoP) to maximize per-acre yield with optimum use of agri-input resources, thereby supporting precision agriculture. Cropin Intelligence allows access to over 22 contextual field-tested deep-learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) models that help agri-businesses with predictive intelligence and insights.
Carbon farming practices like crop residue retention, no burning of agricultural residue, crop rotation or intercropping, reduced or no tillage, agroforestry, reduced usage of fuel and synthetic inputs, and reduction in rice submerged time can be monitored, assessed, and recorded by Cropin Cloud, through data intelligence, satellite imagery, AI/ML, remote sensing, etc. However, these practices increase production costs for farmers, making it imperative to provide monetary assistance to encourage them.
Cropin enables a sustainable carbon farming scheme of collaboration between farmers and investors to help decarbonize the food system. Cropin Cloud uses satellite images to deliver regional (village/PIN/district/state) and plot-level assessments, while simultaneously cutting down cost and effort. It can provide carbon mapping to stakeholders to initiate pilots on carbon farming. Farmers can be inspired to plant trees along the boundaries of their farms for carbon credit scores and drive carbon sequestration.
Control of GHG emissions and support of biosequestration can be encouraged through carbon certificates that reward farmers financially. In addition, Cropin Cloud deploys AI algorithms that are fine-tuned to suit various crop varieties, locations, and conditions to enhance crop selection and management. It ensures accelerated development of new crop strains expressly engineered for efficiency and eco-friendliness.
Read Uncovering the grain of truth: Remote sensing to drive pest control in rice farming to know more about how Cropin is building sustainable agriculture ecosystems that protect the environment.