Science & Technology

Farmers discuss tech innovations at 107th India Science Congress

The farmers were participating in a Farmer’s Science Congress organised at the ongoing event being held in Bengaluru

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Monday 06 January 2020
Stalls selling farm produce at the Farmers Science Congress in Bengaluru. Photo: @IndiaDST

Farmers from across India presented their scientific and technological innovations in agricultural practices at the First Farmer’s Science Congress conducted on January 6, 2020, within the ambit of the ongoing 107th Indian Science Congress being held in Bengaluru.

Participants from as far as Punjab in the north and Sikkim in the east came together at the Congress and exchanged ideas and opinions on each other’s farming methods and interventions to counter the issues surrounding labour unavailability, crop prices, water management and the impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

For instance, Rathnamma, from Kolar in Karnataka, has undertaken not only minor millet cultivation and converting it into value-added products but also its popularisation among farmers, especially women. She also trains them and helps with marketing their produce.

Another farmer, N N Poonacha, has been growing and promoting a new variety of black pepper known as Adi pepper for the past 20 years. The corns of Adi pepper are bigger (more than 7 mm) than regular pepper (usually 4 mm) and grow specifically at high altitude, in the rainy and misty regions of Kodagu, where cultivating other crops is rather difficult.

“It gives me immense satisfaction to see farmers take up this new variety in my region,” he said. Another farmer innovator, Tushar Roy, from South 24 Paraganas district in West Bengal, has developed a low cost poultry eggs incubator and a smart brooder.

The set up for this enthusiasm from the farmers came from the inaugural session itself when Hanumanagowda Belagurki, chairman of the Karnataka Agricultural Price Commission called for the participation of social scientists, especially from the domains of economics and political science at the Farmer’s Science Congress to understand agricultural science in its totality.

He stated that the science of farming had been divided into water-tight compartments and the necessary integration of relevant scientific disciplines did not exist and was required.

Many agriculturists had even opposed the long list of welcome mentions for dignitaries present at the session by speakers, saying it was a wastage of precious time. While some speakers did cut short their mentions, others carried on.

Trilochan Mahapatra, director general, Indian Council for Agricultural Research in Delhi, during his inaugural address as chief guest, said rural science was not completely understood, referring to the various farmer innovations at the Congress. He added that there needed to be evidence-based validation of this science from relevant authorities.

Mahapatra announced that the government was setting up a Farmer Innovation Centre in Delhi where farmers can apply for scientific and technological validation of their innovations. He further added that a Farmer Innovation Fund will be set up which will provide financial support for carrying forward farmer science and promoting ideas.

He highlighted the six to nine million tonne increase in the production of pulses in the country which had decreased its dependence on imported pulses and said the entire focus now was on doubling farmer incomes by 2022.

He called for a deep engagement with the farming community for this to be successful on a slew of measures like promoting integrated farming practices; decrease in the use of chemicals for environmental sustainability through innovations like bio control agents, nano fertilisers, nano pesticides; rural entrepreneurship especially among the youth.

For the last part, the government has started the ARYA scheme. For young farmers, there are currently 104 successful startups. For sustainability, he said the promotion of the 45 identified organic farming models was necessary along with an understanding of agricultural market intelligence and use of advanced technologies like automation in farming.

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