Agri Scientists Meet, IISF 2020: Experts talk data analytics, AI, energy, food security, climate change

New Delhi: The Agricultural Scientists’ Meet is a significant event of the India International Science Festival 2020. It provides a common platform for agricultural scientists, innovative farmers, teachers, and students to actively participate and discuss various emergent topics such as synergism and tradeoffs in sustainable agriculture, NRM – challenges and policy framework, precision farming technologies & agricultural production systems, data-driven technologies in agriculture and their management, and innovation and agriculture. The event aims at catering to the need to reduce the impact of weather vagaries on agriculture and make agriculture a reliable income-earning pursuit for marginal stakeholders, according to a press communication from the Ministry of Science & Technology issued on Friday, 25th December.

Union Minister of State of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India, Kailash Choudhary inaugurated the two-day Agricultural Scientists’ Meet as part of the India International Science Festival (IISF) 2020. Other dignitaries on the occasion were Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog; T. Mohapatra, Secretary (DARE) and DG, ICAR. Around 200 participants including scientists, students, and farmers attended the programme.

At the outset, A.K. Singh, DDG (Agricultural Extension), ICAR welcomed the dignitaries and spoke about the Agricultural Scientists’ Meet. Trilochan Mohapatra, DG, ICAR in his address talked about the journey of the agriculture sector in India from pre-green revolution to the present status and stressed upon the need of technologies for sustainable agricultural development.

Chief Guest Ramesh Chand talked about food and nutritional security. He further explained that farmers’ income can be increased through science, innovation, and policy support. K.K. Singh of the India Meteorological Department proposed the vote of thanks, as per the press communication.

In the session titled ‘Synergism and Tradeoffs in Sustainable Agriculture’ of the Agriculture Scientist Meet, more than 200 participants attended the session.The Chairman of the session, R.B Singh, Ex-Chancellor, CAU, Imphal, praised the organisers for hosting the event. He cautioned that resources are not inherited from parents but borrowed from children. He emphasised the need of big data analysis, artificial intelligence for decision support system. He pointed out that agriculture greatly impacts all pillars of the structure – environmental, economic, and social sustainability. He focused on sustainable agriculture for zero hunger and a poverty-free nation.

Kamal Vatta stated that there is a need to look for sustainable agriculture and this can be achieved through integration of ecological, economic, environmental, and social aspects. Synergies are achievable at lower scale but when scale increases it becomes difficult to maintain the synergy in the system, so scale is very important, he said. He expressed that despite research support and evidence of no productivity loss, farmers are reluctant to adopt sustainable agricultural practices only because of lack of economic incentive. He expressed his desire that economic incentives must be provided to farmers for the adoption of sustainable technologies.

According to the Ministry of Science & Technology, Suresh Pal observed that the performance of the agriculture sector has improved significantly in the last few years. He emphasised the need to double the export of agriculture commodities by 2025 as the growth is 3.5-4% for the last few years. He also focused on production of oil-seed crops and other crops which are imported. This will help reducing the import bill, he said.

Rajpal Rathore, a farmer activist from Madya Pradesh, highlighted that there is a direct relation of sustainability with doubling the farmer’s income. He stressed that along with nutritional security, the production of chemical free food is also an important factor for ‘one health, one world’.

Anupam Mishra focused on sustainable agriculture in different regions of the country and stated that the meanings of sustainable agriculture in the hill region, coastal region, arid, and semiarid regions are different. He highlighted various schemes of the Indian Government for agriculture and rural development, especially for the remote areas.

The second session focused on ‘Challenges and Policy Framework’. AK Singh, Ex-Vice Chancellor, Agriculture University, Gwalior and Ex-DDG and Secretary NAAS appreciated the organisers for highlighting the Natural Resource Management (NRM) under Agriculture Scientist Meet and discussed the foremost issues extensively in the country related to sustainable agriculture like groundwater extraction, water quality, soil health management, and climate change. He also concentrated on the soil health management approach and advised the scientific community to encourage the farmers for balanced utilisation of fertiliser.

O.P. Choudhary, Head, Department of Soil Science, PAU, Ludhiana discussed the ongoing practices adopted by the farmers in Punjab and advised the farmers to accept the innovation and technologies for higher yield and farm resource management.

Man Singh, PD, WTC, IARI outlined the long-term vision of sustainable agriculture keeping water at its centre. He explained the role of water, soil, and energy in the agro ecosystem. Singh concentrated on near-future water conservation through water harvesting in changing climate and groundwater recharging, saying that for this type of focused research and development, useful knowledge requires an authenticated primary data-set. This information will help the community for planning and decision-making during climate change scenarios, he said. One of the progressive farmers from Punjab, Jagtar Singh Brar, Bathinda, also shared his views and experience based on soil degradation and soil exploitation issues due to intensive agriculture, soil health management, carbon credit awareness, and the use of organic carbon instead of chemical fertiliser.

V.K. Singh, Head, Agronomy, IARI highlighted the repeated cropping pattern approach of Indian agriculture. “This kind of cropping system exploits the natural resources and threatens the state of soil health day by day,” he pointed out. He suggested shifting towards crop diversification, saying the inclusion of short duration crop can save the resources and help reduce the soil degradation.                                                           

Energy Conclave

The “Energy Conclave” focused on clean energy for self-reliance and global welfare and was inaugurated by Raj Kumar Singh, Union Minister of State (I/C), Ministry of Power & Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. There is a need to accelerate technological innovation to deliver eco-friendly and cost-effective energy technologies, said MoS Raj Kumar Singh. The Minister of State appreciated efforts being done in making India a leader in the energy sector with a focus on energy access, energy sufficiency, and energy transition, saying that it was paving the way towards a vibrant energy economy, for a sustainable future ahead, making renewable energy cheaper and affordable to all. He reiterated that by 2030, 40% of our established capacity will come from non-fossil fuel. The Minister emphasised the need to accelerate and strengthen technological innovation so that it can deliver environmentally and socially sound, cost-effective energy technologies on a larger and more widespread scale.

Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India emphasised that innovation partnership for a sustainable future underpins India’s mutual commitment to drive prosperity and address global challenges and sustainable development through cooperation in science, technology, and innovation. Sangita Kasture, a scientist with DBT discussed the various initiatives being carried out in the clean energy landscape via collaborative R&D, start-up support via Clean Energy International Incubation Centre (CEIIC), breakthrough clean technologies, innovative waste to energy, energy efficiency and energy access areas, and accelerating clean energy innovations under the Mission Innovation platform.

The webinar via virtual session focused on showcasing clean energy technologies by engaging stakeholders from the Govt. sector, research, academia, industry, start-ups and incubators (CEIIC). The key clean energy areas and themes covered during the session included renewable energy generation, energy conservation and energy reduction in build Environment, and cross-sectoral technologies and innovations.


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