Bringing climate-smart farming to India’s Odisha state

Solidaridad has partnered with Sarat Kar & Anima Kar (SKAK) Foundation and Idea-Vodafone Foundation to transform Cuttack and Kendrapara in Odisha, India, into the state’s first climate- and digitally-smart agricultural districts. Over the next three years, the SmartAgri project will directly benefit 50,000 smallholder farmers.

The project was launched at the Central Institute for Women in Agriculture Bhubaneswar, Odisha, by Roopa Roshan Sahoo, Indian Administrative Service, on 23 September 2022. Other dignitaries and approximately 200 farmers from the Cuttack and Kendrapara districts of Odisha also attended the event.

Solidaridad and Idea-Vodafone Foundation have initiated similar interventions in Odisha’s Gajapati district. Eventually, the ambition is to create several smart agricultural districts across the state. The interventions are expected to create a significant increase in farmers’ incomes and create new rural employment opportunities for young people as tech-savvy agri-entrepreneurs.

Roopa Roshan Sahoo, Indian Administrative Service, speaks during the SmartAgri project launch event

Making agriculture smarter

The programme aims to transform conventional agricultural practices into smart agriculture. The project will use the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and real-time technology solutions routed through automatic weather stations, soil probes, insect traps, and crop cameras. It will provide farmers with information on critical elements of farming like soil and air quality, wind, the presence of insects and pests, and crop growth. Farmers also receive real-time and localized advice on critical agri-inputs for their crops and agricultural news on markets, government policies, schemes, for example. They will receive this in the Oriya language via their mobile phones, with audio options, for those who find reading a challenge.

The project is the outcome of a year-long research study conducted by Solidaridad and the SKAK Foundation on the food production system in the two districts. The report provides recommendations for improving farmers’ incomes through climate-resilient farming.

Investment in smart agriculture is the best mechanism to make life better for millions of farmers in Odisha.

Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhayay, managing director of Solidaridad for Asia

Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhayay, managing director of Solidaridad for Asia, said: “Odisha is an agrarian state. Almost 70 percent of the state’s population is dependent on agriculture. However, traditional agricultural practices are leading to low incomes and increasing vulnerability to higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like heat waves, floods, and storms. Investment in smart agriculture is the best mechanism to make life better for millions of farmers in Odisha. To cope with extreme weather, different interventions in this project will empower the farmers in these two districts, and they will be able to grow their incomes and improve their livelihoods. I sincerely believe that the farming system in Odisha in this decade will transition into a modern and market-oriented professional, and sustainable system.”

Dr. Nilay Ranjan, head of Idea-Vodafone Foundation said: “Using technology, Vodafone Idea Foundation’s SmartAgri project is transforming farming practices in India, instilling confidence in farmers to use technology and ‘intelligent’ solutions to improve productivity. Our technology intervention has resulted in increased yield, better crops, and increased profits for the farmers, bringing about social impact in the Indian agriculture space. We are now happy to further expand the project in Odisha.”

Sobhan Kar, head of SKAK Foundation said: “We express our gratitude to Solidaridad for having chosen Odisha as its next destination of meaningful work in the agricultural sector. We are optimistic that the partnership between Solidaridad and SKAK Foundation will contribute to the welfare of farmers in Odisha. The focus of the partnership will be on gender inclusivity and smart use of technology to augment production and enhance income.”

An agricultural excellence centre will also soon be established in Cuttack. The centre, supported by senior scientists, agricultural universities in the state, and a team of agricultural experts, will provide regular advice and training to the farmers to improve their farming practices. The agricultural excellence centre will also link with several global agricultural input companies to bring world-class innovative products and services to Odisha.

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