COVID-19 has challenged us to the hilt; we have responded to it in terms of long periods of lockdown, working remotely when possible and maintaining social distance while working with others. We are dealing with several emotions as many are battling hunger, helplessness and frustration. Through the last few weeks, producers could not make the crops reach the points of sale; consumers could not buy the items they were looking for; manufacturers of agri-inputs had huge disruptions in their activities right from getting the raw materials and workers to manufacturing and selling their products.
We do not know when the current pandemic will end and if such a pandemic will happen again. Companies in the sector have shown resilience to bounce back into action even if we are pretty much in the midst of the pandemic. Not only must we survive the current, but prepare for the future.
Future of Work in agriculture
As our population has been on a rise, land per capita has been on a slide and productivity continues to languish. At the same time, we need to be responsible in farming so that our environment is protected, agriculture is sustainable and the produce is safe for humanity. Scientists, farmers, researchers, and chemists are working together to bring out new seeds, nutrients for plants, chemicals for plant protection and development, new methods, tools and equipment for cultivation. It is a huge ecosystem at play, engages almost half of our workforce in India.
We will see greater use of technology to measure, monitor and course-correct the processes in the entire cycle right from procurement of the inputs to storage, transport and sales of the produce. There will be multifold growth in digitisation of land records, soil health and supply chain of the agri-inputs as well as the agri-produce. Artificial intelligence, IoT (internet of things), usage of drones and big data technologies and satellite imagery will be used widely soon. We will see a huge amount of automation and predictive analytics leading to improvement in production, plant health and supply chain. At the same time, we will see the application of genetic engineering and many such advanced techniques of biotechnology leading to improvement in the quality of seeds, nutrients, medicines and agrochemicals. Food processing technologies, storage and transportation of the agri produce will enhance the life cycle of the harvest. In summary, it is a huge technological revolution in store for agriculture in India. Are we ready for this?
Talent landscape needs to change
It is not an attractive industry for the youth of our country because agriculture doesn’t give them attractive financial returns; neither does it give them social recognition and esteem. HR fraternity in the agri sector has a critical role in bringing in a transformation here.
Many people in our country hold a mental image of a farmer to be that of a backward, unsophisticated and ill-informed poor. Over the next few years, opinion leaders in our society have to work overtime in changing this perception and the efforts have to be consistent. We need a makeover of this image so that investments flow into the sector and bright minds are drawn towards it.
Leaders have to show the way
People move the needle forward and usher in change. So, we need the leaders and managers in the agri sector to appreciate, deploy and use technology in every walk of their lives. They need to demonstrate tech-savviness and the need to use tech at large. They need to build the culture of leveraging technology in their companies. This would help them keep pace with the fast-changing tech landscape, deploy them in their products and services, educate the farmers and producers about their offerings to raise farm productivity. The one-time intervention of using one particular technology is not enough; there has to be continual improvement and transformation so that they can win in the marketplace.
Everything else in HR such as talent development, performance management and organisation development would anchor around the cornerstones of talent landscape and leadership behaviour.