Agristack and its (mis)uses

One of the less heralded facets of the recently passed (and contentious) agricultural market reforms was the proposal to “create a digital profile of cultivators, their farm holdings, climatic conditions in the area, what they grow, and average output, details which will be mapped to the 12-digit Aadhaar biometric ID” i.e. AgriStack.

Ostensibly meant to help farmers, such a move would likely result in a host of issues, such as: a) land grabs due to incomplete/incorrect record of land titles, b) exploitation of farmers through microfinance, c) misuse of farmer’s data by usurious FinTech. You can read more about this here and here (for further reading please do not hesitate in reaching out).

What do people think? Will these problems be adequately addressed? Do you foresee any other issues cropping up (no pun intended)? IFF is thinking about ways to engage with this issues, and we would appreciate any inputs you might have.

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I don’t think people in general and farmers in particular appreciate the implications of AgriStack enough. It might help to organise a webinar or put out some video content to explain this issue. Ideally in non-English languages too.

Also, if and when the government replies to the RTI that has been filed, how can one get to know what response has been received?

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Hi Nachiket,

We agree with your assertion - we do have plans to put a video explainer on the Agristack in the next week or two.
As soon as we recieve a response we will make the response publicly available.

Sharing more details for the event today afternoon on ‘Understanding the government’s digital push in agriculture’ at 3 pm. Zoom link to register -

Meeting ID - 91294272660

Direct Zoom link to join - https://zoom.us/w/91294272660

This event can be followed from youtube, facebook etc on ASHA and Internet Freedom Foundation links too.

Live link for the event https://youtu.be/YzRHgQoJ7nc

We have already received questions for the session. Feel free to keep sharing more

Speaker Details -

  1. Opening remarks and context setting: Dr. Vandana Shiva ji, Navdanya
  2. Understanding AgriStack: Rohin Garg, Internet Freedom Foundation
  3. Issues in digitisation of land records: Prof. Varsha Ganguly, representing Working Group for Women and Land Ownership (WGWLO)
  4. Lessons from case studies: Srikanth Lakshmanan, Cashless Consumer
  5. Interventions on how to make information technology work for farmers:
    5.1 What do farmers want from IT: Ajay Vir Jhakar, Bharat Krishak Samaj
    5.2 What do FPOs want from IT: Rajesh Krishnan, Thirunelly Agri Producer Company Limited
    5.3 How can IT be done right for farmers: Prashant Mehra, Platform Commons Foundation
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RESOURCES ON DIGITISATION IN AGRICULTURE

Immediate and Urgent Context

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India has launched a Consultation Paper on IDEA (India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture) Transforming Agriculture in public domain which can be seen at https://agricoop.nic.in/consultationpaper

They have invited feedback by 30th June, 2021. The Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) - Kisan Swaraj network plans to hold some roundtable discussions on this issue in the coming weeks before preparing a response to send. If you would like to be informed about and / or participate in this process, please write to [email protected]. (NOTE: To leave and unsubscribe from the group at any time, please send an email from the account that has been subscribed to [email protected])

Reading material and resources on AgriStack

  1. A Primer on AgriStack
  1. Letter by civil society organisation to GoI on its digital push
  1. MoU between Microsoft and GoI
  1. Subsequent MoUs have been signed with four other organisations including Amazon and Patanjali

Webinar on ‘Understanding government’s digital push in agriculture’

  1. List of speakers:

  2. Vandana Shiva, Founder, Navdanya

  3. Rohin Garg, Associate Policy Counsel. Internet Freedom Foundation

  4. Prof. Varsha Ganguly, representing Working Group for women and land ownership (WGWLO)

  5. Srikanth Lakshmanan, Cashless Consumer

  6. Ajay Vir Jhakar, Chairperson, Bharat Krishak Samaj

  7. Rajesh Krishnan, CEO, Thirunelly Agri Producer Company Limited

  8. Prashant Mehra, Co-founder, Platform Commons Foundation

  9. Link to video of webinar

  1. Presentation made by Srikanth Lakshmanan in the webinar
  1. Responses from speakers to questions raised in the webinar
  1. Detailed report on the webinar

References to AgriStack in various government documents:

  1. “With the support of Aadhaar IndiaStack coupled to SDI (AgriStack or KisanStack), the vision for doubling farmers’ incomes can be translated into reality with the commitment from leadership at all levels to work as a consortium of public and private sector partners to implement state rural development plans – with speed and at scale.”
  1. Slide 9 onwards there is a mention on AgriStack
  1. “Linkage to state land records and land holdings GIS data Data standardization for onboarding information from satellite imagery, IOT devices and databases both in private and public domain A model for monetization of data on Agri stack maybe built to ensure sustainability”
  1. "Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has constituted a Task Force to develop IndEA (India Enterprise Architecture) Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA). The Unified Farmers Service Platform (UFSP) will be prepared based on the IDEA. The details and components are being deliberated by the Task Force and shall be communicated when finalised.

Currently only a framework document/Digital Blue Print is being prepared. Building of UFSP and involving relevant organisations shall be done once the framework is approved by Ministry "

http://164.100.24.220/loksabhaquestions/annex/175/AU2504.pdf

  1. “creation of an ‘Agri stack’ that would bring all stakeholders in the ‘Agri value chain’ viz., farmers, input suppliers, processors, warehouses, cold storages, e-markets, banks, insurers, etc., on a common platform would be a game changer. We strongly believe that time is ripe for rolling out the ‘Agri stack’ by anyone even through PPP mode which has the potential to unlock tremendous benefits to all stake holders, most importantly the farmer to propel India’s agriculture to greater heights.”
  1. Agristack in light of farm laws
  1. "Emerging focus in India for digital technology enablement of farmer-facing systems and opportunities for SHG platforms 1) Agricultural Advisory Services including agromet, soil health & agronomy and 2) areas are Market Linkages. NRLM is in the process of building integrated, long-term, systems-level approach to digital farmer services, utilizing digital technology to enhance these systems and support them with robust backend data systems and services.

This will be critical as we help SHG members access public investments DBT subsidy (PM-Kisan), AgStack and access to women-friendly solutions. Government of India has announced a digital AgriStack, or “digital highway” for India as a key enabler for online marketplaces and “smart agriculture.” The AgriStack is envisioned to be an interoperable data exchange with all States that includes core datasets, such as farmer profiles and weather data, on which private sector can build value-added services upon. NRLM has vast database on member side and unlocking data driven linkages with platforms like Agriculture Data Information Dashboard as a Service (ADIDAS) by DISYS Pvt Ltd, System Analysis & Integrated Design (SAID) by BCG, Weather data, Soil Health & Agronomy data etc"

https://aajeevika.gov.in/sites/default/files/nrlp_repository/Farm%20Livelihoods%20Interventions%20Under%20DAY%20NRLM.pdf

  1. “developing a digital agri-stack which would be a key enabler for online market places and smart agriculture. The Secretary, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, projected an aspirational vision for ‘Atmanirbhar Agriculture’ by transforming farmers into entrepreneurs with higher incomes and better quality of life, making agriculture the “go to” investment opportunity, and making India the “Food Basket” for the world.”
  1. “Over the past few months, NITI Aayog has been working closely with the private sector to chart a roadmap for the digital transformation of India’s agriculture sector. In this context, the idea of an AgriStack or KrishiNeev, to create a digital architecture for the Indian agriculture sector, paving the way for private-sector-led tech-based solution was presented to the Prime Minister. The KrishiNeev is expected to have four pillars: (i) farmer advisory services (ii) blockchain for quality certification and traceability; (iii) marketplace for outputs, inputs, and farm services and (iv) fintech for credit and financial services. Flow of real-time information will increase productivity and reduce risks. Deployment of a blockchain platform will ensure quality certification and traceability. With data of over 10 crore farmers being sourced, fintech can be leveraged to introduce cash-flow-based lending to farmers and assignment of credit ratings to farmers and FPOs, raising the flow 2 of formal credit to the sector.”
  1. “An India AgriStack can be built, such that lenders can evaluate the creditworthiness of agricultural borrowers. This stack can include a farmer’s borrowing history, land ownership data, cropping pattern, and income data, among other information”
  1. “Creation of an Agri Stack is a national priority for Digitalisation and it is imperative that a Central IT Infrastructure be developed and rolled out across states (e.g., setting up a National Farm Registry for traceability of produce)”
  1. Resources from the Ministry of Agriculture workshop on this subject:

  2. https://www.meity.gov.in/india-enterpise-architecture-indea

  3. http://agricoop.nic.in/sites/default/files/DRAFT_SWG%20A%20_%20modified_VR_18.02.2020.pptx

  4. https://agricoop.nic.in/sites/default/files/InvitationLetter_DACFW_PeerDiscussion_4.pdf

  5. Volume 11 of the Report of the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income which discusses the role of digital technologies and digitalisation in agriculture. Chapters 7 & 8 examine the potential use of Big Data, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain technology in agriculture.

Other readings of interest

  1. Agri Ministry’s New App Gives Microsoft Access to Millions of Farmers’ Personal Data
  1. Why Microsoft’s role in digitising India’s land records is worrying farmer groups
  1. Without Addressing Legacy Issues, Can Digitising Land Records in India Be a Game Changer?
  1. India’s digital IDs for land could exclude poor, indigenous communities
  1. Bill and Melinda Gates’ Empire of Dirt
  1. Mantle Labs Improves Global Food Supply Chain Financing on AWS (Amazon Web Services)
  1. Digital control: how Big Tech moves into food and farming (and what it means)

https://grain.org/e/6595

  1. Technical Report: Enabling digital agriculture in Australia
  1. Plate Tech-Tonics: Mapping Corporate Power in Big Food
  1. One reason India’s ambitious fertiliser subsidy reforms stumbled – Aadhaar authentication failures
  1. Can Digital Platforms Help Decentralise Social Assistance Programmes? Learning from the Aadhaar-enabled Fertiliser Distribution System
  1. Ag One: Recolonisation of Agriculture
  1. Investors race to win early-stage startup deals in India

“Tech veteran Nandan Nilekani’s firm Fundamentum is in talks to back Bijak, which operates a business-to-business marketplace to trade agricultural commodities, and supply chain startup Reshamandi.” Aadhaar is primarily Nandan Nilekani’s conception. AgriStack, which is a part of India Stack, is built on the Aadhaar database. Omidyar Network India is also an investor in Bijak. Varad Pande, Investment Partner at Omidyar Network India is also a Special Invitee to the Working Group for design and development IDEA (InDEA Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture) by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.

This entire document will be regularly updated and the most up-to-date version can be accessed at any time from here: Resources on digitisation in agriculture.pdf

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PRESS NOTE

91 organisations working on Farmers’ Rights, and on Digital Rights of citizens express grave concerns on Central Government’s Agri-Digitisation proposals

30th June, 2021

91 farm organisations and organisations working on digital rights of citizens express grave concerns with regard to the Government of India’s proposals on agri-digitisation, put forward in the form of a consultation paper. They demand that the Government do not rush into the “IDEA” proposals and should in fact withdraw the MoUs already entered into with various companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Star Agribazaar, ESRI and Patanjali.

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoAFW), Government of India has put out a Consultation Paper on IDEA (India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture) Transforming Agriculture in public domain on 1st June, 2021 seeking feedback by 30th June, 2021. Today, ASHA Kisan Swaraj, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait), Jai Kisan Andolan, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Krantikari Kisan Union, Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM), Internet Freedom Foundation, IT For Change, Rethink Aadhaar, Software Freedom Law Centre, India (SFLC.in) and other organisations, including those working on agricultural issues and digital rights, wrote to the Ministry about fundamental problems with the process being followed by the Government of India in pushing digitisation in the agriculture sector.

One major issue flagged is the fact that the proposed database is to be built on digitised land records, which are far from perfect even in the case of land-owning farmers and will exclude entire categories of landless farmers. Further, these far-reaching proposals with farmers’ data, being pushed in the name of farmers, are being planned in the absence of appropriate legislation in the form of a data protection law. The response also highlighted the fact that there are no regulatory mechanisms planned to prevent the economic exploitation of the farmer in the ambitious digital ecosystem which, among other things, seeks to create online marketplaces for farmers’ produce, nor clear accountability mechanisms.

The response sent by the signatories said that there is no farmer representation in the existing task force or in the governance framework of IDEA. And that linking financing for state governments to adoption of this initiative as proposed in this draft is highly problematic too.

The MoAFW recently signed MoUs with several corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Patanjali to start implementation of concepts being proposed in the paper. It is unclear on what basis these entities were chosen, and why the pilots should have started before public consultations. The letter demanded that implementation of these MoUs be immediately stopped until more extensive consultations take place on these developments with farmer groups to understand their requirements and concerns

The entire response sent to the government can be found below and at this link. Additional resources about these issues may be found here. For further queries, please write to [email protected].

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