Startups are ensuring that farmers gain access to more data, information and insights via complete tracking and automation.

Whats in store for AgriTech startup space in India this yearImage for representation
Atom AgriTech Monday, September 03, 2018 - 11:46

Agri-Tech has support across the board, with Govt institutions, research universities and grassroots innovation emerging as pillars. Although the growth hasn’t been scalable, there are bright spots in the Indian Agri-tech space. What started as a focus on local innovation and consumer-products, has shifted to providing sustainable solutions that can be replicable.

According to insights from NASSCOM, more than half of AgriTech startups emerged only but a few years ago (2015 onwards). Funding as well has risen, owing to the rise of success cases and stakeholder support. The sheer potential of the industry is stunning.

There are large venture capital players in the space, trying to build the next sustainable business model in Agri-Tech. What most people get wrong about the industry is its size and structure. That’s been one of the biggest areas of growth in the field. With more innovation emerging from smaller domains, the market is highly unsaturated and ripe for innovation.

“Indian agriculture is primarily driven by small and mobile farmers that number anywhere between 100 Mn–120 Mn, but India has produced some of the biggest agribusiness companies in the world that either buy from or sell to these small farmers,” Mark Kahn, Founding partner at Omnivore told Inc42 in an interview.

As a whole, India has set a benchmark of what can be done. The year to come is likely to show what the country can accomplish in the tech space.

There is also significant demand being generation owing to the growth of grocery ecommerce companies. This has widened the consumption of the average Indian consumer and increased convenience for them across the board. Farming techniques that involve organic and pesticide-free practises are gaining greater attention in the country.

The efficiency factor

The largest area of growth in the Agri-Tech space is in the efficiency factor. About half the working population in India works in the sector and benefits from its growth. However, the contribution of agriculture in the overall GDP is still lacking.

With the help of Agri-tech solutions, India can see a rise in efficiency across the board. Looking at the innovation in telecom and digital solutions space in rural India, Agri-Tech is developing sustainable solutions that can aid in streamlining the industry. Farmers that can run their business better, have a better shot at long-term success.

“There is a need to enhance the level of farm mechanization in the country. Due to intensive involvement of labour in different farm operations, the cost of production of many crops is quite high.” -  Economist & Former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said in the India Economic Survey 2018.

Govt bodies have been working with Indian Agri-Tech startups to create scalable solutions. They’ve been actively doing so over the year, with research bodies such as ICRISAT, ICAR, and DMI being involved as well. Startups are working with Govt agencies to leverage the vast network of farmers they have in their domain.

“We met over 40 agri-tech start-ups in PM’s Champions of Change event in August, and wanted to explore a more meaningful engagement, where start-ups can present solutions to some of the things we are already developing,” Upma Srivastava, additional secretary at ministry of agriculture and family welfare said while inviting startups to develop solutions in the agri-tech space.

In India, post-harvest losses can reach as high as 30-40% in many cases. There is a significant need for yield optimization and process efficiencies via Agri-Tech. Standard solutions and models haven’t worked so far, with start-ups innovating over the past few years.

“In one word, we want to make every farm and every farmer traceable. Imagine buying an apple from a store and when you scan the apple, you get information on which plot, which area, when the apple was first planted, what pesticides were used on it, etc. That’s what our technology does,” Mint quotes Krishna Kumar, Founder CropIn (AgriTech) as saying.

Startups are ensuring that farmers gain access to more data, information and insights via complete tracking and automation. Taking smarter decisions has been a large empowering factor in the agricultural space. Enhancing efficiencies also involves creating new business models that scale effectively. Startups are also engaging in new industry practises that benefit the industry as a whole. Renting and leasing machinery has been commonplace in India, however startups are structing the process to increase efficiencies.

“Rather than outright purchase, we have discovered that rental and lease of equipment is a more viable way to expand our business,” Economic Times quotes Devendra Gupta, founder and CEO of Ecozen as saying.

Companies like Ecozen and others are providing sustainable energy systems on a rental model. This has enhanced integration within the farming community, with major players taking greater action.

Another startup Stellapps has been creating IOT devices for the agricultural space for many years now. They were the first equity investment for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and have a unique approach to the field. Since the agricultural space is unique to India, companies can’t simply copy western counterparts. There is a real grassroot innovation needed to innovate in the Indian Agri-Tech market. This has driven innovation to new grounds, making it a more sustainable space.

All views expressed are author's own

Also read: Going local: How the vernacular market can change India's internet landscape

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