Whether it’s education, healthcare, or the roadside vendor, the biggest takeaway for every sector – organized and unorganized – of the Covid-19 pandemic is adapting to the new normal. And this ânew normalâ is almost entirely tech-driven. Individual businesses and collective sectors will depend on how quickly they adopt new technologies, and agriculture is no exception.
Farmers, who form one of the oldest industries that civilization has known, must embrace a digital transformation powered by connectivity to overcome growing demand and benefit from the quality of their products directly from the consumer without the intervention of ‘intermediaries.
Advances in machinery have expanded the scale, speed and productivity of farm equipment, leading to more efficient cultivation of larger plots of land. Seeds, irrigation and fertilizers have also improved dramatically, helping farmers increase their yields.
Today, agriculture is in the early days of a new revolution, at the heart of which is data and connectivity.
Artificial intelligence, analytics, connected sensors and other emerging technologies could further increase yields, improve the efficiency of water and other inputs, and strengthen the sustainability and resilience of crops and land. ‘breeding.
As India aspires to compete with China and the United States in the agrotech space, here are some numbers. According to Agfunder, India saw an increase in funding from $ 619 million in the first half of 2020 to $ 2 billion in the first half of 2021, which is significantly lower than the United States ($ 9.5 billion ) and China ($ 4.5 billion) got it.
A 2020 study by EY estimated the potential of India’s agritech market at $ 24 billion by 2025, of which only 1% has been reached so far. Among the various agro-tech segments, the supply chain and production technology markets have the highest potential, valued at $ 12.1 billion.
The disorder of agricultural laws
It is estimated that there are around 500 agro-tech start-ups in India, operating at different levels of supply chains. Almost all would have benefited from the new farm laws which have now been repealed. It is too early to predict how this move will affect agrotech start-ups, but at this point, it can be said that the development would not have been good news for these start-ups.
Let’s focus on how farmers are empowered by these start-ups, especially when India emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and there is no guarantee that we have completely defeated it (de many European countries are blocked again).
Through the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things (IoT), etc., these start-ups are connecting farmers, small operators such as kirana stores, neighborhood mom-and-pop stores, delivery start-ups and ultimately the consumer under one roof.
Through these start-ups, farmers can also connect directly to larger players who buy quality products wholesale.
The Indian farmer is not as technologically advanced as his Western counterpart. In addition, the penetration of technology into the rural landscape is not widespread enough.
Agrotech start-ups have solved this problem by launching a unique farmer-to-business (F2B) model. One of these start-ups is Dehaati Beej Se Baazar Tak, a full-service agrifood service company that engages through B2F (business-to-farmer) and F2B models. It uses data science, agroscience, and analytics to nurture an ecosystem of farmers, micro-entrepreneurs, and institutional buyers.
With total funding of $ 162 million since June 2014, Dehaat raised $ 115 million in October 2021 alone; it would be one of the most important financings in the agro-technological space. Dehaat is present in Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, and works with 6.50,000 farmers in 1,890 centers.
Then there’s Ninjacart, which sources fresh produce from farms and supplies retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and kirana stores, and small businesses and is operational in a dozen cities.
It claims to have reduced waste to 4 percent, compared to up to 25 percent in traditional chains thanks to a demand-driven harvest schedule.
Even e-commerce platforms that are driven by agro-tech start-ups will guide the shift from government-controlled agricultural markets to demand-driven digital markets over a period of time.
How long will it take? Again, this is not easy to predict as India’s biggest challenge is to spread awareness among farmers.
This probably explains why the agricultural sector, which contributes 16 percent of GDP and employs over 45 percent of the workforce, is far from reaping the benefits of technological innovations offered by agrotech start-ups.
The author is Executive Chairman and CEO of OmniActive Health Technologies