Farmer Sangarmesh Talikotti installed sensors and cameras on his 2.5-acre tomato patch with the aid of the agro company FASAL. Talikotti’s smartphone receives updates from the startup’s artificial intelligence-driven platform in Bengaluru on the amount of irrigation required, the likelihood of a pest assault, and the application of pesticides. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) transforms the reading-based data into accurate, usable insight
AgNext, a Chandigarh-based agricultural business, on the other hand, replaces eye inspection with computer-based vision for efficient post-harvest quality inspection of crops. Agritech businesses like Ninjacart, Crofarm, and KrishiHub buy produce directly from growers and sell it to stores. Along with improved logistics and online payments, they make use of a variety of technology to keep their target farmers informed about the level of demand and current prices.
A strong agriculture technology ecosystem, supported by many government of India programmes, includes approximately 600 such agri firms. The “Digital India” programme seeks to accelerate the adoption of technology by the country using digital platforms, analytics, AI, blockchain, machine learning, SaaS, and IoT.
To support such activities, the newly reformed Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) has been creatively developed. Through support for agri startups, five national knowledge partners and 24 agri-business incubators across the nation are encouraging agri-preneurship. Farm inputs, precision farming, farm management, quality and traceability, supply chain/output market connections, and access to financial services are only a few of the many areas of “idea” incubation.
Additionally, the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), which has established over 1,000 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) throughout districts, is a plug-in to vigorously promote technical innovation. State governments have also started assisting agritech firms in collaboration with the commercial sector as part of the Startup India initiative. An such is the incubation network for Uttar Pradesh at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, which is supported by the Tata Trusts and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Covid-19 pandemic, according to experts, has increased the number of agro startups that operate throughout the agricultural value chain. .Farm mechanisation, perishable cold chain logistics, plant-based protein products, food biofortification, drone applications, micro-irrigation, dairying, and financial services are some of their main innovation emphasis areas. But the main issue, say experts, is still the size of small farms, in addition to the low rate of digital adoption by small and marginal farmers. They advise a hub-and-spoke approach as a result, which supports various agri startup ventures. In order to establish this paradigm, over 700 Krishi Vigyan Kendras managed by the ICAR are working with organisations like ITC’s e-Choupal 4.0 in agro-climatic zones to teach farmers digital literacy and share best practises.
The aforementioned paradigm is strengthened by three additional actions the Centre took in collaboration with state governments. First, providing farmers with access to farm mechanisation equipment via farmer group-run custom hiring, high-tech centres, and machinery banks. Second, starting 1,000 regulated wholesale spot markets with the electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) to enable real-time price discovery and quality assessment. With connections to other public-private agri platforms, e-NAM is now a demand-driven electronic “platform of platforms.” Third, the unveiling of the plan to establish 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in order to achieve economies of scale by grouping together farmers and enabling FPOs to conduct online business.
Agri entrepreneurs, according to experts, are reevaluating how food has been produced and delivered throughout the nation. Critical elements like climate change vulnerabilities, decreased water availability, insect tolerance, declining soil quality, labour shortages, and shifting food preferences are driving this review. As a result, they advocate for more support for initiatives focused on “on-farm” and post-harvest management. The Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF) was established, which is a positive step. It gives agricultural entrepreneurs, FPOs, and state governments access to finance with interest subsidies so they can invest in post-harvest infrastructure and rural community assets. Additionally recently revealed was an umbrella-based credit guarantee programme for new businesses.
Another significant problem brought up by experts is how to scale agricultural businesses like Sammunati, Waycool, Agrostar, Jambotail, and many others across the countryside, even though they do connect with farmers in their own business operations. The disjointed agricultural value chain has been partially mended by these organisations. Additionally, they keep appropriating the unorganised retail sector, which consists of corner stores and outdoor marketplaces. Increasing their cooperation with FPOs and, more significantly, food processing businesses is one method to take the necessary action. Online partnerships between buyers, sellers, incubators, accelerators, and investors might be added to this. The continued development of the publicly supported Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a positive development in this regard. It will make it possible for the entire nation to access the procedures and tools generally used by significant e-commerce platforms.
According to a research by Ernst & Young, India’s agritech ecosystem would be worth $24 billion by 2025, with supply chain and output market-based agri companies having the greatest potential. But this ecosystem can only connect with and empower small and marginal farmers in sufficient numbers for technology interventions to be effective at the last mile. To make this possible, agro value chain technology issues must be brought to the attention of local self-governance institutions and the state’s district administrative machinery.They must then play the roles of efficient trainers and leaders in the extensive transmission of the same to small and marginal farmers throughout the nation in collaboration with the business sector.