Agriculture development is of utmost importance to India in order to create a USD 5 trillion economy as envisioned by the current leadership.
Backed by the government’s initiatives, agriculture and allied industries are capable of providing both direct and indirect employment to a large segment of the population. This will strengthen sustainable livelihood of local communities as well as promote development of villages.
Agriculture stress points
However, the agriculture sector is still plagued with grave problems like resistance to adopting modern machineries and technologies, climate change, water stress, poor quality soil, lack of warehouse/storage facilities, fragmented farm holdings, lack of land data, poor marketing infrastructure, pricing manipulation and unavailability of trained labour.
After identifying the gravity of the situation, many agri startups are foraying into this space to address these underlying issues. Currently, there are more than 450 startups in our country working on different aspects of pre- to post-harvest management system.
Tech upgrade, a boon
These challenges have, in fact, created an opportunity for startups to push for innovative, tech-friendly solutions. Cloud computing is one such application that farmers can effectively use for crop management via software-as-a-service (Saas) application. Also, different new apps are being designed and launched to specifically collect data, which is a huge boon for the field teams. Similarly, Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to connect different devices across a vast network thereby providing valuable data-based insights.
Likewise, AI-backed mobile technology like smartphones and tablets are playing a big role in the monitoring and evaluation process in the pre-harvest management system.
Deploying remote sensing tools like drones, GPS, satellite imagery, field sensors, smart irrigation systems, tracking gadgets like RFID and many such advanced technologies would help improve operational planning and accelerate real-time decision-making based on the farm and farmer’s requirement.
Another important tool that is being utilised for precision agriculture is data analytics. Many agri-businesses are deploying it to cut costs, improve the revenue stream and increase yield productivity.
However, many agtech firms are grappling with their own set of issues. These include rigid business models that are at times difficult to scale up, lack of insights and expertise on the subject matter which is essential in network build-up, resistant farmers unwilling to adopt technology, glaring gaps in the supply chain management, poor last-mile connectivity especially at grass-roots level as well lack of investments to drive the businesses.
Farming companies are also impacted by limited traceability and visibility. Agri input companies still struggle with inefficient field force management and operations along with lack of centralised database that causes huge losses along the value chain.
Hence, it becomes imperative for the government, agritech businesses and food supply chain companies to collectively fix these loopholes and create a transparent system which, in the long-term, will benefit all the stakeholders involved including the investors.
The Indian agriculture industry, pegged at $39.1 billion as on 2019, is poised for huge growth and contribution to the world food trade. Startups have a crucial role to play in helping farmers harness technology, which will increase crop yield and inadvertently double the income of farmers.
Despite certain challenges, agtech startups can provide meaningful solutions to build a smart agricultural value chain, be it in terms of a product (machinery, equipment, seeds, etc.), service (improving crop quality, providing effective supply chain) or even an application.
With the infusion of technology in the sector, agriculture is set to make big gains and move towards Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).