AGRICULTURE, an important part of the Indian economy, has gone from being a purely agricultural activity to an amazing market-driven business. Emerging as a promising segment with tremendous opportunities to promote much-needed links between agriculture and the marketplace, agriculture has seen tremendous growth in the open market environment over the past few decades. It has a wide range of companies involved in food production including agriculture, farm equipment, seed delivery, fertilizers, agrochemicals, irrigation equipment, sales, processing, marketing, trade, wholesale and retail. India is one of the 15 leading exporters of agricultural products worldwide. According to a report released in March this year by the Department of Commerce and Industry Indian Brand Equity Foundation, the export of essential agricultural commodities is expected to reach $ 60 billion by 2022 in agribusiness to accelerate recent advances to capitalize on its inherent competitive advantage . This can be better achieved by putting innovative ideas and the application of information and communication technology into practical form.
Startups are recognized worldwide as the first step in revolutionary change in various fields. Startups have creativity and innovation as their key elements. These were introduced in India nearly three decades ago but resumed earlier this century. Various reports have positioned India after the US and UK in terms of technology-driven startups. Startup India, a flagship program launched by the Government of India in 2016, aims to facilitate entrepreneurship and drive innovation to strengthen the startup ecosystem and help technologists become job creators rather than job seekers. According to a report presented in parliament by the Ministry for Industry and Domestic Economic Development (DPIIT), 44,534 startups had been registered by the ministry by February 24, 2021, generation technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) and software as a service (SaaS) can provide solutions to numerous vulnerabilities across the spectrum of traditional farming practices.
There is an urgent need to raise awareness of collectivism and motivate farmers to strengthen links with the market, involve them in technological solutions, partners in research, policy planning and a range of support and network services for quick access to modern and scientific Further developments, strengthening of advisory activities and eliminating knowledge gaps for better returns, to which agro-tech startups can contribute a lot in order to minimize stress in Indian agriculture. In our densely populated, smallholder-dominated agricultural system, agriculture is less profitable for both farmers and processors. Agricultural technology startups can eliminate informalities in the domestic markets, improve scalability, traceability and transparency in the agricultural value chain and build a technology-supported end-to-end structure of the integrated value chain for production processing and sales.
Agritech startups also have opportunities in areas such as developing farm-specific, data-driven diagnostics to determine soil and plant health, and capturing real-time data on pests and diseases in crops through image recognition technology. Farming equipment rental is an area with great potential for reducing operating costs as modern farming equipment is not affordable for the average farmer. Farming Services start-ups have a lot of leeway to organize farmer groups and ensure the timely availability of various materials for farmers in need. So far, the money has mainly flowed into agriculture in the form of cash. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) payment method to farmers of their products is a big step for a change in the agri-finance industry. This shift will give fin tech startups the ability to digitize payments to and from farmers through various gateways linked to their accounts, and create a credit profile system for lenders and lenders, replacing any exploitative credit system. Aside from several market-linking models, agro-tech startups can play a vital role in implementing the IoT for farmers by promoting intelligent high-tech, precision farming and automated farming technologies, thereby increasing efficiency and improving productivity levels.
Aside from Startup India, Atal Innovation Mission, NewGen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centers, Venture Capital Assistance funded by the Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium are government programs that support such initiatives. As part of the Union’s Department of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare’s Agriculture Grand Challenge plan, there are several promising avenues that provide incubation support for agro-tech startups at the edge, such as: fast e-soil testing, connection of food processors with farmers via e-marketplaces, information dissemination down to the last mile, reliable yield estimation modeling at village level, web-based spatial decision support system, extension of the shelf life of perishable products, technological detection of food adulteration, availability of input through direct and online Modus, technical solutions for replanting rice fields and alternative uses of the straw, replacing the use of toxic pesticides and finding affordable, accessible and easy-to-use technologies, products or services to increase agricultural productivity in Indian agriculture.
According to the National Association of Software and Services Corporation (NASSCOM), around 450 registered agro-technology startups saw 25 percent growth in 2019. The number of these startups has grown to nearly 600, which according to the FICCI-PwC report from February 2021, still accounts for about 1 percent of the potential market opportunity. Punjab-based agro technology startups working on digital solutions to improve product quality, optimize costs and track food, convert rice stubble into fuel pellets and provide better access to better dairy farm management technologies, including cattle facial recognition, have gone global Level recognized.
Public-private partnerships in the agricultural value chain are gaining traction for startups as they can improve decision-making, streamline DBT and subsidies. Fundraising, relevant experience, interpretation of basic data, correct planning and implementation of unique ideas, effective management, mutually profitable dealings with stakeholders and conventional farmers, etc. are some of the important ingredients for the success of a startup. There is an encouraging growth trend towards supply chain, financial and related solutions, infrastructure development, agricultural data analysis and information platforms. However, areas such as AI-based intelligent solutions and the increased use of new technologies such as robotics and drones as well as advanced farm analyzes are still waiting for the attention of pioneering entrepreneurs. In order for the ecosystem for agro-technology startups to grow and establish itself, a robust political framework is required.
India is on track to become the most populous country by 2027; According to age group statistics, it is also likely to be the youngest country. The demographic dividend must be harvested by agriculture in order to maintain its status as the largest job creation sector. The agro-tech start-ups have the potential to increase this contribution.
The author is a former VC, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, Udaipur