Startups Growing Right In Food Innovation And Agritech

India is also going through a rapid transition and agri-tech is becoming as vital as ed-tech or fin-tech. The major scope for the agri-tech companies, especially agro-based startups, is that India has the second-largest agricultural land in the world

Amidst the two major menaces – pollution and climate change, the future of agriculture is becoming more and more uncertain. With around 815 million people across the globe suffering from hunger and one out of three already malnourished, the need to scale up food production in a sustainable manner is the need of the hour.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims at eliminating hunger completely by 2030. Agri-tech can be the only game changer to help the planet achieve the SDG goals and innovators in agricultural technology have the responsibility to figure out how more food can be produced in less time with fewer resources through developments in Agri technologies.

India is also going through a rapid transition and agri-tech is becoming as vital as ed-tech or fin-tech. The major scope for the agri-tech companies, especially agro-based startups, is that India has the second-largest agricultural land in the world and almost 60 per cent of the country’s rural households depend on farming. According to various research studies in the agri-tech sector, the country has the potential of growing to approximately $24 billion by 2025 from $204 million at present.

Understanding agri-tech

In simpler terms, agri-tech, also known as agricultural technology, is the application of technology to make farming more efficient by effective monitoring of field and the food supply chain. From simpler things like tractors, combine harvesters and milking machines to applications of cutting edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics or gene-edited organism, agri-tech covers all aspects for advancing the agriculture sector. Agri-tech can be categorized in three general trends – technologies that produce differently using new techniques, technologies that bring food production to consumers while increasing efficiency in the food supply chain and applications that cross industries. Robotics is another area where agricultural technology experts are focusing their research on.

Agricultural challenges in India

Some of the major challenges in the agriculture sector in India include a steady decrease in the agricultural land due to increasing urbanization, small and fragmented land holdings, poor quality of seeds, lack of mechanization, lack of analytics and data, low yield on per unit crop, reliance on middlemen, etc. Moreover, there are other challenges too, such as absence of unified physical marketplaces, inadequate transportation facilities and storage space, existence of malpractices in the unorganized markets, scarcity of organized credit and lack of visibility in terms of pricing, market, etc.

However, with the growing agri-tech sector in the country, and a myriad of startups exploring the field, India is soon to overcome with its primary afflictions such as lack of globally used technologies, analytics and data, mechanized farming, state-of-the-art R&D, etc.

Agri-tech start ups leading the way

With not much focus been put on the application of agricultural technology till now, the opportunities for growth of an agri-tech startup is massive in a country which has vast agricultural lands. In its pursuit to bring in the impending agri-tech revolution in the country, the Indian startups are working on a plethora of initiatives, from offering micro level to macro level services. Agri-tech players are coming up with advanced techniques to provide on-ground assistance like soil analysis of a specific agricultural farm, while also using technologies to forecast environmental effects using satellite images. The key objective they are focusing on is to transfigure how the agriculture is done traditionally across all stages of the value chain.

The agri-tech start ups are also putting untiring efforts to find out innovative ways to link the physical market with the digital platforms through e-marketplaces, which will enable farmers and processors to sell their products online without a physical presence – mostly by providing value added services like logistics, quality standardization and secure means of payment. Furthermore, several initiatives have been introduced for better traceability and sustainability of food in the agriculture business.

A major boost for the agri-tech start ups is that other sectors have also been seeking advancements in the traditional ways of farming. The farm input segment had been focusing on ways to adopt and blend technology in the physical infrastructure to provide farm input at best prices. Also the finance sector and major players in financial services have been serving around 30 percent of farmer households via greater access to credit, and 65 percent of farmer families via access to crop insurance.

Agri-tech players are also working towards transforming the poultry sector by simplifying organic egg farming in the country. Apart from providing technical supports, the agri-tech start-ups provide complete hand-holding and training on how to run the farm. In an integrated approach, the agri-tech researchers work directly with the farmers guaranteeing production of high quality natural food, while utilizing IoT and other technical platforms. Researchers are also working on using virtual reality with factory-based robotics in poultry processing operations to allow farmers perform their jobs in safer and dynamic environment.

Recently introduced government schemes have also been a major encouragement for the new players in the agri-tech sector. The formation of the National Centre for Management and Agricultural Extension in Hyderabad (MANAGE) and the Department of Science and Technology has been a major catalyst. The government has also been working on providing the agri-tech startups with mentoring, industry networking and investor pitching guidance.

(The given article is attributed to Abhishek Negi, Co-Founder Eggoz Nurition. and has been created exclusively for BW Disrupt)

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