Indian food and agriculture industry has made significant strides in the last three decades. The Green revolution in the early 1960s helped us secure the food requirement for years to come. India’s Agricultural GDP increased at an annual rate of 3 percent between 1980 and 2012, making India the third-largest agricultural producer by value (behind China and the United States).
This rising affluence and the growing population is likely to increase India’s overall food consumption by 4% per annum to reach INR 23 Lakh Cr in 2030 from INR 11 Lakh Cr in 2010 (at 2010 prices). Per capita consumption is expected to increase from INR 9,355 to INR 15,731 (at an annual increase of 3%, at 2010 prices). The big question is how prepared are we to meet this food demand?
In developed countries, where farmers own a much larger average area under cultivation (ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 acres per farmer in Europe/US/Canada) advanced mechanisation processes is definitely required due large land holding supported by strong knowledge and services available to help farmers increase the productivity multi-folds. In developed economy, farmers spend anywhere between 11% to 15% on farming services which is higher than the mechanisation cost of 10% to 12%.
During the green revolution, the Indian farmer was able to increase productivity and meet the demands by increasing input dosage i.e. more fertilisers and pesticides.
However, now we have largely reached the limits of productivity growth achievable from an increase in inputs. Still, unscientific use of fertilisers and pesticides is still going on, which is depleting soil health. A few other challenges that our farmer faces today are limited deployment of quality seeds and technology, depletion of the water table, insufficient aggregation of farmers and avenues to market their produce, lack of professional training and education.
On-ground services are not available to Indian farmers and because of that they keep using old agronomy practices. Indian farmers spend approx 22% to 35% on mechanisation and almost nothing on services. Research and development of new technologies and innovation in agriculture has not reached quickly and in totality at ground level, this is a huge gap for Indian farmers. Till the time we will not build an ecosystem where farmers get the knowledge in a personalised and usable manner, this challenge will remain.
Digital Revolution In Agriculture
The biggest challenge that lies ahead in front of us as a country is how do we meet the food security needs for decades to come? The answer is that India needs another revolution in agriculture- a digital revolution. A farmer needs to be provided with the knowledge and Technology of what to sow, based on an agro-climatic study and looking at demand supply position for a particular crop, when to sow, when to harvest the crop, where to sell and at what prices.
By doing this productivity across crops and seasons will automatically adjust at optimal levels. Agritech industry will be a key player in making this happen.
With an increase in smartphone penetration and Internet connectivity, and the government’s push to become a digital economy, the timing for agritech sector has never been better.
Few companies which are providing solutions to the farmer in different areas are: RML Agtech (end-to-end decision support solutions), Skymet (weather service), MITRA, Stelapps (Milk Productivity), Pusa krishi (Government services on agriculture), AgroStar (ecommerce player for agri input).
In the United States alone, a report by Agtech shows investment in food and agriculture technology startups reached a massive $4.6 Bn in 2015, nearly doubling 2014’s ($2.36 Bn). Similar funding levels are still a dream for India. The categories that drove growth during the year were food e-commerce, precision agriculture (in particular drones & robotics), and irrigation & water technology.
The report adds, but for so much of the agriculture market — which represents about 10 percent of global GDP and only received about 3.5 percent of total VC funding — there is still a wide funding gap that other sectors are not experiencing. The same can be observed in India as well. There is a huge funding gap in the agritech sector.
It is high time that investment in agritech sector in India is encouraged by the government, corporate for funding and encouraging entrepreneurs to bring innovative solutions before we reach a crisis situation in food security, which is not very far away from today unless otherwise addressed.
About The Author
[The author of this post is Rajiv Tevtiya, MD & CEO, RML AgTech.]