India’s farmers are readily embracing agritech as it is agile and offers solutions that are flexible, easy to use and easy to customise
Perhaps the biggest game-changer is the e-mandi, an e-marketplace, that connects farmers with buyers, online, reducing intermediary costs
For a country where agriculture accounts for 16% of GDP and engages 43% of the workforce, it is imperative that we reimagine this historically marginalised sector
With a fistful of tech, the Indian farmer is finally taking his rightful place at the centre of the agriculture value chain. Making this transformational shift is the tiny microchip, which is placing power in the hands of the tiller through the application of new-age digital technologies to agriculture, or agritech.
Data-driven agriculture is quickly gaining traction in India as it offers solutions to challenges that have held back the sector for too long. It has made the kisan realise that prosperity is no longer an impossible dream. Rather, with a smartphone in hand, a high-speed internet connection, and a leap of faith, he can seize the reins and discover what it’s like to steer his future.
This is not plain crystal-ball gazing. Agritech is ushering in sustainable farming practices, enhancing yield and productivity, plugging gaps in the supply chain, eliminating intermediaries, minimising post-harvest losses, and promoting financial inclusion for small farmers, who have traditionally had little access to institutional credit.
FY24 Will Be The Year To Scale Up
Although agritech startups began to make ripples in India a decade ago, the emergence of digital technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT-enabled innovations have placed them on the cutting edge of this sector. So, while 2023 saw many new innovations in farming, FY24 will be the year to scale up.
The good news is that India’s farmers are readily embracing agritech as it is agile and offers solutions that are flexible, easy to use and easy to customise. This is especially effective in a country where small and marginal farmers account for 86% of farm holdings, which cannot benefit from the Western model of large farm size mechanisation.
The advantages of precision farming, easy access to scientific information for better farming practices, and getting a fair price for their produce via e-mandis are low-cost, frictionless and life-changing innovations for the kisan.
Indian agritech companies are also addressing the looming challenge of food security. With the country’s population expected to exceed 1.5 billion by 2030, ground-breaking technological innovations are making farming more sustainable, more efficient, increasing yields, and getting ready to feed rapidly growing numbers.
Slashing India’s massive post-harvest losses will also help feed more while saving thousands of rupees every year. An estimated 4-6% of cereals and 5-12% of vegetables are lost every year due to ineffective and faulty processing, storage, transportation and handling.
Reforming Agri Practices With Tech
Agritech has been arresting crop wastage by offering advanced logistics solutions and modern storage facilities tailored to individual farmers’ needs.
Crop rotation and crop diversification too are making farming more efficient and minimising soil erosion. All the information needed – and it can be highly customised – is available via apps that can be downloaded on a smartphone in a matter of seconds. This is empowering farmers in ways they have never experienced before.
Among the numerous benefits of agritech are geotagging and barcoding, which are propelling India to the forefront of food exports via a robust food traceability system. Traceability ensures quality and wins trust, enabling India to export high-value products to countries that place a premium on food safety and meeting regulatory requirements.
Perhaps the biggest game-changer is the e-mandi. An e-marketplace, it connects farmers with buyers, online, reducing intermediary costs. It also allows price discovery, introduces transparency, eliminates wastage as produce is moved only after a deal is struck, and enables digital payments in a frictionless manner.
Another revolutionary innovation is the introduction of collateral finance, which is especially beneficial to small farmers. By allowing them to use their produce as collateral, agritech companies are unlocking a new stream of finance, in the form of small loans and microcredit.
The sudden surge in the agritech space stems not only from its remarkable impact in the field but also from the massive digital push being given by the Indian government to the economy in general and agriculture in particular. Its most ambitious initiative is a new digital infrastructure called AgriStack, that aims to unify farmers across the country and address the challenges they face.
Other important innovations are a revamped Soil Health Card and an Accelerator Fund to encourage rural entrepreneurs to establish agri-start-ups. The government is also encouraging public-private partnerships in the agri value chain, making it a priority sector in terms of economic development.
For a country where agriculture accounts for 16% of GDP and engages 43% of the workforce, it is imperative that we reimagine this historically marginalised sector. Agritech companies have convincingly demonstrated the power of digital technology in leading Indian agriculture into the future.