Since the adoption of the Green Revolution \u2014 between 1965 and 2015 \u2014 India\u2019s food production has multiplied 3.7 times, resulting in a 45% increase in food production per person, making India self-sufficient when it comes to food and an exporter as well. But one-fifth of India\u2019s farmers\u2019 still live below the poverty line.\r\n\r\nThe Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has announced its commitment to doubling farmers\u2019 income by 2022, an ambitious plan that could do with a leg up and more from technology. \r\n\r\nIn remote villages in Gujarat in India, a handful of Farmer Mitras are doing just that. These Farmer Mitras (friends), appointed by agritech startup MyCrop, roam agricultural fields in the area, collecting data across various agricultural parameters. The information is then uploaded on an app developed by MyCrop built using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies for predictive analysis of farming output.\r\nA Farmer Mitra showing a MyCrop farm plan to a cultivator in Gujarat\r\n\r\nThe Farmer Mitras are also tasked with mentoring smallholder cultivators in the latest farming techniques and technology. The aim is to help farmers decrease farming costs and increase productivity and income, says founder of MyCrop, Deepak Pareek, adding the startup is also helping generate employment for youth in these villages by onboarding them as Farmer Mitras. \r\n\r\nInterestingly, MyCrop started started its operations abroad \u2014 in the Southeast Asian island nation of Indonesia \u2014 before launching in India. It is present in Java and North Sumatra, where it has appointed 21 Farmer Mitras. Back home in India, there are 14 Farmer Mitras working in 28 villages in central Gujarat.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe Farmer Mitras collect data related to land, including geofencing, along with the demographic profile and past crop information of every farmer in the villages where we\u2019re active. Based on the information churned using our AI-powered application, they guides farmers on what to grow, when to grow, and how to grow it,\u201d says Pareek.\r\n\r\nThe projects have started showing fruitful results, Pareek claims, adding the startup has helped farmers increase their productivity by 30%, thereby enabling them to decrease their cost of production and increase their incomes.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor instance, agri-lenders can use the platform to evaluate farmers\u2019 performance, their land quality, and their farming behaviour to take effective decisions related to disbursal and follow-up of agri loans. Meanwhile, agri-input companies can take effective market-related decisions. Such data-driven insights can even help the government formulate better policies.\r\n\r\n\u201cThese (farm) plans help farmers do better than what they were doing yesterday. We've been able to reduce their cost of cultivation and increase their yields, profitability and income,\u201d Pareek says.\r\n\r\nSimilarly, food aggregators, agri-import companies and distributor can use predictive insights on farmers\u2019 productivity manage their own stocks better. This, in turn, can enable farmers can avail good prices for their produce.\r\n\u201cWe can even sell the produce before the harvest because we can predict its growth. This whole ecosystem is delivered to the farmers free of cost,\u201d Pareek said.\r\nA screenshot of the MyCrop application dashboard\r\n\r\nFarmer Mitras: Making A Career Of Data Collection And Mentoring\r\nMyCrop handpicks tech-savvy locals and appoints them as village level entrepreneurs (VLEs) or Farmer Mitras. It trains them and tasks them with collecting data related to farmlands and crops, which is then uploaded on the AI-powered MyCrop app to draw actionable insights.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ve worked a lot in creating a good training module that is universal. We give a complete career plan to the Farmer Mitras,\u201d Pareek says.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Farmer Mitras are taught to collect important information related to the demographic profile of farmers and their land and crops, among others, along with images. The data is then collated with geo-spatial factors (climate, topography, etc). The startup also draws on information from third-party services \u2014 for instance, historical financial and land data. \r\n\r\nAll of this data is processed using ML and AI to predict agricultural output. On the basis of these predictive insights, MyCrop draws up customised end-to-end farm plans covering the crop lifecycle for farmers. The plans are simple and include recommendations on what crop varieties a farmer should plant, the number of days he should spend on different farming activities (sowing, irrigation, application of crop nutrients, crop protection, harvesting), and other relevant inputs. \r\n\r\nThe Farmer Mitras visit farms periodically helping farmers implement their cultivation plans and post updates on the MyCrop platform through pictures of the current crop status. They also educate farmers through video, pictures, and information on their MyCrop tablet about actions to be taken.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAccording to Pareek, Farmer Mitras hired by MyCrop in India are earning nearly $150 USD (around 10,000 INR) every month while following their passion to serve farmers.\r\n\r\nThe startup maintains that unless it finds at least one candidate passionate enough to \r\n\r\nhelp farmers in his\/her respective villages, who is also adept at using mobile phones and tablets, it doesn\u2019t add the village to its portfolio. \r\nMyCrop: Sowing The Seeds Of Growth, From Indonesia To India\r\nFounded by Pareek along with two other co-founders \u2014 Paresh Shah and Vinesh Patel\u00a0\u2014 MyCrop first launched its pilot in December 2016 in North Sumatra in Indonesia. Now, the startup is offers its solutions through 21 Farmer Mitras across 32 villages in the country.\r\n\r\nInc42 asked why the startup chose to first pilot its solution in Indonesia?\u00a0Pareek said, \u201cWe chose Indonesia as there are\u00a0less variables to manage. Rainy season duration in Indonesia is usually long and has a very rich soil (because of volcanic soil), and farmers have more income per capita than India. Further we had support from agriculture Input companies and some NGOs like GIZ for our endeavors.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe three founders infused about $400K to start the company. The bootstrapped startup was officially launched in March 2017 in Indonesia and in August of the same year in Gujarat, ready to foray into agritech market and change the way farmers grow crops. In India, MyCrop is headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and its Indonesia head office is at Medan in North Sumatra.\r\n\r\nThe startup claims that its solution is being used by approx 4,500 Indian and Indonesian farmers, who have been able to increase their income by an average of 34%. The startup, which was running in pilot mode until last year, started clocking revenues from February 2018. Currently, its monthly revenue is around $5.8K (INR 4 lakh). \r\n\r\n\u201cWe work by launching a small sustainable pilot and then take it to a large organisation that can roll it out to more and more people. We generate revenues from commissions charged to stakeholders using the platform,\u201d Pareek said, adding that MyCrop doesn\u2019t charge anything from the farmers using its application.\r\n\r\nThe platform is currently being used by seven ecosystem stakeholders including NGOs, agri-input companies, and agri-lenders.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAgritech In India: The Market and The Players\r\nBolstered by the government\u2019s commitment to the goal of doubling the farmers\u2019 income by 2022, several agritech startups and ecosystem enablers, including investors, incubators, and accelerators, are coming forward in India to invest in the sector.\r\n\r\nInc42 DataLabs report suggests that around $36 Mn was invested in 15 agritech startups in 2017. Further, an IBEF report highlights that the country\u2019s Gross Value Added (GVA) from the sector is estimated to have grown at 3% in FY18. \r\n\r\nInvestors such as Rairah Corporation, Omnivore Partners, Future Venture Capital Company Ltd (FVCCL), IDG Venture, Accel Partners, Aspada Investments, IvyCap Ventures, Unitus Seed Fund, Rabo Equity Advisors, SAIF Partners, Villgro Innovations Foundation, Qualcomm Ventures and IDFC, among others, have taken a keen interest in the agritech sector.\r\n\r\nSimilarly, startups are mushrooming in the space. There\u2019s Intello Labs, which provides an AI-based deep-tech solution for crop inspection and agricultural products grading, and Agricx, which has developed an AI-and machine learning-based SaaS solution to simplify the grading system and eliminate variability in the quality of produce sourced, among others.\r\n\r\nAnother agritech startup, Harvesting Inc, is implementing its AI-based agricultural intelligence engine in villages across Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab. The engine uses remote sensing technology to provide data on farms and farmers to enable agri-lending institutions to carry out pre-loan and post-loan activities more efficiently.\r\n\r\nIn a recent development, Chandigarh-based agritech startup AgNext raised an undisclosed in Series A funding from Omnivore Partners India Fund 2. The startup plans to use the funding to expand its product in data analytics in the agriculture space by combining both hardware and software.\r\n\r\nMyCrop, meanwhile, is in the final stages of charting out its plans to start its operations in Myanmar, Philippines, and Vietnam \u2014 other agriculture-focused countries in Asia.\r\n\r\nThe startup is currently looking to raise Series A funding and plans to close the round by September, as part of its plan to expand its operations to other states of India. \u201cWe want strategic investors and want to onboard domain experts,\u201d Pareek says.\r\n\r\nAsked about the challenges faced by MyCrop, Pareek says the biggest challenge is hiring the right candidate to train into a Farmer Mitra. \u201cTill the time I don't get a good Farmer Mitra, I'm not adding another village just for the sake of adding one,\u201d he adds.\r\n\r\nThis approach may well be a boon for the startup. At the heart of MyCrop\u2019s AI-based farming solution is the larger mission of improving the lot of farmers and of agriculture as an industry. And that can only be done by stakeholders \u2014 whether individuals or companies \u2014 who are passionate about ensuring that India\u2019s farmers get their due and can live better lives.