Agritech startups pivot to advisory services to onboard more users

A January 2022 agritech startup report by PwC and Ficci noted the rising trend of advisories

Shouvik Das
Updated27 Jan 2022, 06:30 AM IST
Nasscom’s Indian Tech Startups Report, 2021, says farm advisory was the top solution-driven startup category in agritech.istock
Nasscom’s Indian Tech Startups Report, 2021, says farm advisory was the top solution-driven startup category in agritech.istock

Kumar Ranjan, chief executive of agritech venture E-Feed, built ludo and other casual games into his app, which he has distributed among farmers. His core business, though, is selling advisory services to dairy, poultry, and aqua farmers in the country.

The advisory model is a growing trend among agritech startups in India. Nasscom’s Indian Tech Startups Report, 2021, reflects this. “Farm advisory” was the top solution-driven startup category in agritech through the previous year, according to the report.

As early-stage startups such as E-Feed look to target a nascent sector, existing players are also pivoting into this offering. One such startup is the online agri-trading marketplace Agribazaar, which has grown a new vertical in its business that offers analytics-driven data to its registered farmers—and charges a premium on products that customers buy on its platform by promising better quality of produce.

“We’re trying to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to analyze the satellite-based soil data that we have, to see if we can help improve the produce quality,” said Amith Agarwal, chief executive of Agribazaar. “We’re drawing data from these analytics to learn the ideal crop for a field, and yield estimates. Based on this, we’re offering advisories to farmers registered on our platform,” he added.

Agarwal claims that Agribazaar already has over 700,000 registered farmers on its platform, of which over half are returning users—and regular users of its advisories. While Agribazaar does not collect a subscription fee from farmers using the advisories yet, it adds a premium on the produce sold through its direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketplace.

“Consumers do not mind paying a premium, and the efficiency of our data-based farm advisories is 99.99%, which works for all parties involved,” Agarwal claimed.

E-Feed, too, is relying on advisories as the key model for its business. It has a team of scientists, augmented by the involvement of “ration balancing software” that is integrated into its mobile app. “The software lets farmers select their geographical location, choose the type of animals on their farm, and the target prices they can afford. Once this is selected, they can draw out a farm feed composition tailored to their needs,” said Ranjan.

Based on a combined output of scientist advisories and the software data, dairy, poultry and aqua farmers are recommended the right feed for animals, which can be purchased directly through E-Feed’s app. “There’s a clear return on investment, too. Dairy farmers using our data to purchase feeds are already seeing almost three litres more of milk per animal every day,” Ranjan claimed.

Driven by the advisory model, E-Feed now claims to have more than 10,000 dairy, 30,000 poultry and 100,000 aqua farmers using its services. Ranjan said roughly 1-3% of its users were paying membership fee for full access to its feed advisories.

A January 2022 agritech startup report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry also noted the rising trend of advisories being offered by agritech startups. “Agritech startups in India are endeavouring to solve multiple challenges in the agricultural value chain. These include suboptimal productivity, low efficiency in the supply chain, lack of access to markets and institutional credit, low penetration of crop insurance, poor-quality inputs and lack of market linkages,” the report stated.

Ashish Aggarwal, vice-president and head of public policy at Nasscom, said data-driven agritech advisories are showing their impact on farming within shorter time spans than earlier farming techniques. “We also have drone startups working with the agritech sector in India to offer greater insights,” he said.

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First Published:27 Jan 2022, 06:30 AM IST
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