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Business News/ Companies / Start-ups/  Tech blooms in Indian annadatas' fields: Agri-startups sow seeds for sustainable farming revolution

Tech blooms in Indian annadatas' fields: Agri-startups sow seeds for sustainable farming revolution

India's agri startups are revolutionizing agriculture with advanced technology and sustainable practices. The government's support and favourable business climate have led to significant startup growth, with a rise in budget allocation for agriculture.

Indian agri startups are revolutionizing agriculture with advanced technology and sustainable practices. Premium
Indian agri startups are revolutionizing agriculture with advanced technology and sustainable practices.

India—an agri-centric nation—has witnessed the phenomenal proliferating of technology in this space, with numerous startups based on advanced innovation, data analytics, and sustainable practices venturing into the country's oldest industry. These agri startups empower the nation's backbone—farmers, affectionately nicknamed Annadatas—by providing solutions tailored to address their issues comprehensively.

Over the past nine years, the startups in agriculture and allied sectors have surged from 50 to 7,000 due to a favourable business climate and robust government support, according to a report titled 'Transformation of India's Agriculture' released by the Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA). In addition, the budget allocation for agriculture also saw a jump from 30,000 crore to 1.3 lakh crore. 

The central government has launched various policies, including the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maandhan Yojana (PM-KMY), Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to extend financial support to farmers. 

Agripreneurs believe that Indian agriculture will transform the industry in the coming decade by shifting significantly towards sustainable practices like bio-based solutions and technological advancements like artificial intelligence, IoT, drones, etc. 

“In the next 10 years, the adoption of bio-based solutions like microbial products, biofertilizers, and biopesticides will increase, driven by the need for eco-friendly farming methods. This shift will improve crop productivity, soil health, and water conservation and reduce pesticide residues," said Harsh Vardhan Bhagchandka, President of IPL Biologicals. 

“Precision agriculture technologies, such as AI, IoT, and drones, will be more integrated to optimize resource usage, improve yields, and minimize environmental impact. The agriculture industry is on the cusp of significant innovation, ready to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world," he told LiveMint. 

Bhagchandka said IPL Biologicals builds partnerships with farmers and research institutions, develops digital platforms to support annadatas, invests in research and development, and advocates for sustainable agricultural policies to adapt to agri trends. 

He said the agri-startup addresses farmers' problems like declining soil health, disease and pest resistance, and overuse of synthetic chemicals, exacerbated by climate change with innovative, research-based microbial solutions that enhance crop yields, reduce chemical usage, and improve soil quality. 

When it comes to technology, one should not forget drones and artificial intelligence which gained significant traction in the agriculture sector. Drones and AI technology provide farmers with numerous advantages, such as enhanced efficiency, higher yields, and lower costs. 

The Government of India also launched the “Drone Didi Yojana" to train 15,000 women to operate drones for agricultural purposes and impart skills in technology. 

Pradeep Palelli, founder and CEO of Thanos Technology, said, “We envision a future where the majority of India's agricultural fields use drones in some manner—be it for Spraying Fertilizers or pesticides or for monitoring the field to take actionable insights."

The agri-tech company built agriculture-spraying drones with GPS technology and an Intelligent Flight Controller that enables autonomous spraying in the field, he said, adding that it saves farmers' money and eliminates health hazards as no human is present inside the farm during the process. 

“The manual spraying method takes an hour to cover around one acre of land, while the drones can cover around eight acres in the same period. It can reduce around 95% of water usage compared to conventional methods," Palelli told us. 

On the other hand, Kartheeswaran KK, CEO and co-founder of Ninjacart stated that agri-tech brands are harnessing AI tools to transform the agriculture landscape, offering innovative solutions to farmers.

“This trend is evident in India, with the rise of agritech startups, highlighting a supportive environment for growth and development. We tackle challenges faced by farmers and input retailers with enhanced digital solutions in finance, market information, advisory, and business management," he said. 

The agri-based company has introduced AI-enabled WhatsApp bots that provide instant advisory services, using a GenAI system trained on millions of data points to identify crop diseases and recommend remedies to illiterate farmers, he said. 

The Thanos Technology founder, whose family has roots in agriculture, expects that mechanization or automation — be it manned technology or unmanned devices like tractors, weeders, drones, etc. — will become more common in the coming years. 

“It is evident that manual labour availability is decreasing yearly in the agriculture sector due to labour migration to different cities and their shift to non-agricultural operations offering higher income. We expect more innovative business models to take shape in this industry, given the widespread acceptance of this technology," he added. 

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Published: 25 May 2024, 12:19 PM IST
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