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What comes to your mind when you think of technology?

Artificial intelligence (AI)? Blockchain? Electric vehicle (EV)? Robots?

All these are exciting megatrends of the future and are being rapidly adopted globally.

Apart from these, there’s another which will solve an important problem in the future.

The global population is expected to reach 9.7 bn by the year 2050. By then, resources might become scarce. There will be food scarcity.

This exciting technology will help in feeding the growing population.

Enter Agritech.

What is Agritech?

Agritech, as the word suggests, is a combination of agriculture and technology.

It refers to the use of technological innovations in agriculture to increase yield, quality, efficiency, and profitability.

Agritech uses modern methods to enhance farming and is rapidly shaping the agricultural economy for a more progressive future.

It also uses robots, big data, AI, and other methods in order to solve the never-ending challenges of agriculture sector.

With its help, crops are modified to grow in any environment, there’s faster planting, and also better harvesting.

Estimates show that India’s agritech industry has the potential to reach about $24 bn in revenue by the year 2025, with current penetration being only 1%.

Technology used in Agritech

#1 Smart farming 

Smart farming has different categories. It’s used after doing a thorough research and inspection of previous conditions.

Weather forecasts to achieve higher yield, automated irrigation, etc are a part of smart farming. It represents the approach to agricultural innovation in the whole by adopting various smart technologies.

In a nutshell, smart farming is harnessing collected data, analytics, and machine learning to help farmers make decisions about what to grow and how to feed the planet in a sustainable way.

#2 Drones and Satellites

Using drones and satellites allows a farmer to cover large tracts of land quite easily and quickly.

Drones and satellites help scan the crops and fields in order to measure and monitor. They also generate terrain maps.

The drone market is exploding, on its way to become a multi-billion dollar industry in a short span of time.

Besides, drones serve other purposes such as fighting crop disease, pollination, planting seeds, and food security.

#3 IoT Sensors

Agritech develops internet of things (IoT) based software that can track and provide accurate information about the weather, humidity, and current condition of soil.

What consumed a lot of farmers’ time and resources is now available instantaneously.

#4 Blockchain

You may be wondering how blockchain technology impacts the agriculture sector.

Well, blockchain connects farmers with end-users directly.

Consumers can now easily track where, when and how the produce originated. This also cuts out the middlemen.

#5 Vertical farming

As the name suggests, vertical farming involves crop production using vertically stacked layers. With the application of LED lights to encourage photosynthesis, crops can be grown day and night.

#6 Automation

Automation replaces manual labour with the help of software and hardware solutions to increase speed and reduce loss in quality.

Apart from these, there’s biotech, robotics, and big data too.

All these advancements have changed the food and agriculture industry for good.

Big-bang government initiative

Various government initiatives for the agriculture industry shows why the sector is growing in India.

In its most recent move, PM Narendra Modi has signed agreements with US giants Amazon, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems to modernise the agriculture sector.

These tech companies will be given access to data and statistics available on India’s agricultural ecosystem since 2014.

The idea is simple: Seed all information such as crop pattern, soil health, insurance, credit, and weather patterns into a single database. Then, these companies can analyse it through AI and data analytics.

Then,the companies will develop personalised services for overcoming challenges such as peaking yields, water stress, degrading soil and lack of infrastructure including temperature-controlled warehouses and refrigerated trucks.

Modi also signed agreements with Indian companies and local businesses including Jio Platforms, ITC, ESRI India Technologies, and Patanjali Organic Research Institute.

The government has seeded publicly available data for more than 50 m farmers of the 120 m identified land-holding growers so far.

This initiative directs towards the increased deployment of AI and machine learning models and networks in India while ecommerce firms like Amazon will have a crack at the grocery segment.

But why did the government think of this now? Well, better late than never.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that 40% of the food produced in India is wasted annually. It further suggests that this wastage is due to inefficient supply chains and fragmented food systems.

This initiative is aimed at rectifying all this. Soon enough, agritech startups will also want to grab a piece of this.

Rise of Agritech startups in India

During the pandemic, farmers were struggling to purchase inputs ahead of the harvest season. Lockdown limited the access to marketplaces and mandis.Logistics and transport systems were broken.

All this resulted in post-harvest losses and the cost of unsold produce pinched farmer finances.

This was an opportunity for agritech startups to make farmers aware of the technology.

There are more than 450 Indian start-ups in the agritech space.

Between January and August this year, agritech startups in India raised US$426 m, a 3x rise over the same period last year.

Here are few Indian agritech startups which are changing the industry.

#1 Ninjacart: Founded in 2015, Ninjacart enables retailers and restaurants to source fresh produce directly from farmers at competitive prices and also delivers it to businesses.

The six-year-old startup has a network of more than 200 collection centers and 1,200 warehouses in India. It moves over 1,400 tonnes of fresh produce daily and supplies to stores across seven cities.

After its last fundraising in May 2021, Ninjacart was valued at US$ 502 m.Flipkart India is a notable shareholder.

#2 WayCool: WayCool is a B2B startup that connects farmers and food producers with restaurants and hotels. The company has a network of 50,000 farmers and handles 350 tonnes of food products per day across more than 18,000 clients.

After its latest funding in April 2021, it was valued at around US$199 m ( 14.5 bn).

#3 AgroStar: AgroStar is a platform which uses farm and farmer-specific data to provide real-time solutions to reduce farmers’ cost of production and improve yields.

AgroStar bills its app as a one-stop solution that contains about India’s 135 m farmers need.

It was last valued at US$42.2 m.

#4 Nurture.farm: The agritech startup fosters farmers, making agriculture simple, profitable, and sustainable through technology-led solutions.

It is a wholly owned subsidiary of UPL.

All in all, startups are playing a pivotal role in easing farmers’ burden.

The road ahead…

The Indian agritech sector has huge untapped potential. It has been gaining increased attention from venture capitalists (VCs).

Although at a nascent stage, agritech is bound to change the way agriculture business is done.

The wheels are already in motion and it won’t be long before we see another green revolution-like transformation in India.

It will certainly be positive for companies involved in the agricultural ecosystem.

This article is syndicated from Equitymaster.com

 

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