NEW DELHI: After traditional supply chains got disrupted due to the covid-19-led lockdowns, a slew of agritech startups are helping farmers connect with buyers, automate supply chains and build the next layer of data analytics to drive efficiency by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT).
"Covid-19 and the lockdown have hit the core logistics and supply chain in agriculture in ways which was not measured in traditional distribution setups, and they were technologically insufficient to overcome this situation. Many agritech companies came up with innovative ways to help farmers and save their crop and harvest from complete loss and in this, they also gained farmers’ confidence" said Ananda Verma, co-founder, Fasal.
Fasal helps farmers through its AI-powered IoT-SaaS platform which captures real-time data on growing conditions from on-farm sensors and delivers farm-specific, crop-specific actionable advisories to farmers via mobile in vernacular languages.
Fasal’s field sensors measure multiple dynamic variables, including micro-climate, soil, and crop conditions. Through machine learning, this data is then transformed into farm-level predictions that help farmers reduce input costs by optimizing crop protection, irrigation, and crop nutrition.
Bengaluru-based QZense is using IoT to build solutions for quick and accurate grading of fresh food, by capturing insights on ripeness, spoilage, and shelf life that assists farmers capture higher margins from the same produce.
Online agritech startup DeHaat is working 24/7 to support smallholder farmers in Bihar, UP, Odisha, and Jharkhand by offering them a one-stop solution on crops to grow, how to grow and where to sell the produce under one roof in an accessible and affordable way.
Gurugram-based Bijak is helping rural commodity traders and buyers transition to digital commerce, while greenhouse agritech platform Clover is making sure greenhouse farmers avoid financial ruin while delivering fresh vegetables to kirana shops.
"With the onset of covid, an already fraught fresh-produce supply chain saw huge volatility, with farmers losing market access resulting in significant dump of the produce. On the other hand, consumers faced limited choice with concerns on origin of produce, handling of the produce till it reaches their doorstep.
The robust fresh-produce supply chain of Clover was able to channel a lot of these farmers into its network for serving the end consumer demand in a traceable, hygienic manner. We’ve done this across Bangalore and Hyderabad," said Avinash BR, co-founder, Clover, which also helps transition large-scale floriculture farmers, who’ve seen revenues plummet, to horticulture in a sustainable manner.
India is home to more than 450 agritech startups, growing at a rate of 25% year-on-year, according to a Nasscom 2019 report. The sector has received more than $248 million in funding as of June 2019, a growth of 300% as compared to the previous year.
Agritech continues to see tailwinds and startups such as Clover and Bijak have even raised funding during the covid crisis.
Clover raised ₹7 crore in May and in April, both Bijak and DeHaat raised $12 million in series A funding round.
“Indian agriculture is an over $350B industry powered by close to 100 million small and independent farmers. This industry is on the brink of a massive transformation with ease of regulation, farmers getting organized and increasing smart phone penetration and DeHaat is leveraging these trends to build the next-gen product in agricultural supply chain", said Abhishek Mohan, vice-president at Sequoia Capital India, which led the DeHaat funding.