India is still an agrarian economy from a livelihood perspective, with agriculture contributing 46% employment, though adding only 17% in terms of gross value added as of 2016. Farm productivity is relatively abysmal and farming practices still archaic. Farm mechanization, use of suitable farm inputs and guidance, access to warehousing and markets, credit facilities and remunerative prices for farmers are yet a distant dream. Fragmented farm holdings, 85% of the farmers with less than 2 hectares, and marginal farmers with extremely low affordability, are key challenges. In recognition, the PM has launched several initiatives to double farm income by 2022, including the Electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) where farmers can directly sell their produce and the PM Fasal Bima Yojana for crop insurance, besides funding via agencies such as NABARD. Although the government efforts are laudable, the startup ecosystem needs to play a critical role for a paradigm shift.
The startup nation, Israel, with just 8 million people, counts more than 500 agri startups offering innovative solutions like drip irrigation systems. Instead of just being a target market for such products, there is no reason why we can’t be a hotbed for our own innovations. The necessary expertize in agri and biotech sciences, and talent are available to make India a leading hub of agri innovations. Over the past five years, new-age entrepreneurs, as well as investors, have shown growing interest to leverage the emerging technologies for solving agri and food supply chain problems across the value chain—farm inputs, harvesting, processing, storage, logistics and distribution.
While we do not hear of enough large-scale success stories yet, the sector is ripe for and requires all sorts of innovations—business model, process, technological, and for enhancing its contribution to the GDP. From an impact perspective, agriculture is linked to 10 out of the 17 sustainable development goals of the UN. We are at an inflexion point to transform the agriculture and food sectors at scale. Huge challenges are giant opportunities in the eyes of entrepreneurs.
Reverse Pitch is like a normal investors pitch, but with the roles reversed. That means the startup doesn’t present its business to investors but investors and companies pitch their business concepts, challenges and the like to startups.