Tech Implementation is Key to Improving the Agri Sector in India

An NIT Durgapur Alumnus, Balaya is a tech-driven professional passionate about integrating technology into agriculture. In a career spanning over two decades, he has led technology teams at diverse startup companies in US and India. Before joining Zuari in 2022, he built a full-stack Agtech platform at DeHaat,. Additionally, he has also co-founded a healthtech platform named DoVo Health to provide health solutions and corporate wellness programs to the consumers.

We are witnessing a lot of private sector participation in agriculture in recent times. Many startups have taken birth in this space, and there have been a lot of investments happening in this industry. Agritech sector is now considered as a sunrise sector among the tech community, and there is a lot of interest and positive intent being shown on the sector.

Technology infusion is happening at various levels in agri value chain – mostly in digitization of existing supply chain and creating digital interfaces for the farmers. Smartphone penetration too is at an all-time high across the country, the farmer community is also catching up in this aspect. There is a lot of interest in tech solutions among the progressive farmers, so if someone can come-up with right tech solutions, they will no doubt find substantial adoption from the farmers of today. The government too is undertaking many proactive steps in terms of policies in order to improve and support the agritech sector in the country.

On the other hand, market linkage in India is still far behind in technology adoption and remain mostly unorganized. The farmers are unable to get a proper price for their yields – thus creating a huge social distress in the community. Another major challenge is the very low percentage of farmers being under the financial inclusion umbrella and lack access to proper financial services. Also, there is still a lot of aspects that need improvement from the agriculture industry with regards to sustainability and climate change.

Latest Technologies & their Use Cases

Precision farming technology and its adoption is growing across India. Precision farming comprises of three parts – remote sensing by satellite imagery, near sensing through drones and ground sensing through IoT devices that can just be plugged into the ground itself. These three practices enable agronomists to have access to a large amount of insightful data in terms of the health of soil and crops – thus providing a fully tech-driven solution for farming advisory and ground implementation.

Drone usage is reshaping the way farming and farm management is carried-out and can bring a whole new level of revolution in this sector. You can have a multispectral camera in the drone to scan a very large area on a periodic basis and identify the stress areas of the crops such as pests or any other kind of infections or disease. Furthermore, drones can also be used to spray medicine, pesticides or any other kind of product quite easily over a large farm area in a very short time period, thus cutting down further spread of pests or diseases. Quick, cost-efficient and ability to cover large areas with ease are the three major factors that are fuelling the widespread of drones in farming practices today.

Precision Farming & Its Impact

Opportunities for Indian Agribusinesses are tremendous - both internally and internationally. Consumers want quality food products while the industry needs to use sustainable agricultural practices and prepare itself against climate change effects. This requires that the agri value chain become more and more tech driven and needs to have a high level of precision farming technology are built in to chain. for example - the farmer needs to have access to tech solutions to measure existing soil quality, nutrition requirements, pest control requirements, and irrigation requirements. Precision data can help farmers to use right solution at the right time and apply the right doses, this reduces their cost and provides higher yield and better-quality produce.

This creates digital traceability of the produce, that’s highly useful for supplying to high-value markets including export markets, thus generating better income for farmers. Financial inclusion will be yet another benefit of Precision solutions - this can create a data-driven platform for loans and crop insurance solutions – thus getting the vast majority of Indian farmers into the formal credit process.

All in all, precision solutions can bring the kind of tech-driven disruption that ag sector needs for growth, success, and sustainability.

Governmental Support

The government can play a major role in providing the enabling environment for the agritech space in India. While they have shown a lot of intent on this, there is a noticeable absence of actual implementations on the ground. One of the key necessity is to provide open access to digital land records and crop research materials that are in possession of the government and various research organizations. This will not only enable agritech companies to have a clear understanding of critical aspects such as soil properties to accordingly develop solutions and even personalize them for each soil/crop type, but also accelerate the development process of those solutions. Private sector companies like us who possess the necessary technical and operational capabilities will then be able to assist the government in its efforts towards supporting the agriculture community in the country.

Future Landscape

Organizations with last mile access will play a significant role in the progress and evolution of agtech space. Practical implementation and ground truthing will be the key to success of data driven agriculture. Unit economics is crucial, making solutions affordable for small and margial farmers who are majority in our farming community. Fullstack approach would be necessary to provide that level of unit economics, one-stop solution for farmer under one umbrella can provide more value to the farmer. Market linkage, aka forward linkage is crying out for tech innovation and disruption, that should happen in near future.