Can high-tech corporations with actionable inputs eradicate uncertainties in agriculture?

Can high-tech corporations with actionable inputs eradicate uncertainties in agriculture?

Sangarmesh Talikotti has been a farmer for 20 years and is effectively conscious of the unpredictable elements that may have an effect on his livelihood every season. The 40-year-old additionally is aware of that he has to make use of a mixture of the standard information acquired over time and trendy strategies to minimise the dangers he faces each season. So when he heard about deploying web of issues (IoT) know-how in farming, Talikotti didn’t hesitate. In March, he spentRs 38,000 to plant three sensors on his 2.5-acre tomato farm.

The factitious intelligence-driven platform from Benguluru-based agri-tech startup Fasal commonly relays data to Talikotti’s smartphone. He will get updates on when to irrigate the sector, when to reap the crops, what’s the danger of pest assault and the place to make use of pesticides. Talikotti is so impressed with the system that he now intends to put in sensors throughout his 60-acre farm the place he grows papayas, brinjals and drumsticks. He’s particularly comfortable that his destiny just isn’t fully primarily based on the variables anymore, all due to Fasal.

The startup, which has 30 staff, “tries to take the guesswork out of farming,” says Ananda Verma, founder & CEO. “We are a precision agriculture company with a focus on horticulture.” Utilizing software program engineers, pathologists, horticulture specialists and AI specialists, startups like Fasal, AgSmartic, CropIn and others gather farm knowledge, analyse these and current useful and remedial data to farmers. Hemant Wavhal, 35, is comfortable that he gave FasalRs 47,000 in February to deploy sensors on his two-acre pomegranate farm at Alephata village in Pune district. He claims to have already saved round Rs 30,000 on plant safety chemical compounds because the sensors pinpoint the place to spray the chemical.

Expertise is useful for farmers trying to minimise dangers and enhance output. Talikotti and Wavhal will vouch for that. They’re amongst a small however rising variety of agrarians using know-how to take the guesswork out of their career. This has, in flip, birthed an ecosystem of small and large firms making an attempt to result in sensible transformations in farming.

Principally, sensors gather temperature, gentle, Ph values, moisture content material and different such readings. Some sensors are deployed about 18 inches beneath the soil to gather microclimatic readings and soil knowledge. IoT converts these knowledge into exact actionable intelligence for farmers. And these firms are gathering and analysing that knowledge to assist farmers.

Ripe for Tech

The ecosystem may also help the federal government obtain its purpose of doubling farm earnings by 2022. It might probably additionally energy the agricultural economic system, seen as an necessary engine that may propel India in the direction of its purpose of turning into a $5 trillion economic system by 2025, from $2.7 trillion now.

These targets could be simply achieved if farming will get a tech improve. Harsha Razdan, companion & head of client markets & retail, KPMG India, says, “Low spending on R&D, low productivity and small farm holdings are the problems. These conditions are fertile for technology providers to disrupt the sector and improve yields.”

Challenges in Farming

R&D spend on agriculture as a proportion of GDP is just 0.7% in India, in line with the Financial Survey 2020. It’s 2.8% within the US, 2.1% in China and 4.2% in Israel. Even farm mechanisation is low in India, at 40%, compared with 60% in China and 75% in Brazil.

Not surprisingly, tech firms and startups see a possibility to improve the round $400 billion Indian agriculture sector. There are 896 agri-tech startups offering tech instruments for pre-harvest, post-harvest and through plant-growing durations, in line with Tracxn knowledge as on July 1. They’ve attracted $560 million of enterprise funding, most of it within the final three years. In two years, in line with Maple Capital Advisors, agri-tech ventures will entice one other $500 million.


With that sort of potential, former funding banker Taranjeet Singh Bhamra had no bother in deciding to begin AgNext in 2016. The Chandigarh-based startup makes use of laptop imaginative and prescient and spectroscopy for post-harvest inspection of tea leaves. “About $3 billion worth of tea trade happens annually via visual inspection — by keeping a few leaves on the ground and deciding on the quality of tea. We built a technology that analyses the leaves by checking the fibre content,” says Singh. It took AgNext 18 months and half a billion leaves to develop an algorithm to detect the standard of tea leaves extra rapidly and successfully.

Expertise can also be getting used to scale up greens cultivation. Take, as an illustration, potatoes, which get destroyed by early-morning frost. Farmers usually depart water pumps on by means of the night time as moist soil provides higher safety from frost. However an excessive amount of water can be dangerous. There may be assist at hand now as sensors can predict when there’s a probability of frost and determine if the irrigation system ought to be switched on. CropIn, which supplies agri-tech options to brinjal, tomato and onion farmers in Jharkhand and Orissa, claims to have helped its companions enhance productiveness by round 30% over the past three years by offering such data.

Hi-Tech Eyes & Ears

“IoT and agriculture are tied to each other,” says Alok Bardiya, head of IoT, Tata Communications, which had rolled out a low-power wide-area community protocol in India in 2017. This mainly permits long-range transmission of knowledge utilizing much less energy, making it appropriate to attach sensors deployed over an enormous space. This knowledge from the bottom is sensible for farming solely when juxtaposed with satellite tv for pc knowledge, which is collected by firms reminiscent of SatSure. “We look for proxy indicators,” says Prateep Basu, a former ISRO scientist who began SatSure in 2016. “For example, water in soil has a different signal than just soil. We can predict droughts using such technology.”

Essentially the most difficult side of agri-tech ventures shall be understanding the vagaries of monsoon. Skymet Climate Companies, India’s first personal climate forecaster, understands how testing that may be. It has 7,500 sensors and 100 crop cameras throughout the nation gathering knowledge, which is used to create actionable data.

Leafy Greens

“Technology can help agriculture by minimising weather risks, pest risks and input risks,” says Jatin Singh, CEO of Skymet. Sensors and cameras can hold tabs on pheromone traps and relay related data to farmers. Noida-based AgSmartic Applied sciences makes use of autonomous techniques to supply early pest detection warning. Abhishek Sinha, CEO & cofounder, says the corporate has deployed sensors on 570 acres of farms at three places in Punjab.

India Yield

Aside from appearing as a pest monitoring system, these additionally gather soil temperature and moisture ranges. This data can present stress in water demand, which may set off autonomous irrigation. Jagdish Mitra, chief technique officer of Tech Mahindra, says, “Cre-ation of an agri stack which will connect all stakeholders across the ecosystem is the next logical step.” As firms harness know-how to do extra with much less, some startups are providing a solution to develop greens with out soil.

Chennai-based Aqua Farms, for one, hydroponic residence kits which might be plug-and-play options to develop leafy greens. The equipment contains a nutrient filling know-how and prices Rs 6,000-45,000 for output of 2-20 monthly. Since beginning the gross sales in January 2019, the corporate has offered 1,000 kits throughout India. This pattern may decide up as cities are constructed and folks go for home-vegetables. The approach may discover extra land-scarce city hubs.


Hyderabad-based UrbanKisaan makes use of hydroponics to develop greens at a industrial scale. Began in 2017, UrbanKisaan grows 70 styles of crops, together with tomatoes, potatoes and onions, in indoor farms which might be not more than 2,500 sq ft. “We grow 30x more vegetables than what can be done in soil farming, using 95% less water. 2,000 sq feet equals 2 acres of farm output,” says Vihari Kanukolla, CEO & cofounder, UrbanKisaan, which sells its produce on-line. As indoor farming tries to imitate the out of doors setting, the reliance on tech will get larger. Sensors constantly monitor temperature, moisture and humidity, amongst others.

Tech is very helpful in these closed and confined settings. One other system being deployed is aquaponics, which makes use of nutrientrich water from fish tanks to feed greens earlier than circulating the water again into the fish tanks. Right here, once more, know-how has made the approach sustainable. If the Ph ranges in water is excessive, vegetation will die. If it falls, fish will perish. So there may be heavy dependence on sensors and IoT to keep up the precise stability within the ecosystem.


Anubhav Das, 46, grew to become so fascinated by this method that he determined to plunge into it, regardless of having labored as a photographer and model strategist for nearly twenty years.

After studying aquaponics system design on the Aquaponics Institute of Australia in Melbourne, he arrange Purple Otter Farms on an acre near Nanital in Uttarakhand. “There is consistency in quality of the output, soil contaminants are removed and there are no impurities.” He grows lettuce, kale, rocket leaves, swiss chard, arugula and different leafy greens and sells them on to a minimum of 100 subscribers within the Delhi-NCR area. Regardless of agri-tech having many advantages, points like erratic community and excessive prices may gradual the speed of adoption.

Diary Farming

In addition to farmers must see financial savings and progress of their incomes earlier than they determine to go all in — which might be simpler stated than performed in a rustic the place they nonetheless face financial hardship commonly.

But when a concerted push from the federal government and the businesses succeeds in guaranteeing a wider adoption of agri-tech, farms in India can grow to be extra worthwhile in three to 5 years. Even when monsoon threatens to harm farmers, knowledge from clouds may save them.

Tech will deliver revolution solely when farmers see earnings: Ashok Gulati

Ashok Gulati

Agricultural economist Ashok Gulati says 90% of know-how is tackling manufacturing points when the main focus ought to be on creating markets. Edited excerpts:

There are over 400 startups that deliver know-how to farms. What distinction will they make?

There are 146 million farms. What number of have adopted know-how? These are attention-grabbing showpieces. Until there may be cash for farmers, these applied sciences won’t scale up. These are experiments. Out of 100 startups, not even 10 scale up. Applied sciences deliver revolution solely when there may be revenue for farmers.

However tech will assist enhance yield, scale back wastage.

Who will bear the price of digital applied sciences, together with AI, IoT and ML, is the problem. The federal government can’t give subsidy for every part.

Is there a marketplace for premium produce like good-quality potatoes, tomatoes, onion, and many others?

The query is, is the shopper able to pay for it? The entire course of has to begin on the farmers’ degree. Aggregation needs to be performed: let 50 farmers come collectively, allow them to wash, dry, put barcodes on produce to establish which place it has come from for traceability. Then it ought to be graded when it comes to high quality — A, B, C. Are we getting that kind of factor?

Will hydroponics and aquaponics work in India?

These haven’t scaled in India. Will clients be able to pay, say, Rs 200 for a kilo of cherry tomatoes from hydroponics, when common farm tomatoes can be found for Rs 40 a kg? Within the final three months, tomato costs have fluctuated — from Rs 12 per kg to Rs 80 per kg (at Azadpur market in Delhi). How will farmers recuperate prices in know-how when there are such wild worth fluctuations? The query is, when tech comes from lab to land, what’s the price concerned and what’s the worth farmers will get for the output? Farmers says, ‘the more I produce, the less I get’ — they’re unable to recuperate their prices.

What’s the way forward for know-how in farms?

There isn’t a dearth of know-how to extend manufacturing. We’ve to take a look at the place will probably be absorbed and at what worth. Not too long ago, in Rajasthan, farmers blocked a highway in Jaipur as a result of mustard worth was 25% beneath MSP. Until you’ll be able to guarantee worthwhile cultivation, applied sciences can by no means take off. And you’ll’t run it on a subsidy mannequin.

Will these stay experiments?

Digitisation instruments are reducing down prices. However give farmers a costbenefit evaluation. Simply displaying {that a} device can enhance productiveness by 20-30% just isn’t sufficient. Present when price will go down and earnings will go up 10%, or 20%, or 30%.

What’s the future of those startups bringing new tech to farms?

If you happen to plan to double the output within the subsequent 5-10 years, you are able to do it. If the market collapses (as a result of oversupply) and farmers can’t recuperate the fee, then overlook it. Give attention to growing the market. Create demand. In any other case, these are white elephants. I’m not completely in opposition to tech — however 90% of tech focusses on manufacturing and that’s the place the issue begins. If you happen to take a look at the historical past of revolutions — inexperienced, white or poultry — there have been markets for them.

We’re solely within the second season of tech experiments: S Sivakumar

S Sivakumar

S Sivakumar, group head-agri & IT companies, ITC, spearheaded the e-Choupal initiative nearly two
many years again. He discusses the technology-led transformations underway in Indian farms. Edited excerpts:

What’s the extent of know-how adoption in Indian farms? There are broadly

There are broadly three sorts of applied sciences: for seeds and vitamins; machine know-how like tractors, irrigation pumps and sprinklers; and data know-how. There’s a honest quantity of interaction of all three. Apparently, Covid-19 has led to elevated automation. There was a extra aggressive adoption of machines and know-how after labour moved again residence due to Covid-19 and lockdown. The previous few quarters have seen using sensor know-how and knowledge analytics in farms. There are round 500 startups providing agritech — all of them have good tech concepts.

How viable are these tech concepts?

Applied sciences must translate into particular motion and extra earnings for farmers. If you happen to say, I can deliver micro native climate forecast, that by itself doesn’t imply something. It needs to be mixed with soil knowledge, farm knowledge, what was planted final season and mixed with the info of the farmer, like funding capability, labour availability, credit score availability and so forth, earlier than getting used to make a crop advice. Aggregators who’re stitching all of this collectively shall be important within the ecosystem. E-Choupal 4.0, our present model, is one such aggregator. The second problem is in growing a worthwhile enterprise mannequin. You make water-saving units and precision farming tech, however water and energy are free. You’ll be competing in a distorted market.

How can this be overcome?

Take a look at demand indicators. What to develop? What varieties inside crops? Then use applied sciences that assist lower your expenses. Like people who examine for pests and provides climate forecast and soil stories. Third is market of inputs — seeds, vitamins, crop safety, gear for rent, and many others. Final is entry to markets with hyperlinks to warehouses, spinoff markets, F&O. Aggregators combine all of those and provide an entire resolution.

Can tech tackle the issues of small farm holdings?

Placing sensors and doing IoT are costly for small farmers. It would work higher in a hub-and-spoke mannequin. Put sensors in a single farm (the hub) and share (the info) with different farms so you’ve 150-200 farms round this hub. This may be supplied to farmers as a service. We’re solely within the second season of those experiments. We are able to’t simply say it labored in a single season, so allow us to now develop it to 1,000,000 acres. As a result of some mistake right here may imply a huge effect on farmers. The experiments should be correctly validated.

How do you see know-how use in farms within the subsequent three to 5 years?

The federal government has knowledge of soil, climate, and many others. this may be put as a foundational digital stack. the federal government can construct acceptable apis and provide this knowledge to tech firms. as soon as the federal government’s digital agri stack is constructed, it is going to assist scale significantly better.

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