The outbreak and aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic handcuffed businesses and industries across the globe. One sector that accelerated unfettered and emerged unscathed was the agricultural sector. Already ripe for disruption, the Indian agricultural sector capitalised on the pandemic-afflicted subversions and latched on to the AgriTech bandwagon. Technological innovations spawned by AgriTech startups provided the agricultural sector a bulwark against the trials and tribulations of the global pandemic.
Deeper Internet penetration in rural farming communities and proliferation of digital technologies in tandem with state underpinning and investor funding has led to the ongoing digital transformation of the farming ecosystem. Buoyed by such strong tailwinds, the agtech sector is forecast to surpass $24 billion in revenue by 2025.
Precision farming & data-driven farm management
Technological innovations in the agriculture sector are changing the way crops are grown. Spurred by climate change, unsustainable farming practices, increased pests and decreased soil quality, the agriculture sector is moving towards data-driven farm management that influences flow of technology and information between farmers and farms. These practices capture the most granular data such as soil moisture, temperature, pH and weather data using wireless sensors, drones, and satellite imagery. The holistic data is reviewed through data analytics and algorithms to provide farmers with recommendations to improve yields and control costs. By adopting such advanced agricultural practices, farmers and agronomists can make decisions on facts, not intuition.
Farm mechanisation & automation
The advent of precision farming has paved the way for farm mechanisation and automation. Increasing agricultural power and adopting automation technologies imply that maximum farming chores can be completed in minimum time. It also ensures that larger areas can be cultivated efficiently to produce higher yields while conserving natural resources. By deploying eco-friendly modern machines and technologies like agricultural drones, seed-planting robots, electric tractors etc., farmers can maximise their output and income. Farm mechanisation and automation can transform seeding, material handling and harvesting and unlock the true potential of every farm and farmer.
Pre and post-harvest market linkages
The agricultural value chain in India is riddled with intermediaries who prevent farmers from getting the actual market value for their produce. With the advent of AgriTech, players in market linkages and farming inputs are seamlessly blending technology with physical infrastructure to provide farmers with direct access to input and output markets. Consequently, farmers’ dependency on intermediaries can be significantly reduced and they can reap the benefits of what they are sowing. Several startups in this space are connecting farmers to distant markets, processing units, whole sellers and even exporters using digital technologies.
Water conservation & management
Constantly depleting groundwater and erratic rainfall patterns have necessitated technological intervention to conserve and manage water. The use of modern technologies for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharging and irrigation scheduling can help farmers save huge quantities of water and make efficient use of existing resources. Technological innovations such as drip products, automatic valves, controllers and low discharge sprayers, can curtail water wastage. Additionally, these solutions can introduce more sustainable farming practices that benefit the living and coming generations.
Access to financial services
Disconnected from the ambit of financial inclusion, farmers have had to turn to informal lenders and the unorganised sector despite exorbitant interest rates. Now, technological innovations in the FinTech and AgriTech sectors are removing financial roadblocks from the Indian agriculture sector. Financial services solutions leverage technologies such as mobile banking, micropayments, real-time market prices and remote monitoring., to ascertain farmers’ creditworthiness. Moreover, several startups are assisting farmers in getting small-ticket loans to meet their short-term farming needs.
The road ahead
A wave of technological innovations spurred by the agriTech sector is helping India unleash its true potential to become the world’s food bowl. By revolutionising the conventional market systems and replacing unsustainable farming practices, AgriTech can drive the next leg of growth of the agriculture sector and build a more efficient, safer, sustainable farming system.