The world’s population is anticipated to reach 10 billion by 2050. On the other hand, rising costs of electricity, seed, fertiliser, pesticides and transportation and fast-depleting viable, arable land are reducing the profit margins for the agribusiness sector. With rising incomes, consumers are more likely to purchase food that is healthful, clean, traceable, and ethically grown. This article explores how agribusinesses companies can adopt sustainable practices and enable their growth.

Agribusiness firms bear additional responsibilities for responsible crop sourcing, the ability to reuse waste generated by farming practises, the use of fully biodegradable or recyclable packaging and overall waste minimisation.

Also, farmers have to protect their fields from wildfires, pests, and diseases, which pose additional threats to the development of a sustainable agribusiness model because they impact food production and nutritional value. On the path to sustainability, all partners in the agribusiness ecosystem—from seed and chemical companies to farmers, logistical services, banks and financial institutions, food trading and food producers and processors—are participating in various cross-industry and cross-sector collaborations to bring healthy, clean, traceable, and ethically grown food to consumers.

Sustainable by design to pave the way for future engagements

Depending on their business priorities and present stage of technology adoption, agri-businesses will benefit from embracing a ‘sustainable by design’ approach across their enterprise and in their network of partners. A sustainable by design approach will support end-to-end visibility and enhance regulatory compliance and reporting in operational processes. It will also help in driving sustainability as the core strategy to build products, processes, and run operations.

Most agri-business organisations have invested heavily in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and other manufacturing software & systems. Yet, it is a challenging task for companies to proactively address sustainability issues and mitigate risks.

Also read: Organic Farming: A solution towards sustainable agriculture

To garner insights into issues regarding the consumption of energy and water, organisations are adopting technology that specifically uses Ddata and Aanalytics. This is to use intelligence to optimise consumption before it happens.

Digital twin technology is being used in planning, designing and maintaining manufacturing plants that process food and the warehouses, terminals, and cold chains that store the produce. The aim is to reduce the consumption of energy, water, and other natural resources.

Transportation of produce causes an increase in harmful emissions and noise pollution and further contributes to climate change. Machine Learning can be used by transport providers to trace a route and then finalise a mode of transport to reduce emissions. For instance, using rail instead of trucks or using rivers and oceans as much as possible will certainly help. Emerging EV battery technology that enables higher range has facilitated the use of Electric Vehicles in farming and transporting produce.

Food packaging and design is one the biggest areas where technology is being used. Agribusiness firms are integrating digital technology with ‘in silico’ approaches in the research and development function to create environmentally friendly packaging materials that are recyclable and can increase the life of packaged food. Companies are also developing e-commerce marketplaces to buy back used plastic bottles, corrugated packaging materials, glass bottles, and aluminium cans, allowing them to need less fresh material.

Digital farming practices are gaining popularity. This includes using automated farm equipment, using remote sensing satellites to investigate crop health, and using soil sensors and weather stations to get advice on moisture and other water-related challenges. These technologies are getting increasingly affordable. Along with “regenerative agriculture”, digital farming is helping the world to trap and capture more carbon in the soil.

Portfolio approach towards technology and innovation

To drive technology adoption, Agri Business Companies must first evaluate the areas where technology and innovation may have the greatest positive influence on humankind. Late Prof. Clayton Christensen (served on the board of directors of Tata Consultancy Services) in his seminal work, The Innovator’s Dilemma suggested the use of portfolio approach towards technology and innovation.

Essentially, as applied to sustainability, they are.

1. Strengthen the Core Business by building safe food products that help to enhance the health dimension of the consumer and are environmentally sustainable.

2. Serve the existing consumer in newer and more profitable ways – create new food products with traceable and clean labels and with competitive pricing.

3. Find new customers by providing them with traceability and visibility for the products that they purchase.

4. Serve new customers in new ways by building technology tools, including personalised nutrition technology, smart food packaging and tracking, adopting digital twin for food storage and warehousing, etc.


No single agribusiness organisation can create a sustainable future. There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural practices to make the entire process sustainable. However, due to diverse economic and social competing interests, the adoption of sustainable practices by agriculture corporations around the world has remained varied. We believe that sustainable practices can be adoptable by the convergence of humanity, technology, and innovation. Modern 21st-century business model, needs companies to harness the potential of digital technologies while also building mutually beneficial relationships with their partners, suppliers, and consumers.

The author is Industry Advisor- Manufacturing, TCS