Importance of Incubators and Investors to make Agritech Sustainable

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Around 60% of the Indian population depends upon agriculture but contributes just 17-18 per cent to India’s gross domestic product. India has just 4 per cent of the world's fresh water and 80 per cent of that is used for agriculture, but alarmingly 60-70 per cent of that is wasted. Certainly, current practices are not the most resource or water efficient. Further, with climate change, population challenges and ever-depleting resources, the role of technology in agriculture (or agritech as we may call it) becomes more crucial to make agriculture more sustainable.

Bringing sustainability and efficiency in agricultural practices is a complex challenge and requires several stakeholders to join hands together to provide an array of solutions to tackle this grand challenge. Any change requires three key ingredients: First, one needs innovation or newness of idea, Second, facilitation or support infrastructure, and third, effective implementation.

Agripreneurs, with their zeal and newness of ideas, initiate this change, but just like a seed they also need favorable conditions to raise above ground and grow. These favorable conditions are conducive climate which can be provided by the government through policy support. Fertile soil, this role is played by incubators, who share the responsibility of transitioning agripreneur’s ideas into a profitable business model through mentorship, business connects, facilitating IP filing and infrastructure support. Incubation also offers a unique ecosystem where a startup can learn from other agripreneurs who are working in the same space.

But, even after the above two conditions are met, no seed can germinate or grow without water, and funds are as crucial as water for any budding company. The relationship an agripreneur shares with an incubator and an investor also vary; the lookout with incubators is the support while the relationship with an investor is more about partnership. An individual agripreneur has a limited reach and resources, thus incubator plays a collaborative support system to an agripreneur and enhance her capability during initial product and business development stage, providing with office infrastructure where startup team can operate out of, lab facility for research and development, mentorship to plug knowledge gaps and business connects to develop business framework.

After developing a successful business model, to realize startup’s true potential, an agripreneur needs the partnership of an investor who shares her vision and shares the risk by investing in the venture. An investor not only deploys funds, but also with a proven business aptitude provides the necessary impetus to the execution. According to the recent report by NASSCOM, India’s agritech segment has 450 startups and the sector received investment worth $248 million for the first six months of 2019, an impressive growth of 300 percent compared with 2018.

There is no single solution which can solve all the agriculture challenges. It needs a collaborative approach with the participation of more and more people, be it as an agriprenur, incubator, investor or a conscious consumer. The beauty about the current startup ecosystem is each stakeholder is progressive in their outlook towards agriculture and is betting on the variety of solutions which may bring sustainability in the agriculture sector.