Ever-evolving Agri Landscape Revolutionizes India's 'Atmanirbhar' Vision

Advancements in agritech with the adoption of right technology has enabled firms to redesign the farming experience with myriad benefits for farmers

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India has addressed the COVID-19 scenario with tenacity and a sense of self-reliance, as seen by the number of startups and innovations that have occurred during difficult times. It has shown how to overcome problems and discover opportunities, as evidenced by the reallocation of various sectors and companies that join together to participate in the manufacturing of life-saving ventilators. The Prime Minister's clarion call to exploit these challenging times to become Atmanirbhar (self-sufficient) has been widely embraced, allowing the Indian economy to resurge.

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Given the significance of agriculture to the Indian economy and farmers' persistent economic disadvantage, there was a need to address various challenges faced by the sector. Budget 2021 made a firm case to relook at our strategies to move towards a stronger and self-reliant version of the country.

Understanding the market overview

While we've gone to space and under the sea, yet agriculture is still one of the most labour-intensive sectors. The broader issue is that, even today, Indian farmers are still reliant on monsoon rain and struggle to get a fair price for their goods, despite the fact that both concerns may be rectified with the use of technology. Technology has the potential to quickly develop and iterate solutions, reduce costs, improve information, flow transparency, and boost connection across value chain participants. However, in order to get a better output, cutting-edge technology must be wrapped with simple tools.

According to the Economic Survey 2020-21, GDP contribution by the agriculture sector is likely to be 19.9 per cent in 2020-21, increasing from 17.8 per cent recorded in 2019-20 and Indian agri exports are likely to reach $60 billion by 2022. The Indian agricultural industry is undergoing a major digitization effort, which is being fueled by both the government, who have introduced several projects to assist the agriculture sector and entrepreneurs. Now, agriculture is in the early days of yet another revolution, at the heart of which lie data and connectivity.

Implementation and innovation of digital agriculture in India

Technological interventions based on remote sensing, artificial intelligence enabled quality testing devices, camera tracking, smart-crop monitoring, soil sensors and market insights, among others, enables farmers to gather, visualize and assess crop and its health state at different stages of production, in a convenient and cost-effective approach. These devices identify potential crises or diseases related to crops and provide solutions to tend to it in a timely manner.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms can generate real-time actionable insights which gives farmers access to sophisticated data and analytics tools, to help make better decisions, control pests, improve efficiencies, and reduce waste.

Complimenting farmers perspective

While modern techniques and market connectivity are beneficial for farmers, companies are customizing their offerings to assist small and marginal farmers as well. Mobile applications to autonomous farming machinery have enhanced connectivity to deliver greater resilience and sustainability that the industry needs to thrive today. To illustrate, the silk industry which was highly unorganized is now given intervention with automated yarn testing to ensure fair pricing, AI led cocoon grading, AI led disease detection sensors, IoT led advisory services, alerts and forecasts on their produce. Smart monitoring has also helped farmers optimize the harvesting time frame. It allows farmers to monitor quality characteristics such as colour of the produce, size and growth-rate which can help farmers maximize the revenue from their crops.

With the adoption of design thinking and product-led growth in the Indian startup ecosystem, many startups are finally being able to effect positive change at a large scale. The increased availability of the finance and credit backed by startups are also adding value to farmers which in turn is transforming their lives and way of living.

Paradigm shift in agri investments

Agriculture in India has so far been isolated from the technological revolution, despite the fact that it employs about half of the population. However, we believe that the following decade will be dominated by agritech Unicorns due to the pandemic, causing a seismic upheaval in the agri environment. According to Bain & Co., India's agritech startup sector has been attracting investor interest for quite a sometime and is predicted to expand to a $30-35 billion market by 2025. Prior to the pandemic, it was difficult to foresee how rapidly digitalization, supply chain improvements, big data, machine learning, AI, data analytics, IoT, and other technologies would be adopted. With increased funding in the agritech space, more design and tech talent is flowing from the consumer tech sector to agriculture and this massive shift is leading us to, the golden age of agritech in India.

Overall, India's agri-tech sector offers a lot of untapped potential. Agri-tech appears to have hit a tipping point, where it is gaining traction with venture investors and government funds. Agriculture is a major business in India's economy, and start-ups are helping farmers by digitizing the whole supply chain and using new technologies like AI, IoTs, Big Data analytics, nanotechnology, and other engineering and technological breakthroughs. The introduction and implementation of transparency and operational efficiency are reshaping India's agricultural environment and its rich digital infrastructure, will cause major upheaval in the sector.