This Agritech Aims To Drive India's Next Green Revolution AgNext is swiftly and surely shaping the agricultural economy for a tech-led progressive future
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses across many sectors globally, including India. Nevertheless, the recent growth of the agritech market in India reflects its enormous unrealized potential. Increased rural Internet penetration and the greater affordability of digital technologies assisted by rising investor interest have led to the ongoing digital transformation of the farming ecosystem.
Indian agriculture has come a long way from being state-focused in ensuring food security to becoming a major producer in the world. Indeed, Indian agriculture has the potential to become "the food bowl of the world" if India emphasizes building efficiencies into the agricultural produce trade, integrating quality standards as part of trade practices, and optimizing production costs for price competitiveness.
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India's population. This and allied sectors accounted for 17.8 per cent of gross value added in India (at current prices) in the financial year 2020-2021. While COVID-induced lockdowns took a toll on industry and services, agriculture remained buoyant and helped sustain consumer demand. As per industry estimates, consumer spending in India will return to growth in 2021 after the pandemic-led contraction, expanding by as much as 6.6 per cent, according to a report by IBEF.
India's food industry is poised for massive growth, increasing its contribution to the world food trade every year due to its immense potential for value addition, particularly within food processing. The food processing industry is one of the largest in India, accounting for 32 per cent of the country's total food market and ranking fifth in terms of production, consumption, export, and expected growth, the report said.
Every year, billions worth of food gets wasted. Without a standardized quality assessment of commodities, agribusinesses incur trading losses, losses due to deterioration in food quality, losses due to adulteration, and losses due to similar value chain inefficiencies in the industry. To curb these challenges, AgNext was founded in 2016 by Taranjeet Singh Bhamra, an alumnus of the prestigious IIT Kharagpur and MBA from IIM Calcutta. AgNext is an agritechnology company that provides food quality assessment through its breakthrough deeptech solutions using artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and the internet of things (IoT). The aim of the company is to solve food quality issues, accelerate trade and empower stakeholders across food value chains. They have set a benchmark by creating the right singular platform "Qualix' through which multiple commodities can be assessed within seconds. The platform enables data transparency for agribusinesses and by using sophisticated data analytics, this data can be used to provide agribusinesses critical insights.
AgNext chief executive officer and founder Taranjeet Singh Bhamra told Entrepreneur India while talking about the company's driving belief, "the purpose of AgNext is to make food value chains safer, fairer and transparent using deep-tech solutions. By digitizing quality and enabling standardization through automation, we can bring in more trust in the food trade through efficient buyer-seller interactions. Through our platform "Qualix' we aim to enhance commodity assessment processes for effective procurement, trade, and consumption across global food value chains."
AgNext got its first Seed funding from a-IDEA National Agriculture Research in 2017. In the following years, funding was received from India's biggest Agritech venture capital Omnivore and Kalaari venture funds as well. Recently, they have announced $21 million funding in a Series A round led by Falcon Edge Capital's Alpha Wave Incubation Fund where existing investors Omnivore and Kalaari Capital also re-invested. With the new funding, they plan to expand to international markets, particularly in the Middle East, Europe, and South Asia, and also add more commodities to its portfolio.
AgNext has a pan-India presence, as its solutions are currently being used across multiple food categories-grains, oilseeds, tea leaves, milk, tea, spices, animal feed, among others. Its technology is based on AI-on-the-edge and can be deployed at any intersection of buyer-seller transactions, from farm-gate to processing centers.
"With over 1000 existing startups and more upcoming ones, the agritech sector in India is booming at a fast pace. The adoption in the agriculture industry to tech-driven solutions has been relatively slow. But over the last few years, there has been progress on this front led by agritech startups who are introducing tech-based solutions across agriculture pre-harvest and post-harvest value chains. It is an evolving sector where disruptive technology is now marking a new era in the Indian agriculture industry with immense opportunities for new players to come in," Bhamra shared while describing the current scene in the sector.
With the recent new funding, the platform's outlook for the future is to focus on its R&D to strengthen its tech innovations and add more commodities to its existing portfolio. The company is also in the process of scaling its business internationally, starting with Vietnam and Abu Dhabi.