Agriculture Mechanization Should Not Mean 'Tractorization' Only: Mark Kahn

The managing partner of Omnivore believes digitization is the emerging trend in the Indian agriculture sector

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India’s agricultural land yield is currently about 2.4 tonne per hectare compared with 4.7 tonne per hectare in China and 3.6 tonnes per hectare in Brazil. According to Mark Kahn, managing partner of venture capital firm Omnivore, agritech startups can play a crucial role in maximizing productivity through technology.

Talking to Entrepreneur India during a webinar, Kahn said agritech received about $17 billion of funding in 2018 and that agritech operators are addressing three big problem areas: farm profitability, resilience and income sustainability.

According to him, Indian farmers need good farm profitability and much higher resilience to boost their income, and this is where agritech startups come in. They help to make them prepare for challenges such as climate change, weather, labour and financial risk. It also provides more income sustainability that makes farming measurable.

According to Kahn, there are three big trends in Indian agriculture right now: 

  • Digitization is about how we connect farmers of all categories like to people who are input suppliers, or provide market linkages with advice and finance. Mainly, it’s all about connecting farmers in the agro-business ecosystem through digital technology.
  • Deeptech is focused on upstream agriculture but not the entire value chain. Deeptech is being, though, used to digitize the quality of a fresh product as it is a subjective matter.
  • Lifescience is also influencing the nature of agriculture and food. 

He further added the significance of robotix technology in changing the perception towards farming. Kahn exclaimed that mechanization in India has been on the rise in the last 30 years and mostly seen in the last ten years to reduce human force. But, unfortunately in India, mechanization has only really been ‘tractorization’ so far.

According to him, a tractor is not a perfect instrument. He further claimed that in this fast-paced world, electric motors for farming as robots are replacing them. This will result in higher yield and reduction of human efforts.

Kahn mentioned that farmers who want automation, it is available and can be made more affordable. He believes that technology is worth a consideration to attain better outcome in agro-business ecosystem.  

He emphasized that three major initiatives are essential to manage distribution system: central commodity Act, APMC and contract farming. All of these initiatives help in protecting farmers and manage the monopoly structure of the country. 

He reflected on the entire scenario from a problem-solving approach pertaining to agriculture and technology. Kahn even opined that agri fintech is an opportunity-driven technique and it has a large scope in India. Also, global companies are not focused on Indian agriculture concerning lifescience technologies and there is a need to encourage domestic entrepreneurs to focus on agritech and life science technologies.  

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