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Indian agri-tech start-ups to bolster digital agri transformation

India currently hosts more than 450 start-ups in the agri-tech segment, and the sector has received more than US $248 million of funding in the first six months of this year, according to a recent report.

The report, released by NASSCOM (the National Association of Software and Services Companies), was titled ‘Agritech in India Emerging Trends in 2019’ and said that growing at 25% year-on-year, India currently hosts more than 450 start-ups in the agri-tech sector.

Over the past few years, the agri-tech sector in India has witnessed some of the global and sector-focused funds directly investing in agri-tech start-ups. As of June 2019, the sector received funding that was a massive growth of 300% as compared to the previous year, it said.

Every ninth agri-tech start-up in the world is originating from India.

The report said there has been a 1.7-times increase in average farmer income in the last decade, enabling farmers to try new tech solutions.

More than 50% of agri-tech start-ups offer supply chain solutions like market linkage, better access to inputs, etc.

The NASSCOM President said that India’s agriculture sector is advancing steadily towards its digital transformation and the start-up ecosystem is playing a critical role here, bringing innovation to much-needed areas.

She added that the adoption of technology in agriculture has always needed a structured institutional focus and technology firms are trying to break into the agricultural landscape using newer business models.

The findings of the report are a testimony to the potential of the agri-tech industry and the opportunities that India presents in the agriculture and farming landscape.

The report said Indian companies are increasingly looking at global markets to expand, with a focus on regions like Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America.

In the last five years, more than five global agri-tech companies have ventured in India, as compared to more than 25 Indian agri-tech start-ups with a global presence.

Also, new emerging areas like market linkage, digital agriculture, better access to inputs, FaaS (functions-as-a-service), and financing are attracting large traction.

These technology adoptions are enabling numerous agri-tech start-ups to bring forth farming-related advanced technological mechanisms to help local farming become a sustainable and profit-yielding enterprise, it said.

The report pointed out that measures like setting up of micro-funds (ranging from US $2-14 million) to spur innovation, offering support in terms of incubation, acceleration, and catalytic funding, and the opening of incubation centres need to be implemented.

It is imperative that the ecosystem focuses on driving innovation, data collaboration, easy working capital, and providing digital infrastructure to enable real-time access to farmers across the country.

NASSCOM said it will continue its drive towards catalysing emerging tech start-ups, and work with the ecosystem to build category leaders and support start-ups to create not only for India but also scale up and build for the world.

The Indian government is pushing for more technology-based farming techniques to reduce costs and double farmer incomes. OpenGov reported earlier that the Department of Agriculture carried out pilot studies for the Optimisation of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) in several states in India.

The studies used various technologies, including satellite data, AI, and modelling tools to reduce the number of CCEs required for the insurance unit level for yield estimation. The studies were launched to address the major issue of the need to carry out large numbers of CCEs for the calculation of yield data vis-à-vis claims at the village council (gram panchayat) level. The results are being evaluated to provide recommendations for their implementation in the upcoming seasons.

Also, an Expression of Interest (EOI) was floated to use technology-based assessment of yield with minimum use of CCEs for the Kharif 2019 season. 46 agencies participated in the EOI, out of which 26 agencies have been shortlisted through technical assessments.

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