By Srinath Srinivasan
In the last three years, agri-tech in India has seen increased attention from industrialists, accelerators, incubators and alternate fund investors apart from established venture capitalists. This is due to innovation in technology that enables addressing new challenges. According to a Nasscom report, there were over 450 Indian agri-tech startups and they raised over three times the venture fund in 2019 as compared to 2018, amounting to over $250 million. In 2021, this number is expected to be even higher, pending thorough assessment. The innovation has also been the main attraction of other funds and venture development platforms.
“Technology can play a disruptive role in input costs optimisation, farm management, precision farming, integrating financial services, value chain enhancement among many others, for agriculture and allied sectors such as livestock, fisheries and non-timber forest produce,” says Manoj Kumar, founder and CEO, Social Alpha, a venture development platform enabled by Tata Trusts, that has been working with Cisco India to accelerate agritech startups in India. Recently, the platform, along with Cisco India, via its Krishi Mangal programme, has accelerated five agri-tech startups
A deep-tech company, TraceX Technologies, from the Krishi Mangal programme, has been innovating in blockchain technology for agriculture. The startup has been working with 1000 maize farmers in Belgaum, Karnataka to make a connected supply chain. “Together with the on-field partner, we aim to increase the income of the farmers by 25%. Blockchain can be leveraged to digitalise the entire supply chain providing transparency, trust and traceability,” says Anil Nadig, co-founder, TraceX Technologies.
Tan90, another startup from the Krishi Mangal programme, has been working along with consortium partners Greenbliss Agro and DByT Dynamics to implement cold storage solutions for marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “Organic farmers are the major beneficiaries, where storage at low temperatures is the only way to extend shelf life. Cost effective cold chain solutions are the need, with a major aim to keep both capital costs and operational costs minimal,” says Soumalya Mukherjee, co-founder, Tan90. “The approach further extends to data driven analytics for price prediction, to provide the best returns to farmers,” he adds. Social Alpha and Cisco India’s programme has also given further boost to meat and fisheries tech solutions along with data driven advisory services for farmers.
Another novel approach to the industry has come from Ventureland Asia, a marketing opportunity fund, by the way of acquisition. Arpit Organic, which was acquired in 2019 by Sajan Raj Kurup led Ventureland Asia, has transformed into a complete tech stack firm called Saintfarm, which takes organic farm produce to consumers.
“We have been invested in creating end-to-end tech solutions, touching not just one, but all points in the organic farming supply chain,” says Kurup. The firm uses IoT based farming solutions, analytics for farmers, price and demand predictions, logistics management and finally a consumer facing mobile application for taking orders. It had an initial investment of around $3 million for the complete tech overhaul.
As a consequence, the startups have been able to overcome challenges in accessing funds, exploring and developing new markets and covering the whole length of the value chain without compromising on the gestation period to engineer solutions.