More agri start-ups needed in 2021

Farmers’ agitation tells us the common farmer of the country continues to face multiple problems, from lower remuneration for the produce to transportation and not to mention vagaries of nature, including the changing climate. In the age of ‘Digital India’, ‘Start up India’ and ‘Make in India’, the need is for innovative start ups that can actually help the smallest of farmers in remotest of places

Nivedita Khandekar

More than half of India’s population depends on agriculture as its livelihood option and the farmers, especially the small-landholding ones, have continued to face multiple problems.

The ongoing farmers’ agitation and the recent three laws related to agriculture passed by the Modi government notwithstanding, agriculture has been fraught with multitude of problems and the farmer and his family face the brunt directly or indirectly.

There has been a longtime demand to bring about changes in the manner in which a farmer gets paid for his produce. The government has harped on its agenda to double the farmers’ income and claims to be working towards it. Much of the benefits of different government schemes are grabbed inevitably by big land-owning farmers or relatives of the local body office bearers. The real needy, vulnerable farmer is left to fend for himself/herself.

A vital issue is ensuring that the farmer gets fair price for his produce. And on time. The supply chain running without any disturbance is equally important. We saw in 2020 how the pandemic disturbed this supply chain at several places but thanks to ingenuity of the farmers, scores of ‘farm to colony/society gate’ options surfaced across India. If this ‘farmer-to-consumer’ connections could be made during the pandemic induced lockdown, there should be no reason why it cannot work in normal times.

All that the farmers and farm produce need is to be treated as worthy of not just family entrepreneurship but a possible business opportunity that is beneficial in both B2B and B2C cases. There already are a number of start-ups – agri-tech start-ups to be precise – that have been using remote sensing, drones, data analytics, artificial intelligence and various internet of things (IOT) devices and services to help farmers, consumers or even some big companies and retailers.

Agribazaar is one such agri-tech start up which promises ‘creating an efficient and robust agri value chain’ for buyers, seller and agri-preneurs. The company says that a farmer needs to register himself/herself, enter details about his produce where buyers can directly place orders. They decide between themselves and finalise the deal, after
which AgriBazaar picks up the produce from the farmer’s field and sends it to the buyer.

Isn’t this what is troubling most of the farmers? Getting the price that they quote without any middleman/men? Without worrying about logistics for transporting his produce!

Another key field is the immense wastage – some experts believe it is almost around 40% of the fresh, post-harvest produce – due to a variety of reasons – spoilage, low shelf-life, and many a times, over-ripening during transportation. Identifying this gap, a start up searched for and came up with a non-destructive and accurate qualitative grading of fresh food across the supply chain.

The agri-tech startup qZense claims that it aims to transform the Indian fresh food supply chain industry with its IOT based solutions.

qZense aims to empower food businesses and retailers to not only minimize their produce loss but also to determine the optimal margins of freshness. “Its software platform offers two products to ensure an effective and seamless delivery of service.

The Q-Scan is a handheld scanning device for grading the internal quality. The second product Q-Log comprises olfactory loggers responsible for measuring the quality of produce during storage and in logistics,” a statement said.

These are just two of the examples. What is needed in 2021 is proliferation of such ventures and bring peace to the small land holding farmers.

A 2019 NASSCOMM report ‘Agritech in India: Emerging Trends in 2019’ had pointed out how in 2016, more than 350 AgriTech startups had raised USD 300 millions globally and Indian investment accounted for 10 %. Karnataka and Maharashtra accounted for 50% of the Agritech start ups in last five years, the report said.

The two progressive states – Karnataka and Maharashtra – doing well is no news. What needs to be done in 2021 is to expand this across states and make sure that the needy farmer is benefitted.

Things are definitely changing and for better.

According to ‘India’s Agritech Market Landscape Report 2020’, India’s agritech market is expected to boom by the rise in rural internet penetration, rapid digital transformation due to Covid-19 coupled with rising investor interest. It also mentioned that as of 2020, India is home to more than 1000 agritech startups (compared to just 43 in 2013) with
companies witnessing a spike in demand during the lockdown this year.

So, there is hope.

Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes on environmental and developmental issues. She can be reached at or follow her on twitter on @nivedita_Him

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