Krishna Kumar, CEO, CropIn Technology
By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion, which is 34 percent higher than today(FAO 2016). This translates into doubling of food production to meet the demands of the growing population. These alarming figures are indicative of a need for a change.
Agriculture, especially in India, has been essentially a ‘learn by doing’ industry; where one learns through informal sources like family or fellow growers. To be successful, a farm must increase the yield per acre as much as it can, reduce the risk of crop failure, maximize operational efficiency, reduce costs and sell at the highest possible rate. This requires, effective management of inputs like seed, fertilizer, water, nutrients and minimizing the impact of unpredictable variables(such as the weather, diseases and pests). However, achieving that objective is far from easy.
Conventional methods like physical crop inspection are time consuming and are seldom inaccurate. Technology like sensors and various other data sources can’t provide a real-time picture of what’s happening on the field. Farmers face further challenges in translating this data into operational insights that can help them understand which actions to take, when and where. This is where AgTech comes into picture.Startups and companies like Crop In not only collate the data from various sources but make sense of it and present it as actionable insights to agri businesses.
Farmers stand in the centre of a complex ecosystem of farming equipment manufacturers, food processors and agrichemical specialists. At the same time, consumer behaviour is changing radically. Consumers are the focus point of the food industry. They want to know the origin of their food and how it was produced and processed, driving the need for transparency along the end-to-end agribusiness supply chain. Digital transformation is a fertile ground for new business models,innovative business processes, and new ways to work in the agribusiness network for this planet.
Why now? Break through technology trends have matured and hit scale together: hyper connectivity, super computing, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and cyber security.
“While improving yield is good for a farm’s profitability, it’s also increasingly critical to address the growing demand for food among an ever-increasing global population” – Krishna Kumar, CEO, CropIn Technology.
The advent of AgTech has a unique set of proponents furthering its effective adoption and adaption throughout the agricultural ecosystem. The contemporary world is a world of hyper-connectivity where every one is connected through a bar rage of devices that are easily available even in the most remote areas. According to Gartner Inc, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020.
The other propelling force is the data that is now available from the farm. An average farm in 2050 is estimated to generate a total of 4.1 million data points per day which is a whopping growth, up from 190,000 in 2014. The millions of sensors, drones, satellite, weather and soil data is just some of the data sources available around the farm. This quick adaption is also due to the fact that the Moore’s law has more than kept up, reducing the size of the devices, increasing the computing power.
These trends will fuel the emergence of new business models. The speed of innovation is enormous, and startups in the agriculture space have the mission to innovate fast and change every aspect of the industry as we know it today. As per Forbes article on AgriTech in 2015 – ‘Agriculture technology is no longer a niche that no one’s heard about. Agriculture has confirmed its place as an industry of interest for the venture capital community after investment in agritech broke record for the past three years in a row, reaching $4.6 billion in 2015.’According to the advanced estimates of MOSPI, agriculture and allied sector recorded a CAGR rise of 6.64 percent during FY07-16. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 percent of India’s population, contributing to almost 18.5 percent to India’s GDP. Looking ahead, the future of AgTech is promising as it is expected to add value to each stakeholder at various levels of the value chain in the whole agricultural ecosystem. As data driven farming takes effect, there is a democratization of data for all the stakeholders.
Improving yield is an age old challenge for farms and always will be. However, for the first time in a generation, digital technologies en¬able farmers to achieve a quantum leap forward in their performance. While improving yield is good for a farm’s profitability, it’s also increasingly critical to address the growing demand for food among an ever-increasing global population. Couple this with lower environmental im¬pact that technology usage brings in; reduced water wastage, correct and timely use of chemicals, reduced pre harvest and post harvest losses and one can see the critical role digital technologies play in fostering sustainable food, feed and fibre. This makes it imperative for all participants in the agriculture ecosystem to embrace new and emerging digital technologies to make their operations efficient, productive and sustainable.