Agritech Startup A Silver Lining In Covid

Agritech Startup A Silver Lining In Covid

Mihir Mohanta, General Manager Supply Chain, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable, 0

Mihir has been associated with Mother Dairy for over a decade now, prior to which he has worked with Aditya Birla, PepsiCo, and NDDB Project.

A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Startups quest to create an identity for themselves through a repeatable and scalable business model. These startups co-exist and compete with the traditional business ecosystem. India has more than 1000 startups in Agritech domain. There are also more than 300 incubation centers to support such startups.

During the pandemic, the traditional ecosystem was struggling, as most agriculture mandis remained shut. However,the startups cameup with innovative solutions. Pandemic helped catalyze a shift across the agri cultural economy, away from traditional, informal, and analog markets towards a more innovative, formal, and digital one. While the customers were confined to homes, startups could take orders through apps, aggregate the demand and arranged supplies to their doorstep. Similarly, they could pay directly to the farmers' account through direct bank transfer (DBT). There were many digital technologies that were silently executed during the Covid to make the physical flow smooth. The Covid environment did provide a space for the Agri tech startups to grow their farmers and consumer's bases multifold.

The startups can be grouped in to the following major categories:
It is a physical or virtual space where the activity of buying and selling of products takes place. The players like NeML, e-NAM or Market Mirch only provide a platform for transaction and they themselves are not the transacting parties. They take some user fees as service charges for use of their platform. But there are startups who operate like a marketplace and are also the transacting parties. Some of them are listed below:

•Ninjacart:Started operation in 2015, a Bangalore based agriculture supply chain company. It is in B2B space in the agri output(fruits & vegetables)business. It links farmers with retailers and institutions like hotels.

•WayCool: Started operation in 2015, it is also in B2B space, but operates in both Output (fruits & vegetables)and Input(fertilizer, nutrients & plant protection). It offers an agritech platform that uses technology to control the end-to-end supply chain right from farm inputs to last mile distribution. It helps the farmers to sell their produce through multiple distribution channels.

•AgroStar: Started in 2013. AgroStar offers an online marketplace for farmers to buy agri cultural inputs. This agritech startup also helps farmers by providing real time advice from experts on how to manage their crops and boost their yield.

•Otipy:Started as Crofarm in 2016. They shifted their business from B2B to B2C. They aggregate their fruits & vegetable demand through their Otipy app from the consumers and businesses. Bases the aggregated demand, supplies are confirmed and then those crops are harvested from the farm and delivered within 12 hours.

Farm Management Services
These startups typically provide management tools to ease up farm operations through planning, resource deployment and monitoring. They strive to maximize the yield or return by optimizing resource deployment. Managing and maintaining traceability is another important feature of them. Key startups operating under these categories are:

•DeHaat(2012):It offers agricultural services like access to agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers at affordable prices, personalized assistance, soil testing,
weather reports, micro finance, and insurance.

•Stellapps(2011): Stell apps helps dairy farmers and cooperatives to maximize their profits by digitizing and optimizing milk procurement & cold chain management through its IoT based Smart Moo platform.

•Crop In Technology(2010):Its platform is designed to offer real time weather updates, manage farm activities and predict crop yields to minimize risk and improve yield.

Hardware for Assaying & Quality Monitoring
These startups are developing miniature, handy and easy to use lab equipmentsusing latest technologies like spectral images, computer vision and AI. They can detect maturity levels and other parameters of fruits even without rupturing the fruits.

•Intello Labs(2016):Intello Labs offers digital quality testing hardware like Intello Track, Intello Sort, Intello Pack, and Intello Deep which uses technologies like computer vision &deep learning for assaying the quality of the fruits & vegetables. Intello Labs' mobile app, IntelloTrack is also helping in monitoring food quality.

•Agricx (2016):AI-enabled SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) stack for the companies in the business of producing, trading, storing, transporting, processing, or financing of agricultural produce.

Farm Machinery Aggregation Services
Rental services for farm machinery have gained ground in India in the past few years. These services are more like taxi aggregation services like Ola or Uber. They are converting capital investment assets to pay per use models.

•EM3 Agri Services(2013):This startup helps small farmers who can't afford to buy expensive farming technology to rent specialization machines to boost productivity at cheaper costs. Tractor & Threshers rental services are most commonly used.

•Gold Farm(2012):It offers mobile app based farm equipment booking system. It is leveraging IoT for demand generation and tracking.It has developed an algorithm that tracks the location of the equip ment in operation as well as the amount of fuel consumed. They also provide solar water pumps for farmers working in power deficit regions in India.

The question as usual is how these startups are doing. Is there a future in Agri startups invest ment? There are some reports that indicate a bright prospect of Agritech startups.

1.The study report by Accel & Omnivore indicates most Agri startups have grown by 0.5x to 3x plus during pandemic.

2.According to a September 2020 report by EY, India's Agritech market has the potential to reach $24 billion by 2025, although only one percent is addressed today.

The largest opportunity($12 billion) is in supply chain technology and output market linkages,with another $4.1 billion of potential in financial services for farmers $3.4 billion in precision agriculture and farm management,

$3.4 billion in precision agriculture and farm management,

$3.0 billion in quality management and traceability and

$1.4 billion in optimizing market linkages for farm inputs.

3.A Bain & Co report in Jun 2021, states that Agritech and Agri ecosystem sectors have received significant interest from the investor community, making India the third largest country in terms of Agritech funding and the number of Agritech start ups. The report estimates that the investment in Agritech startup would be $30-35 billion by 2025.

The number of Agritech startups has grown to more than 1000 from just 250 in 2018. Similarly, the investment which was $91 million in 2017 has risen to $329 million by 2020. It is growing at a CAGR of 53 percent. Agritech startups have learned to cope up with challenges of Covid, while most traditional business were struggling, they had their growth stories shining. Investors’confidence is renewed for a brighter future.