Agritech-startup - A Silver Lining in COVID-19

Agritech-startup - A Silver Lining in COVID-19

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

A startup is a company designed to grow fast 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 the 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 came up with innovative solutions and the pandemic helped catalyze a shift across the agricultural economy, away from traditional, informal, and analog markets towards a more innovative, formal, & digital one. While the customers were confined to homes, startups could take orders through apps, aggregate the demand & 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 COVID-19 to make the physical flow smooth, since the environment happened to provide a space for the Agri-tech start-ups to grow their farmers & consumer's bases multi-fold.

The Startups can be grouped in to the following major categories:

1- Marketplace- 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 are not the transacting parties. They take some user fees as service charges for using their platform. But there are startups that operate like a marketplace and are also the transacting parties. Some of them are listed below:

•Ninjacart- Commencing its operations in 2015, this Bangalore-based agriculture supply chain company comes under the B2B space in the agri-output (fruits & vegetables) business. It links farmers with retailers & institutions like hotels.

•WayCool- Started operation in 2015, it is also in B2B space but operates in both Output (fruits & vegetables) Input (fertilizer, nutrients & plant protection) business. 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- Established in 2013, AgroStar offers an online marketplace for farmers to buy agricultural 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, this firm shifted its business from B2B to B2C and it aggregates its fruits & vegetable demand through their Otipy app from the consumers and businesses. Based on the aggregated demand, supplies are confirmed with crops being harvested from the farm and are delivered within 12 hours.

2- Farm Management Services- These startups typically, provide management tools to ease up farm operations through planning, resource deployment and monitoring. They either strive to maximize the yield or return by optimizing resource deployment. Additionally, they manage and maintain traceability as well.

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) - It helps dairy farmers and cooperatives to maximize their profits by digitizing and optimizing Milk Procurement & Cold Chain Management through its IoT-based SmartMoo platform.

•CropIn 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.

3 - Hardware for assaying & quality monitoring- These startups are developing miniature, handy and easy to use lab equipments using latest technologies like spectral images, computer vision and AI. They can detect maturity levels and other parameters without rupturing the fruits.

•Intello Labs(2016)- It offers digital quality testing hardware like Intello Track, Intello Sort, Intello Pack, and Intello Deep which uses technologies like computer vision and deep learning for assaying the quality of the fruits & vegetables. Intello Labs’ mobile app, Intello Track, is also helpful when it comes to monitoring food quality.

A Bain & Co report in June 2021, states that Agritech and Agri- ecosystem sectors have received significant interest from the investor community, making India the third-largest country around Agritech funding and Agritech startups.

•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.

4- Farm machinery aggregation services- Rental services for farm machinery have acquired ground in India during 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-AgriServices (2013) - This startup helps small farmers who are unable to afford expensive farming technologies or rent specialization machines to boost productivity at cheaper costs. Hence, tractor and threshers rental services are most commonly used.

•Gold Farm (2012) - It offers mobile app-based farm-equipment booking system. It leverages on IoT for demand generation and tracking. It has developed an algorithm that tracks the location of the equipment 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.

But the most commonly asked question is how these startups are doing. Is there a future for Agri-startup investments? There are some reports that indicate a bright vision of Agritech startups.

1.The study report by Accel & Omnivore indicates that 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.

oThe largest opportunity ($12 billion) is in supply chain technology and output market linkages.

oWith another $4.1 billion of potential in financial services for farmers.

o$3.4 billion in precision agriculture and farm management.

o$3.0 billion in quality management and traceability and

o$1.4 billion in optimizing market linkages for farm inputs.

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

The number of Agri-tech start-ups has grown over a 1000 from just 250 in 2018. Similarly, the investment which was $91 million in 2017 has risen to $329 million by 2020 at a CAGR of 53 percent. Agri-tech startups have learned to cope up with challenges of COVID-19, while most traditional businesses were struggling. On the other hand, Investors’ confidence is renewed for a brighter future.