Agritech startups help increase productivity and have contributed immensely to improving the condition of farmers. Notably, investor interest in the agritech sector has increased significantly over the years. India is now the third largest country in terms of funding for agritech startups. The year 2021 has been a booming year for the agritech space in India, from a funding perspective, with agritech start-ups having raised around $500 million.
Over the past few years, many entrepreneurs have decided to venture into agritech given the huge opportunities and difficult to solve problems. Until recently, agriculture was traditionally spared the impact of technology, but not anymore. Although there has been a significant growth of these startups, they still have a lot of challenges ahead. Some of these challenges are as follows.
- Lack of digital awareness in rural areas
- Very limited access to smartphones among the economically weaker strata (marginal landowners)
- Young people are not very interested in agriculture and are turning to other industries
- Limited regulations, awareness and infrastructure to support organic food production
- Data and information scattered due to negligible collaboration between startups and government
- Broken supply chain and logistics in rural India
The government must develop concrete plans to tackle these issues and make relevant announcements in the next union budget.
Low cost smartphones for farmers
The government can work with technology companies and manufacturers to offer low-cost mobile devices to make smartphones accessible to everyone. Inexpensive smartphones should be distributed free to all farmers, as access to information is a basic right. A nominal subscription fee may be charged later to cover some of the costs.
Need to open more agricultural institutions
As the agritech industry grows, there will definitely be more demand for agriculture professionals in the future. To avoid a possible shortage of talent, there should be more agricultural colleges and training institutions in the country. Agricultural professionals performing above the average threshold should receive a basic allowance for a few years if they choose to farm on their own land instead of opting for direct employment. This will inspire young talents to choose agriculture as a profession or at least pursue a career in agriculture. It can bring a new revolution in the country.
Promote organic farming
The importance of switching to chemical-free food production methods cannot be stressed enough. There are farmers interested in organic farming but who lack the know-how. They worry about declining productivity and profitability of their products if they switch to organic methods. In this budget, the government will have to take multidirectional initiatives in this regard. On the one hand, there should be a massive consumer awareness campaign to promote the consumption of organic foods, while on the other hand, the licensing process for organic foods should become more efficient and transparent. If supply and demand increase, many agritech companies will thrive in this space.
Data sharing scheme
Many tech companies generate a lot of data about farmers’ activities and their transactions, as does the government. Through a mutually exclusive data sharing system, start-ups and governments can collaborate, and having access to such rich data will help analyze problems and come up with appropriate solutions.
Improve supply chain efficiency
One of the biggest issues the government should focus on is rural supply chain and logistics. Agricultural e-commerce businesses cannot grow quickly due to logistical issues in which the delivery of critical inputs like seeds is delayed.
Agritech companies and the government have their job to do in terms of harnessing technology to bring about the next revolution in Indian agriculture. Agritech has worked on strengthening the agricultural community with networking, knowledge sharing and improved tools and techniques, a platform for selling and buying agricultural inputs and a host of other measures that give the necessary impetus. With these supportive measures from the government, the growth of the agricultural sector, improved efficiency as well as profitability and hence the prosperity of the farming community could come one step closer to being realized.
The writer is the co-founder of Krishify.