The emerging scope of agri-tech in India
Almost 55% of India’s population depends on agriculture as its primary source of revenue. The sector contributes 18% to the national GDP. Furthermore, the export market for agriculture produce is huge, a staggering US$ 38.54 billion in the last financial year. We are also the biggest producer, consumer, and exporter of spices in the world. According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), a cumulative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) equity inflow of about US$ 9.08 billion was achieved between April 2000 to March 2019 in the agriculture sector alone. With major capital influx and huge gaps to be filled in the sector, it has recently seen numerous interventions by various stakeholders.
India accounts for more than 450+ start-ups in the agri-tech space, which translates that every 9th agri-tech startup in the world is an Indian one. Some of the major Indian start-ups operating in this space include – Ninjacart, Agrostar, Stellops, Cropin, and Jumbotail, to name a few. This sector has not only has seen a rise in the number of emerging agri-tech start-ups but also a rise in the number of investors showcasing interest in the Indian agri-tech start-up scene globally. These start-ups attracted funding from top investors like Omnivore, Accel and Ankur Capital. Start-ups in the agri-tech sector raised nearly US$248 Mn until June 2019, according to a report by NASSCOM. The stakeholder system in this area is rapidly maturing, with farmers' income multiplying manifold, while their adoption and acceptance grows simultaneously. Currently, about 25 Indian agri-tech start-ups have ventured in markets outside India.
The agri-tech sector has opened up numerous market opportunities in the country– market linkages, i.e., taking farmers’ products directly to consumers, digital agriculture, meaning real-time access and transparency to information, better access to inputs by providing better quality implements to farmers for better production and providing financing are some of the major areas that these start-ups have significantly registered their presence in. The key focus area for agri-tech start-ups is improving the supply chain, as this helps the farmers get a better price for their produce. With a rise in the number of start-ups and investments coming in this sector, it has also seen various private-public partnerships in the recent days. According to NASSCOM, start-ups like Cropin and Kisan Raja have established these partnerships with considerable success.
The government has also played a catalysing role in the growth of the Indian agri-tech sector. For instance, at a micro level, a food and agri-business accelerator was recently organized by a-IDEA, TBI of NAARM in association with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The focus area of this program was accelerating scale-up stage food and agri-business start-ups by providing them mentoring, industry network and investor pitching guidance. The government has further established the National Centre for Management of Agricultural Extension in Hyderabad (MANAGE). The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) was also introduced and implemented recently with a major focus on conserving water and increasing the irrigation coverage in the country– 'Har khet ko paani' in a focussed manner with end-to-end solutions on source creation, distribution, management, field application, and extension activities. The Government of India is also planning to grant about INR 2,000 crore for the computerization of the Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) with the prime aim of benefitting cooperatives through digital technology.