Smart agriculture can be defined as performing agriculture activities using advanced technologies like hybrid seeds, precision farming, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, geo-tagging, satellite monitoring, mobile apps, and farm management software at every stage in the agriculture process to increase productivity and farm incomes. The technologies used in agriculture are divided into software, services, and solutions. The global smart agriculture market was valued at USD 5,098 Million in the year 2016 and is expected to reach USD 15,344 Million by the end of 2025, growing at a CAGR of more than 13.09% during 2017-2025 as per a study conducted by Your Story.

Application of Technologies

Smart Agriculture is the practice of carrying out agriculture activities by reducing human efforts and maximizing the utilization of available resources. The feasibility and application of smart agriculture devices depend on the economic conditions and size of the agriculture land. The wide range of application of agriculture devices includes yield monitoring, field mapping, crop scouting, milk harvesting, and irrigation management amongst others.

Growth in the Agri-tech market

The major factors that drive the growth in the Agri-tech market are an increase in global demand for food, a rise in the need of livestock health, performance monitoring and increasing Government support in the adoption of smart agriculture techniques. The Indian population is projected to reach 1.396 billion by 2025. Due to an increase in population size, the demand for food is also expected to increase exponentially over the forecast period (2018-2025). Due to an increase in demand for food the farmers have to increase the production of crops either by increasing the agriculture land or by using the smart agriculture technologies.

Some of the factors that limit the demand for smart agriculture technologies are a high cost of devices due to expensive manufacturing processes and lack of awareness amongst the farmers.

Several countries like China, Israel, and the United States have transformed the agricultural practice by using advance technology. The application of digital and Agri-tech technologies is projected to have an economic impact of USD 45-80 billion by 2025. Not just that, 90 million farmers could potentially raise their incomes, 200–250 million Indians could benefit from better nutrition from abundant harvests, and as many as one million Indians could find decent job opportunities as computer-equipped farm-extension workers as per an article in Your Story.

The existing Agri-tech Start-ups in the country are using technology in mainly two areas:

1. Pre Harvest - Which relates to soil testing, farm inputs, farm mechanization, satellite imaginary analysis, etc. India’s yield is very poor at 2.3 tons per hectare which is 42% lower than Asia’s average of four tons. There is ample scope to reduce this gap by the use of suitable inventions like crop rotation, soil testing, and weather analytics et al. Agro star and Cropln are emerging start-ups in this area.

2. Post-Harvest - Which relates to Supply Chain, quality of assessment, grading of produce, etc. Around 60% of the food loss and waste in India happens between the field and the end- consumer.  Approximately USD 14 billion of food production is wasted in India due to the inefficient supply chain. The Indian farmers merely get 30% of what the consumers pay. Digitizing the supply chain such as B2B and B2C marketplace for farm produce will reduce the wastage and increase farmers’ income.  Intello, Agricx Lab, and Ecozen are few Start-ups in this space.

There is also substantial opportunity to profitably organize perishable products throughout the value chains by using cold chain facilities and better financing options. Tessol and WayCool are leveraging the cold storage market opportunity.

Akshamaala (Digital platform for Agri inputs) is a disruptive startup that aims to build a robust digital distribution for agri-inputs in India as well as make farming more efficient, sustainable and remunerative by using technology. Unnati helps to empower farmers with digital technology by building a network of digital farmers by use of smart cards, farmer education on best practices, bio-products.

Akshamaala has two working models i.e. Agri Retail and Agri POS.

Government Initiatives

Some of the recent strategies and plans launched in this sector are as follows:

•    The government is planning to provide air cargo support to promote agriculture exports from India.

•    The government allotted INR 2000 crore for computerization of Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) to ensure cooperatives are benefited through digital technology.

•    New AGRI-UDAAN program launched to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture.

•    Launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) with an investment of INR 50,000 crore (USD 7.7 billion)

•    Extension of the urea subsidy to the farmers till 2020 estimated at INR 45,000 crores (USD 6.95 billion)

Conclusion

Agriculture is now a sector with great potential for growth. The AgriTech sector is witnessing a number of Start-ups in India. The sustainable advancements in agriculture offer synergistic opportunities for the combined growth of agriculture and capital.