These Startups Hope to Make Money By Using Technology to Help Farmers Do So

Ridge gourds being packaged by Big Basket in Mysuru. Photo by Vivian Fernandes.

Gajendra Babu, who is working with an agricultural MNC in Singapore has compiled this list.

Agriculture as a business? Perhaps people will laugh at you, in India at least.

There are problems of all sorts, filled up to the brim: uneven rainfall distribution, droughts and floods, pest attacks and diseases, low availability of farm labour along with steep wages, inefficient market linkages due to intermediaries and so on. Hence, Indian agriculture is not remunerative for small-holder farms isn’t an attractive vocation for rural youth.

But these problems also provide tremendous opportunities. Startups and investors are recognizing them. They are trying to use technology to increase productivity, enhance farm incomes and reduce wastage. Precision farming, digital agriculture, smart farming and internet of things (IoT) are the buzzwords in the developed countries. How these are translated for Indian farmers to achieve their objectives needs to be seen. Below is a list of startups engaged in agriculture:

(a) Farm Management Service Providers:

CropIn Technologies: CropIn is a Bangalore-based tech company with a mission to create efficient, productive and sustainable farms. It caters to agri-businesses and farmers in India and 30 other countries. CropIn collects data using its farm management software and helps its clients to make informed decisions about their daily farm operations.

AgroStar:  Headquartered in Pune, AgroStar operates in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. It provides agronomy advice and input products to farmers to improve their productivity and income.

Unimart:  A well-known corporate group in agriculture, UPL, has ventured into farm advisory, crop protection solutions, farm equipment services and market and post-harvesting services through Unimart.

FarmBee: began as a SMS-based farm advisory service by Reuters Market Light (RML) in 2007. It has now transformed into an app-based company providing farm management services.

Destaglobal:  Backed by Boma Investments, Destaglobal is an ecommerce platform that connects agricultural input dealers with suppliers. It started in 2010 as a B2B company but has now started to serve farmers directly.

(b) Farm Machinery Service Providers

Goldfarm:  Started in 2016, Gold farm is the Uber for those looking to hiring farm machinery like tractors.  It serves small and marginal farmers in Karnataka through its mobile app (Honey Bee) and call centre.

Oxen Farm Solutions: It targets labour availability issues at the farm level through farm mechanization. It is largely active in Central India.

Trringo (by Mahindra & Mahindra), EM3 and Mitra Agro Equipments are other farm machinery service providers.

(c) Weather Forecasting Services

IBM Research India:  Based in Bengaluru, IBM, the owner of The Weather Company, combines satellite, geospatial data with data analytics tools to forecast weather patterns and to predict pest incidences.

BKC WeatherSys:  Through its mobile app Noida-based BKC WeatherSys provides weather forecasts, crop advice and market- related information.

Weather Risk Management Services: WRMS has a multi-disciplinary team which offers a bouquet of services including weather forecasting and insurance.

(d) Agri Supply Chain and Logistics Companies:

There are many players who are offering cold storage and supply chain management services to bring the farm closer to the fork, efficiently and by reducing waste. AgricxLabs, EarthFood, EcoZen, Gobasco, Khetinext, Ninjacart, Taaza and Tessol are some of the players in this space.

Who are backing up these startups?

Accel Partners, Ankur Capital, Aspada Investments, Beenext, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BSP Funds, Chiratae Ventures, Future Venture Capital (FVCCL), IDFC, IDG Venture, Infuse Ventures, Intellecap, IvyCap Ventures, Kshatriya Ventures, Omnivore (AgFunder), Qualcomm Ventures, Rabo Equity Advisors, SAIF Partners, Unitus Seed Fund, Villgro Innovations Foundation and Waaree.

Hope these companies offer interesting jobs to agricultural graduates,  especially agronomists, crop protection specialists, soil scientists, economists, and engineers.

(Ridge grourds being packaged for Big Basket, an online grocer, in Mysuru. Photo by Vivian Fernandes)

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