While celebrating the transformation of agriculture, we must also evaluate each tech intervention through two lenses: scalability and sustainability
Tech has enabled us to reimagine the agricultural ecosystem with smart and scalable solutions. Today, agriculture is no longer perceived as a daunting sector filled with challenges of unpredictability and zero returns. It is a space of possibility. The last decade has seen the piquing of interest from entrepreneurs and investors alike, and technology has been front and centre of these conversations.
Technology in agriculture has facilitated three crucial benefits. It has brought in efficiencies and transparency both pre-and-post-harvest for increased productivity and food security. It has solved for Trust, a missing link in this sector. Technology has increased networks, enabled better assurances and improved trust across every link of the value chain to ensure better profitability and returns. Thirdly, technology has played the role of a leveller, creating equitable value chains in agriculture. It has provided opportunities for smallholders, for women and those that were excluded in the power equations previously. It has enabled the transition of these communities from the role of labour to leadership ensuring financial and technological inclusion in the remotest villages of our country.
Every tech-led innovation in the industry has made a transformative economic and social impact. Crop choices and production planning have experienced a more substantial shift to advanced mechanization and precision farming. Drone/gis/satellite-based farm surveillance help farmers manage inputs and productivity; Image, spectral, and sensor analytics impacts yield quality. AI/ML ensures farm finance and crop insurance, and blockchain brings transparency and traceability into an otherwise fragmented value chain. With the emergence of digital marketplaces, we are also solving for the last mile accessibility and trade assurances that help farmers get the correct value for their produce. It is beyond doubt that technology has some long-term solutions to offer to the agriculture sector.
While celebrating the transformation of agriculture, we must also evaluate each tech intervention through two lenses: scalability and sustainability.
Scalability ensures impact and true democratisation of technology. Can we make sure our innovations give smallholder farmers the power of choice: the choice of when to sell, whom to sell to, and at what price? The increased adoption of technology by farmers has been a game-changer, but rural inclusivity will need a sustained focus on financial inclusion, e-literacy, training, and upskilling. Developing affordable e-solutions that drive better outcomes for the smallest of stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem will determine the success of agritech in the future.
Sustainability ensures solutions and processes that can rapidly adapt and build resilience to a fast-changing environment. Be it climate change, political dynamics, or business economics. Indian agritechs have in the last decade attracted large funding rounds at sizable valuations. But their high-burn business models struggle to negotiate the current environment and impact the industry’s overall growth. However, tech startups built on a solid foundation of sound unit economics with a focus on topline and bottom-line continue to grow.
The more technology becomes scalable and sustainable, we have the power to improve efficiencies and bridge existing gaps to build resilient agri-food systems globally. True success for technology would therefore mean bringing together sustainable solutions with a scalable approach to ensure equity, efficiency and trust.
The author is managing director and co-founder, Arya.ag. Views are personal.
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