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How technology and data science can revolutionise India’s agriculture sector

We still do not have a unicorn from India in the agritech sector, indicating a huge opportunity for players in this industry, said Abhishek Bhagat, MD and Head – Digital & Technology Investment Banking, JM Financial Ltd, during a TechSparks panel discussion on Outlook 2025: Is it agritech’s time to shine?.

With the increasing penetration of modern technologies, accessibility of mobile phones and the internet, India’s agritech sector is booming. Abhishek is hopeful that the agritech industry will reach a net revenue of $25 billion by 2025.

But, why does India still not have a unicorn from this sector?

To answer this question, Abhishek along with Dhanraj Kidiyoor, Co-founder and CEO, PWIP and Sujit Janardanan, CMO of CropIn, discussed the challenges and opportunities of the agritech sector.

Why we need data in farming

While a farmer or a miller has access to the internet and smartphone apps like WhatsApp, noted Dhanraj, discovery is still a challenge in terms of the price of an agricultural product or the right partner to sell the product.

Today, farmers have access to all the tools and apps. But, do they have access to relevant data points?added Abhishek. As technologies are evolving, we are getting information about weather and climate changes, which is helping farmers to some extent. But, there is a long way to go. With access to accurate information and data points, India’s agritech sector is expected to soar even higher,he said. Clearly, as we move along, data will play an instrumental role and drive various crucial things in the agritech industry.

Adding to the discussion, Sujit said, How do we produce enough food to feed the growing population of the human race? Apart from the scale, other factors like climate change, deforestation and socio-political issues also affect agriculture. Climate change is affected by agriculture due to greenhouse gas emissions and vice versa.

Talking about how geopolitical situations affect the agricultural supply chain, Sujit said, The Ukraine-Russia war is a classic example because of which the entire granary stretch of the world is impacted. Food inflation is real and we can already see how the prices of agricultural products are increasing. Can you imagine countries that do not have access to an agricultural ecosystem like India are going through right now?

Empowering farmers is essential

Agriculture is a legacy industry, which is passed on from one generation to another. But, the next generation of farmers do not want to be farmers, because this is the most marginalised sector of the community or the entire value chain. That means, we need to enable them to build sustainable livelihoods by giving them access to resources, finance, and information, said Sujit.

To solve these kinds of large-scale problems, two fundamental challenges need to be solved first. We need to ensure that information is democratised and easily accessible to every single player in the ecosystem. The second is communication, being able to ensure that communication can happen all across the ecosystem, so that stakeholders can react and respond quickly, he added.

A farmer should not be someone who would be disadvantaged because of their lack of access to information and intelligence. We should provide them with data so that they can make better choices of what they grow, who they sell to, and what they put into their farms. Secondly, we need to build a backbone of information and communication, very similar to how SWIFT runs the entire banking communication system,explained Sujit.

What lies ahead?

Concluding the session, the panellists added that tech intervention and application of data science along with transparency in communication across the farming community globally and price discovery could help agritech grab the spotlight and shine.

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