These homegrown startups are using AI and ML to change the rules of the game

By Siddhesh Raut|20th Oct 2020
A report by industry body Nasscom noted that Data and AI can add $450-500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, representing about 10 percent of the $5 trillion economy aspiration of the Indian government.
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In the latter half of the last decade, businesses across sectors saw significant growth in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).


A survey by the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that by 2025, at least 50 percent of enterprise applications will have embedded AI and ML functionality as an integral part of their business operations. That’s because these technologies have shown great potential to tap into new growth opportunities by enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions, and improve efficiency through automation, among others.


The Indian startup ecosystem is also seeing a surge in startups leveraging AI and ML to tap into new opportunities. As of February 2020, the market had 2,045 AI startups and more than 17,000 market followers. A report by industry body Nasscom noted that Data and AI can add $450-500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, representing about 10 percent of the $5 trillion economy aspiration of the Indian government.

From aquaculture to intra-city logistics, here is a list of homegrown startups that are creating new avenues of growth with their innovative applications of AI and ML.

Aqua Connect:

Aqua Connect is a Chennai-based aquaculture startup co-founded by Rajamanohar Somasundaram along with Sanjai Kumar, and Shanmuga Sundaram. It seeks to help shrimp farmers improve their yield by maintaining optimal water quality and animal health through insights from AI technology and remote sensing interventions.


According to Rajamanohar, Co-Founder and CEO of Aqua Connect, India’s fish and shrimp farmers produce worth $17 billion of produce every year. Of these, farming shrimp is more riskier, but also lucrative. In fact, 90 percent of the 800,000 tonnes of shrimp produced in India is exported.


“We would expect some kind of value chain that provides superior efficiency. But we are still seeing low tech adoption at all points along the supply chain,” says Rajamanohar.

Aqua Connect’s FarmMOJO mobile application collects and analyses data from the ponds of shrimp farmers and provides them with timely insights by using AI to improve their yield. “You need to manage the amount of food the shrimp eat, monitor their growth and provide treatment whenever needed,” says Rajamanohar.


According to Rajamanohar, 60 percent of the cost goes towards feeding the shrimp. If they are overfed, the uneaten feed could deteriorate water quality, increasing the risk of disease. With Aqua Connect’s timely advice, shrimp farmers saw average savings between Rs 30,000 and Rs 40,000 on feed alone. Similarly, farmers can be more proactive about ensuring the health of their shrimp by maintaining an acceptable level of minerals in the water.


Aqua Connect has seen 10x growth in the number of downloads in recent times. It aims to connect farmers with formal sources of credit by providing banks a risk mitigation framework, and asset monitoring to enable underwriting capabilities in the sector.


“We are also building a product where farmers can list their product and the processors can buy it directly from the farmer,” says Rajamanohar.

AgNext:

Founded by Taranjeet Singh Bhamra in 2016, AgNext Technologies is a Chandigarh-based agritech startup that looks to standardise the quality inspection of agricultural commodities at all points of the food value chain.


It takes six months to grow the crop, and it is analysed in five minutes on a subjective basis. This disincentivizes the farmer as he does not get clarity on the value he is bringing to the table,” says Taranjeet, Founder and CEO of AgNext, adding that such a process leads to other stakeholders, like procurement companies, being unable to meet the yield of their targets.


AgNext solves these challenges through homegrown devices and solutions that assess the quality of a commodity with high levels of accuracy, at a fraction of the cost and time. These devices and solutions are powered by AI and ML models, computer vision and spectral sciences.


Taranjeet recounts that the first three years were spent in diligently building a vast database of various commodities, including tea leaves and turmeric among other commodities. Parallely, they developed their capabilities by training their AI-based deep learning algorithms to analyse the physical characteristics of these commodities through computer vision.


As a result, AgNext’s various offerings have brought down the assessment times, and increased accuracy levels to unprecedented levels in the industry. For example, with its patented device, AgNext brought down the assessment time of turmeric to 1 minute, and raised accuracy levels to 99 percent.


“Thanks to the initial effort we took in building the algorithms properly, we are able to templatise our offerings from commodity to commodity, and scale globally,” says Taranjeet. He adds that AgNext’s offerings can now assess the quality of grains, beverages, beans, oilseeds and spices to high levels of accuracy. Till date, AgNext has worked with key stakeholders of the food value chain, including the Government of India, and has seen interest in its offerings from Kenya, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

COGOS Technologies:

Co-Founded by Prasad Sreeram and Rama Mohan Katta in 2016, COGOS Technologies is an intra-city logistics startup that is helping out enterprises in meeting their local logistics needs.


According to Prasad, Co-Founder and CEO of COGOS Technologies, enterprises have a hard time with intra-city logistics as it is a highly fragmented and unorganised space, with 90 percent of the supply provided by individual operators.


“When enterprises operate in multiple cities, they would have to deal with many service level agreements and hundreds of vendors,” says Prasad. Adding to that is the erratic supply of trucks, both in number and type, which lead to unpredictability of intra-city logistics operations and exorbitant costs.


The startup addresses all these issues by using AI and ML to provide enterprises a seamless and reliable intra-city logistics experience. The team is able to leverage these technologies to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency by automating key workflows, right from assigning the supply and predicting demand, to maintaining the quality of supply.


COGOS Technologies currently has its network spread across 102 cities in the country. “An acquisition carried out in July has given us a reach in Maharashtra and Gujarat and Delhi NCR and Uttar Pradesh. Our aim is to have a presence in all states in India, including Jammu and Kashmir,” says Prasad, adding that the company also aims to expand its offerings to relevant markets such as the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa by next year.

SenseHawk:

Co-founded by Swarup Mavanoor and Rahul Sankhe in 2018, SenseHawk is a California and Bengaluru-based SaaS startup that enables solar companies to manage the entire lifecycle of their solar plants, right from choosing the appropriate site to build it, to monitoring their activity on a single, dedicated platform.


“The solar industry is quite complex, and there are a lot of segments that go into the development, maintenance and management of a solar plant. There are also many stakeholders in this industry, and before SenseHawk, there was no single point solution for the entire solar asset lifecycle,” says Saideep Talari, CTO at SenseHawk.


As a result, solar asset owners used up to 20 different types of software to manage a solar plant, and different solar developers used different software which only limited their capabilities.


SenseHawk’s software uses AI to streamline and automate processes to boost productivity. At the pre-planning stage, it helps developers to analyse prospective sites for their topography and hydrology aspects to decide if it is an appropriate site.


“Once a region is selected, SenseHawk can devise a layout that provides the optimal cost, power and yield using ML,” says Saideep, adding that during the construction phase, data from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is fed through several ML models to provide a status on the construction, and help companies reach their targets.


Once construction is completed, SenseHawk’s software helps in the maintenance of modules by detecting defects using AI/ML and computer vision. SenseHawk is also looking to tap into India’s rooftop solar segment. With clients from India, US, Australia and Europe and the Middle East, the company is working on providing customers with yield and loss estimation, and predictive analytics capabilities in the near future.


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