How this Bengaluru-based organisation is leveraging big data to help farmers with crop advisories
For a country on a growth trajectory, the use of technology in every sector, including agriculture, has become imperative. The adoption of technology and innovation in agriculture accelerated in the second half of the 20th century and achieved further momentum at the beginning of the 21st century. It brought about a radical transformation in the way farming was being approached and analysed.
As the overwhelming majority in rural India depends on farming for their primary source of income and with agriculture contributing 15-20 percent to the national GDP, agri-services have taken centre stage in the last few years. However, agriculture is fraught with uncertainties with extreme weather conditions, pest attacks, crop diseases and shortage of natural resources affecting production and price.
Dr Sat Kumar Tomer, Founder and CEO, Satyukt Analytics, a startup working to optimise farm productivity using satellite data, saw an opportunity to provide farmers with affordable, actionable insights into these problems. After spending 15 years in academia, including stints at IISc and CESBIO, France, Dr Sat stitched together a team of highly trained researchers and professionals to develop the Sat2Farm mobile application to improve agricultural livelihoods.
Looking at Satyukt’s potential for high impact, the startup was chosen as part of the India Agritech Incubation Network, a joint initiative of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts, powered by Social Alpha in partnership with Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives and Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. The company was also part of the Krishi Mangal scale-up accelerator supported by Cisco India CSR. Additionally, it has raised a seed investment of $500,000 (Rs 3.7 crore) from Social Alpha and agri-food growth venture fund NabVentures.
Transforming agriculture and allied space
The Sat2Farm app uses cutting-edge technologies such as remote sensing, big data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. It provides actionable, all-weather, and near real-time insights along with historical insights to provide predictive analysis for weather forecasts, flood and drought alerts, warnings of pest attacks and diseases, and soil-water content analysis to optimise crop production. Their products deliver a wide range of insights to agri-ecosystem stakeholders including farmers and input providers, empowering them with data that they never had access to earlier. The app has the potential to significantly reduce losses of Rs 50,000 crore that the farming community has to grapple with every year.
Satyukt’s app provides affordable, accessible, and efficient solutions in vernacular languages and audio formats. Farmers have been able to use Satyukt’s subscription-based per acre per season model to get vital insights into early indicators of crop stress, crop monitoring, optimising resources, and planning for the next season. Satyukt uses remote sensing to swiftly survey large areas of farmland to gauge soil moisture for crop health management, irrigation requirements, critical inputs for crops, among others. This has led to 10-25 percent monetary savings over a season for an average farmer who cannot afford alternative solutions such as IoT and sensor-based devices.
The microsatellites used by organisations like Satyukt have the capability to provide data even in extreme climate conditions.
“At Satyukt Analytics, our vision is to bring the latest farm-scale data backed by cutting-edge research on remote sensing to the fingertips of farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector,” says Dr Sat.
Satyukt utilises the open-source satellite data provided by space organisations like NASA and ESA to build space-based products. If NASA and ESA stop providing satellite datasets, the cost of the products might escalate as other space agencies, India’s and Japan’s, are charging for the remotely sensed data. Satyukt’s customers will then have to bear the brunt of the price rise. Keeping this in mind, the organisation has customised its in-house algorithms to combine multi-satellite data and minimise the dependence on one satellite to provide variability within the farm.
Apart from the Sat2Farm app, Satyukt is also developing solutions for FPOs, input and output companies, and the banking and insurance sector.
Gives access to data to monitor multiple farm plots at one location for FPOs and other agri-ecosystems stakeholders.
Integrates with agri-ecosystem stakeholders’ (input companies, irrigation companies etc.) existing platforms (such as mobile/web apps) to arrive at actionable insights using over 30 data points. These insights can be used for monitoring crop health, crop water management, soil health management, and many more.
Helps different agri-input or output companies gain insights into regional level crop analysis such as land acreage, crop performance and health, crop classification and stage of crop growth. Agri-input firms can use this information to better market their products to farmers. Output companies can utilise this data to procure products from the right places.
Enables smarter business decisions for banking and financial services companies with insights into farm-level analysis to provide credit scores of potential borrowers to the bank. This will allow banks to remotely monitor farm-level data and better structure and fast-track their lending to farmers.
Provides access to insights based on regional and farm-level data, to make smarter business decisions for crop insurance companies. This product can help crop insurance companies from the sowing to the harvesting stage to mitigate crop damage and estimate the loss in advance to ensure early payment of bills.
“Through satellite remote sensing, we can determine the extent of damage in a large area and provide specific information to these companies so that compensation is swiftly disbursed to farmers,” says Dr Sat.
Farmers in India have the daunting task of feeding a population of nearly 1.4 billion while grappling with dwindling natural resources and extreme weather conditions. Technology can play a key role in transforming agriculture, making it more efficient and resilient. This transformation would require satellite-based solutions that Satyukt provides. Satellite data on farm boundaries and crop health can be leveraged not only by the agri ecosystem players but also by governments, educational institutes and researchers to modernise farm management and improve rural livelihoods.