How agritech solutions are cultivating growth for India

At TechSparks 2023 in Delhi, Amrendra Singh, Co-founder of DeHaat; Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner at Bharat Innovation Fund and Co-founder of ThinkAg; and Prateek Vidya, Senior VP at Absolute, explored agritech's technological strides.

How agritech solutions are cultivating growth for India

Monday December 18, 2023,

4 min Read

Agriculture holds profound significance in India's economy. With a vast majority of Indians employed in the agriculture sector, India surpasses many countries in production and export. Yet, there lies vast untapped potential in the sector, waiting to be harnessed using the power of technology.

During the inaugural day of TechSparks 2023 in Delhi, Amrendra Singh, Co-founder and Director of DeHaat; Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner at Bharat Innovation Fund and Co-founder of ThinkAg; alongside Prateek Vidya, Senior VP of Growth at Absolute; delved deeply into the technological advancements within the agricultural sector, known as agritech. Despite the gradual progress, these innovations are nurturing India's growth.

What’s happening on ground

The tech adoption in the agritech space is at a nascent stage. Highlighting numbers, Mathur says that India is home to 150 million farmers of whom about 20 million—constituting around 15% of all farmers—have adopted agritech solutions in some way.

“Though the figure appears modest, it marks a significant upturn for the sector, occurring within just the past three years,” he elaborated. 

Given improved broadband access, enhanced connectivity, better smartphone availability, and decreasing technology costs, Mathur anticipated that within the next decade, approximately 90% of farmers might employ technological solutions on their lands.

Highlighting the potential of agritech solutions, he also noted that most tech innovations in India are tailored for small landholding farmers, a dominant demographic nationwide. Globally, there are around 500 million small landholding farmers, presenting a significant opportunity for Indian solutions to be exported worldwide, he said.

When discussing the potential of the agriculture sector in India, Singh mentioned that the total addressable market (TAM) for agritech to explore spans 140 million hectares.

Addressing the technology adoption, Vidya said that beyond farmers, the general populace has increasingly embraced various tech-based solutions. However, these predominantly comprise services that, to some extent, remain optional. In contrast, whatever engagement the farmer undertakes directly influences their livelihood and there’s a trust barrier which has to be addressed.

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Barriers to adopting tech: Ecosystem

Farmers aren't quick to adopt any technology that's offered to them. They require awareness, and their community holds significant sway. Providing solutions tailored to their problems is the key to adoption. 

Also, getting hold of farmers to understand a product is not easy one has to witness the on-ground problems and be an enabler. “The entire ecosystem needs to change,” said Singh.

He added that it's not just farmers who have to adopt technology but agri-input manufacturers, processors, and institutions also need to be in the ecosystem. 

The agri startup ecosystem

Up until 2017, the sector surprisingly didn't draw much attention from startups, with less than 500 of them involved, according to Mathur. "What's intriguing is that a majority of today's entrepreneurs in this field come from non-farming backgrounds. They identify the issues and actively devise solutions, significantly altering the complexion of the sector for the better," he noted

“My guess is that in the next seven to eight years this sector will see at least 10,000 agritech startups. Agritech is one of the few sectors which has space for everyone and there’s no dearth of opportunity,” Mathur highlighted.

Vidya emphasised that technology supported by robust data and product backing has the potential to alleviate farmers' workload while simultaneously boosting yields, reinstating farming's prestige. This shift can also entice the next generation of farmers, who, witnessing the challenges, are currently veering away from their traditional roots.

As of 2023, the agritech sector in India boasts approximately 3,000 startups—a remarkable surge from 1,000 in 2019, signifying substantial growth over four years. A lot changes are happening at the policy level as well.

The panellists viewed this as merely the inception; agritech is in a budding stage and is expected to flourish and bloom in the next few years.