The Indian farm sector should be digitised to bump up agricultural productivity and rural incomes, said panellists at News Corp VCCircle’s Food & Agri Investment Summit 2018 held in Mumbai on Thursday.
The panel themed ‘Lending a hand to agriculture’ was moderated by Gaurav Kapoor, senior private sector development adviser, UK Department for International Development.
The panel comprised SatSure Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) Amardeep Sibia, CropIn Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd founder and CEO Krishna Kumar, and AgNext Technologies Pvt. Ltd CEO Taranjeet Singh Bhamra. Others on the panel were: Leap India Food & Logistics Pvt. Ltd founder and CEO Anurag Malempati, Ninjacart co-founder Vasudevan Chinnathambi, and agri-tech venture capital firm Omnivore (earlier Omnivore Partners) founding partner Jinesh Shah.
The panellists discussed methods to improve India’s farm productivity.
“Farmers are investing and using better technology. We need more of it that will help, for instance, in better price discovery and compensation for the farmers. There are WhatsApp groups that give farmers real-time information. Also, many companies are using such tools to disseminate information about seeds, fertilisers and other input materials,” Chinnathambi said.
Shah said that various government initiatives and deeper 4G penetration, brought about by Jio Infocomm’s cheap schemes, will play a vital role in the digitisation of agriculture.
Shah said, “Agriculture needs to get digitised. But it does not just mean digitisation of land records. Various other elements within the farm ecosystem such as cattle and poultry, as well as irrigation, need to be digitised.”
Bhamra opined that the use of technology is critical. A 0.5 times change in the farmer’s income would lead to a five times change for the overall ecosystem, he said.
Bhamra said, “We need large adoption of technology. Farming is a service but quality use of proper technology is an even bigger service. We have developed technology not just for farmers but even the agri-distribution chain that would give accurate data or information about a farmer’s crop not just at the farm level but even at the farm gate or local markets.”
Sibia said it is encouraging to see that state governments are the biggest buyers of agri-technology. He cited the example of a cyclone that hit Odisha and Andhra Pradesh and said that insurance companies were able to compensate farmers in two weeks, which otherwise would have taken months and even years.
Sibia added, “Farm as a service is another important segment. Many farmlands are using drones, which reduce time period and costs, and result in higher efficiencies.”