Sci-Tech

Agriculture 2.0: With drones, analytics and mobile apps, agri-tech startups are tackling India’s farming problems

Farmers in India, despite being a major part of political slogans and a constant topic in media debates, are largely unrelieved of their incessant problems.

Given the recent heatwave which blazed its way across the nation, grassroots economies certainly took a hit. A 2018 report, titled ‘State of Indian Farmers’, released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) surveyed 5,000 farm households across 18 states and found 76% farmers said they would leave farming for another occupation. Seventy percent of the respondents believed that their crops were destroyed because of unseasonal rains, drought, floods and pest attack.

The government agencies apart, there are several agricultural-technology startups — equipped with remote sensing, data analysis and visualisation tools — that are attempting to reduce, if not solve, farmers’ issues. But who are these players in a risky market, and how are they empowering farmers?

CropIn

Started in: 2010

Headquarters: Bengaluru

Krishna Kumar founded CropIn after observing the agrarian crisis in several regions of Karnataka in 2010. As the global population swells and the demand for food products increase, CropIn attempts to optimise agricultural practices by minimising waste, developing climate resilience and advising the farmers with the aid of geotagging, satellite and weather inputs and farm management tools. CropIn, however, does not directly cater to the farmers. Their users comprise farming companies, seed production companies, financial lending institutions, insurance providers, governments among others.

CropIn was also among the 10 research institutions and private agencies that the central government had asked to optimise Crop Cutting Experiments (CCE) across the country in September 2018. According to co-founder and COO, Kunal Prasad, the company’s products are present in 33 countries. “We now work with 2.1 million farmers worldwide, 70% of which are Indians. We look to reach 20 million farmers by 2022,” he says of CropIn’s goals.

NaPanta

Started in: 2017

Headquarters: Hyderabad

Three years ago, when Naveen Kumar V, then a banker, had been to his hometown, Warangal, he witnessed the funeral of a farmer, who’d committed suicide. At HDFC and later at apnaloanbazaar.com, he’d sanctioned loans to many farmers. So, to see one from his hometown ending his life because of low yield of cotton moved him.

“I had no idea about agriculture and farming back then,” says Naveen. So, he researched a great deal on the topic and found out that “there was a lot of data available but most of it were inaccessible to the farmers.”

So, Naveen came up with NaPanta (‘my crop’ in Telugu), which helps farmers track prices of over 300 agricultural commodities in 3,500+ markets, monitor their expenses, buy and sell products, seek advice on weather, soil, crop insurance and more.

Naveen wants NaPanta, which is available in Telugu and English, (soon in Hindi and more languages) to be the end-all app that farmers can access for free.

The app has 100,000+ installations from Google Play and, according to Naveen, gets over a million page interactions every month.

eKutir

Started in: 2009

Headquarters: New Delhi

Krishna Mishra, the founder of eKutir, sensed a great disconnect between the farmers and other stakeholders in Indian agriculture. This, he felt, was a significant issue that affected especially the small-scale farmers.

“Agriculture is a time-driven activity. If you do not identify and rectify the weaker areas of your field, your yield might drastically be affected. But unfortunately, our farmers are largely illiterate. And, it’s difficult for them to access the right information,” he says.

eKutir, hence, came up with a website and a mobile application that connects the farmer with suppliers of seeds and fertilisers, banks, exporters and other stakeholders. “Within a few minutes, the farmer using our app will be able to get all kinds of information.”

eKutir works with the governments of Odisha, Gujarat, Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh, among others. Some of their partners include Unilever, Intel, NABARD.

The app, hitherto, is available in Hindu, Odia and Gujarati. “We are looking for local collaborators. Soon, the platform will be available in Tamil and Telugu as well. The idea is to slowly become pan-India,” says Krishna.

Agriculture 2.0: With drones, analytics and mobile apps, agri-tech startups are tackling India’s farming problems

Aarav Unmanned Systems

Started in: 2013

Headquarters: Bengaluru

Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS) is one of the few Indian startups that design drones to serve the needs of agriculture in India. It was founded at IIT Kanpur by Vipul Singh, Suhas Banshiwala and Yeshwanth Reddy in 2013.

“We have large GIS (Geographic Information System) companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, governments as our clients,” says Vipul. He enumerates use cases of a drone in agriculture. Its role during the 2017 Gujarat floods, especially, is noteworthy.

Gujarat, in 2017, witnessed one of its worst-ever floods. Over 200 people died, and more than 113,000 had to be evacuated by the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Border Security Force among other rescue teams. As human life was in peril, the crops destroyed in the calamity were, understandably, not in focus. Yet, for a state whose two-thirds population are engaged in agricultural activities, the extent of the damage had to be measured. With even the highways inundated, manual estimation was near-impossible. With AUS’ drones, however, the data of damage was collected within a fortnight.

“Even if this could be managed manually, it would have taken at least two months’ time and the output would be inaccurate,” says Vipul.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 6:49:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture-20-with-drones-analytics-and-mobile-apps-agri-tech-startups-are-tackling-indias-farming-problems/article28134174.ece

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