Insight – India provides fertile ground for agtech collaboration

The use of innovative technology in agriculture – agtech – has fundamentally disrupted conventional production techniques and market linkages in the Indian agricultural sector.

Agtech and increased mobility, particularly the widespread take-up of smartphones in regional and rural areas, have delivered a diverse range of information into the hands of the farming community. This includes weather data, pest monitoring, crop estimates, agricultural inputs, agricultural finance, agronomic advice and real-time market prices of agricultural produce.

Yet India’s need to feed 1.3 billion people amid decreasing water resources, shrinking arable land and other agricultural challenges means the country is constantly searching for new agtech solutions and services.

India is losing 100,000 hectares of arable land every year to various factors. The heartland of India’s staple crop of wheat – the state of Punjab – is losing close to a metre of groundwater each year [1] . The cost to the Indian exchequer of fertiliser subsidies is close to A$15 billion annually, in addition to the cost of supplying over 100 million small and marginal farmers with average land holdings of less than two hectares.

The imbalance between supply and demand is also an issue. For instance, India’s milk production is growing slower than demand at a ratio of 7:4. This is one reason why 60 per cent of India’s 140 million tonnes of milk is adulterated. Reports also estimate that close to 35 per cent of India’s yearly production of fruit and vegetable of over 314 million tonnes never reaches any market due to poor market linkages.

What’s in it for Australia?

Following her visit to India in October 2019, Dr Anastasia Volkova, CEO and Founder of Australian agtech company FluroSat, said: ‘One can argue that agtech needs are different from country to country. My observations prove the opposite. Maybe the mode of delivery and the business model, yes – but not the problems that are looking for solutions.’

India’s agricultural challenges present promising opportunities for Australian agtech companies to adapt, test and establish proof-of-concept of their solutions through localised delivery models. This can be made easier through partnerships with Indian stakeholders. Technology platforms that can be successfully adapted for the Indian market will reap rewards for Australian providers.

Indian agtech ecosystem

India’s young entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge of resolving India’s agricultural issues. With little to no agriculture background, they are using the power of technology to develop equitable and farmer- and consumer-centric agtech solutions.

India’s startup ecosystem includes 97 incubators dedicated to the agricultural sector, as listed in the StartUpIndia initiative under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. [2]

Between 2013 and 2017, Indian agtech startups have attracted close to US$1.7 billion in funding [3] , with international equity funds such as AgFunder, the Gates Foundation, BlackRock, the Rockefeller Foundation, Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets, BASF Venture Capital and Mistletoe of Japan, committed in the market. India accounts for 10 per cent of agtech startups globally, according to a recent report jointly published by Omnivore VC and AgFunder. [4]

This entrepreneurship drive has been supported by the Indian Government, which is committed to boosting the ease of doing business for startups. Among the programs launched by the Government, one notable initiative is the Agriculture Grand Challenge, which invited Indian startups to submit solutions to 12 challenges in the Indian agriculture sector.

Austrade webinars

Austrade is hosting a series of webinars in 2020 to increase visibility and understanding between Australian and Indian agtech companies, and to explore partnership and collaboration opportunities. These webinars will be listed on Austrade’s events calendar.