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
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  .
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
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. 
Between 2013 and 2017, Indian agtech startups have attracted close to
US$1.7 billion in funding  , 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. 
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
Agriculture Grand Challenge, which invited Indian startups to submit solutions to 12 challenges in the
Indian agriculture sector.
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.