By Sourav Roy
From using hydroponics and drones to setting up agri-equipment rental marketplaces, new-age startups are disrupting agriculture as newer technology trends emerge
Agriculture is the backbone of India’s economy – so they say. The sector employing half of India’s workforce, however, contributes only 13 percent towards the country GDP – a number which continues to fall through decades.
A dearth of innovation, basic infrastructure, and market connect; and India’s over- dependency on monsoons has led to slowdowns and stagnation in the farming sector.
With the rise of the digital and mobile economy over the past years, there is a rise in new-age startups changing the face of agriculture in small but meaningful ways. We share below a list of 10 such startups that are leading this change. The list is, in no way is exhaustive, but is representational of the larger trends being witnessed in the sector.
1. Triton Foodworks – growing fruits and vegetables without the use of soil
Started as an experiment in urban farming in 2014, Triton Foodworks is today driving hydroponics in India. The Delhi-based startup is pioneering agriculture in a water-based, nutrient-rich medium, without the use of soil. The startup has successfully set up more than 2 lakh sq ft of hydroponic farms across three locations in India, and produces more than 700 tons of residue-free fruits and vegetables every year.
2. vDrone – using drones and thermal imaging to increase yield
Started by two engineers, vDrone uses drones to take pictures of the field, which are then fed into the software developed by the startup and used to extract thermal images of the plants. Using innovative mapping technology, the Bengaluru-based startup quickly analyses areas of the farm which need attention, and helps the farmer cater to these needs. Thermal imaging is used to assess a crop’s yield by determining the condition of the seeds, the soil, the cropping pattern, the weather, access to water, use of fertilisers, and the lack of pests.
3. Ninjacart – eliminating middlemen for farmers
Ninjacart enables retailers and merchants to source fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. The Bengaluru-based startup has successfully done away with middlemen, commission agents, and auction agents present in mandis, and replaced them with a technologically driven supply chain and price discovery platforms. This has helped increase the income of over 2,500 farmers and reduce wastage. Currently, the startup handles 14,000 tons of fruits and vegetables and reaps revenue of around Rs 4 crore every month.
4. BigHaat – an online agro store for farmers
BigHaat is a Bengaluru-based startup empowering farmers through an e-commerce platform, which lets them buy seeds, crop protection nutrients and solutions, and agro instruments online. Enabling last-mile connectivity with logistics partners like India Post and Ship Rocket, BigHaathas impacted the lives of about 50,000 farmers across 20 states.
5. Ravgo – an agri-equipment rental marketplace
Started in 2016, Ravgo is an agri-equipment rental marketplace, which aims to bring access to modern technology for small farmers who cannot afford ownership of expensive machinery. Built on the concept of sharing economy, the Punjab-based startup is ensuring small farmers have access to the same agri-equipment as the big players.
6. Kisanmade – creating family farmers who cater to all needs of a family
Started from the small town of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Kisanmade is an e-commerce company which has come up with the revolutionary notion of “family farmers”. From fruits and vegetables to pulses, cereals, and spices; a family farmer takes care of providing all the food needs of a family. Through innovative use of tech, the startup has expanded operations to Ghaziabad, including Vaishali, Kaushambhi, Vasundhara, and Indirapuram.
7. FlyBird Innovations – reducing water usage in agriculture
FlyBird Farm Innovations was started in 2013. The Bengaluru-based startup uses sensors in the soil to detect moisture content and control irrigation on need basis. With over 70 installations across villages in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the setup helps the farmer optimise irrigation practices, improve crop yield, and save water, time, and labour. The startup’s technology has helped farmers save 25-30 percent of water and improve crop yield by 10-15 percent.
8. Crofarm – enabling farmers go online
Crofarm is an agri-supply chain startup that buys fresh vegetables and fruits directly from farmers and supplies them to online and offline retailers. In the last one year, the Delhi-based startup has built a network of more than 100 retailers and thousands of farmers, benefiting both parties. Selected as the number one company at TechSparks 2016, the startup is headquartered in Delhi, and has offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
9. PEAT – mitigating crop damage using data
Started in 2015, this German startup is currently working with 30,000 farmers across India. Once started to help farmers mitigate emission of greenhouse gases in the farming process, PEATsoon evolved into supporting farmers mitigate crop damage. The startup has come up with an app, Plantix, which helps monitor plant diseases. The app uses self-learning algorithms to distinguish different patterns left by plant diseases, pests, or nutrient deficiencies. It identifies plant damages just by taking a picture, ensuring farmers can save their crop on time.
10. Kamal Kisan – reducing labour costs with innovative agri-equipment
With its innovative tech products, Kamal Kisan is helping small and marginal farmers reduce labour costs by 50 percent. Started in 2013, the Bengaluru-based social enterprise has developed farm equipment that has replaced labour-intensive farm activities. These include sugarcane planters, versatile mulch layers, bed makers, vegetable handy planters, and power weeders.