Eight ICRISAT-incubated startups recently showcased their technologies to support farm livelihoods as part of a larger effort to bridge the technology gap for farmer collectives. The Indian government’s Invest India, through the Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi) program and the National Association for Farmer Producer Organisations (NAFPO), is bringing FPOs and agri-tech startups together.
Incubated at the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) and the iHub at ICRISAT, the startups recently showcased technology-backed solutions for Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) management systems, last-mile digital learning and extension services, personalized crop advisories and management, agribusiness convergence platforms, on-demand farm machinery and service management, optimized fertilizer application units to reduce input costs and impact on the environment, deep learning solutions for quality check at farm-gate and low-cost community-owned post-harvest processing units for value addition. The technologies and business ideas were presented through an online showcase event, which had 68 participants including Chief Executive Officers of FPOs, agencies promoting FPOs, civil society organizations, banking institutions and corporates from 17 states of India.
With their forays into new technologies, startups are favorably positioned to help farmers and farmer collectives, and with the right support, FPOs can significantly benefit their members. AGNIi is looking to bringing the two together in a relevant and timely manner, providing institutional support and ensuring sustained connect. AGNIi is India’s Technology Commercialization Initiative and is executed by Invest India, the India’s Investment Promotion Agency.
Collectivization models such as FPOs have long been considered a potential solution for addressing challenges such as low rate of technology adoption, lack of access to quality inputs, inadequate farming and extension services, lack of capital and business avenues, poor post-harvest infrastructure, and low market efficiency.
India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) notes that there are over 6,000 FPOs in India. However, there are challenges with the FPO model and, as noted by NABARD, most of them need extensive handholding of its management teams, improved access to capital and infrastructure, risk mitigation strategies as well as continuous market support to take off and sustain operations to benefit its farmer members. These issues need to be addressed quickly, given the government’s plans for setting up another 10,000 FPOs in the coming five years. In the short term, functioning FPOs are better poised to scale up operations through the recently announced major agricultural market reforms and the US$ 14 billion funding to support infrastructure development at the farm-gate and aggregation points.
“Effective solutions to the troubles of small farms like lack of mechanization support, access to credit or markets, extension services and other support services like access to quality inputs, is easier to provide to farmer collectives. However, FPOs need help and at scale to avail such support,” said Aneesha Bali, Lead – Institutions & Partnerships at NAFPO, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder owned platform that supports institutional development and business stabilization of FPOs.
“FPOs and startups have gained a lot of attention, especially in the past few months, for their potential to address smallholder farm challenges and spur rural economic growth,” said Jonathan Philroy, Manager at ABI-ICRISAT, which has supported 104 ag-tech startups so far.
“COVID-19 has been a test for both sets of organizations. However, in the present crisis, startups have shown that they can contribute to making the value chain more resilient. Our incubatees have already provided FPOs and their members in Telangana with affordable solutions to their problems. Connecting them with FPOs and FPO-promoting agencies across India was the next step, which was made possible with the support of AGNIi-Invest India and NAFPO,” Jonathan added.
In the recent event, each startup received, on an average, 17 expressions of interest, mainly for product orders, pilots in new locations, business development and funding, and rural development project partnerships. Discussions are underway to cement collaborations and deploy technology solutions in the field. Another event is expected to be held later this year featuring a second set of incubatees.
- BharatAgri: Supporting farmers with customized advisory solutions
- Distinct Horizon: Fertilizer deep placement to reduce costs and improve the environment
- Intello Labs: Deep learning solutions to assess the quality of farm produce
- Farmringg: SMART platform offering a one-stop solution for all farming needs
- Kalgudi: Agribusiness convergence platform
- Kuza: Taking digital agri-extension to the last mile
- Perfura: Creating value-addition opportunities at the farm-gate
- eFresh: Digital transformation for efficient management of FPOs