Investments in India’s nascent agri-tech sector grew 300% during the first six months of the year to $248 million against the same period last year, according to Nasscom. Further, India is now home to more than 450 agri-tech startups, with B2B (business to business) startups emerging as a key constituent, the software services industry lobby said citing the findings of an in-house report titled ‘Agritech in India -- emerging trends in 2019’.
“India’s agriculture sector is advancing steadily towards its digital transformation and the startup ecosystem is playing a critical role here, bringing innovation and disruption in much-needed areas,” Nasscom president Debjani Ghosh said in a statement.
The 300% growth in investments, while impressive, needs to be put into perspective. During the period under review, B2B agri-marketing platform NinjaCart alone accounted for $100 million of the overall $248 million that the report said was raised by the sector.
The growing adoption of agri-tech solutions by farmers has prompted a shift from B2C (business to consumer) to B2B startups. Large enterprises and angel investors have invested over $200 million (around Rs.1,425 crore at current exchange rates) in B2B agri-tech startups over the past 18 months, the report found. The growth of B2B startups has enabled better market access, faster adoption and product development.
Market linkages, digital agriculture, FaaS (framework-as-a-service) and financing are gaining traction due to quicker adoption of technology solutions offered by agri-tech startups. Adoption of these technologies are making farming a more sustainable and profitable practice, the report said.
The report also suggested that the government needed to adopt measures such as the setting up of micro funds, incubation support, acceleration and a transparent data sharing policy to support the sector.
While investor interest in agri-tech startups are on the rise, the sector doesn’t yet attract the big-ticket cheques that have become commonplace among sectors such as health-tech and ed-tech.
Apart from the NinjaCart funding round, other notable developments in the sector include a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trusts to set up the India Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN) at IIT Kanpur. The network of incubators aims to promote innovations for farmers holding small parcels of land.
Also, startup incubator T-Hub and Melbourne-based Beanstalk AgTech recently launched the Graft Australia-India AgTech market access programme which aims to support 12 startups every year that solve challenges in the agricultural sectors of India and Australia.