Agritech startups have been continuing in their effort to innovate with the goal of improving farmers’ lives. However, the complexity of the agriculture sector makes it difficult for them to remedy these challenges independently. The answer lies in collaborations. The government bodies/financial institutions have initiated several measures for improving agriculture services and are constantly moving ahead in collaborations with the private sector, especially start-ups, to bring in tech-driven innovative solutions. We evaluate the latest public-private partnerships in Agritech:
Digital Platforms: Partnering to Connect Stakeholders
Digital platforms have been the most common proposition between public and private partnerships in agriculture. Agritech startups have been providing online marketplaces for farmers, connecting them with large institutional buyers, including the government for transparency and fair prices.
For instance, recently, Pune-based Agritech startup Agri10x announced collaboration with Indian government to help remote farmers sell their produce directly in the market using blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) platforms. The government has been looking for partners to launch blockchain-powered marketplace for integrating farmers with markets.
NITI Aayog and other academic institutions have opened their doors to reattach alliances with several leading tech firms to implement AI projects in agriculture.
Financial Institution Tie Ups: Opportunity in Backend Tech & Lending Management
With an aim to reach the last mile and diverse the borrower base, banks are partnering with public enterprises, especially Agritech start-ups, in multiple ways. First is partnership where the private players can provide the bank with collateral management and warehousing services to help farmers with effective market linkage. This way the banks are able to extend finance to farmers, Farmer Producer Organisations, processors, and various depositors whose agri-produce is stored in warehouses managed by the private company. This is similar to the tie up between Canara Bank and post-harvest Agritech start-up Arya. Bank of Baroda also signed an MoU with Allfresh Supply Management Pvt Ltd for extending finance to the farmers against pledge of warehouse receipts issued by the company.
Second is a partnership model where banks leverage the technology offered by the private company to make lending decisions. Banks find it difficult and uneconomical to gather and verify farm-level and farmer-level data and have limited visibility on financial information like cash flows and credit history. This is where the private sector comes in to fill in the gap and hence partnerships.
Technology Alliance: AI & Data-led Forecast, Monitoring
State governments are forming technology partnerships to forecast prices of agricultural produce using AI to help farmers in efficiently planning their harvest cycle. Agritech start-ups are bringing in technology for data collection on soil health, weather forecast, cropping pattern etc. For instance, the government partnered with Bengaluru-based Agritech startup CropIn Technologies to streamline the CCE (Crop Cutting Experiment) process and make it more accurate and scalable using AI and ML. CCE is aimed at accurately estimating the yield of a crop in a region during a given cultivation cycle. CropIn will help the government in providing technical support to conduct reliable, accurate, and large scale CCE within a short harvesting window and limited manpower.
Similarly, the Karnataka government partnered with IBM for tomato price forecasting using AI, ML technologies. Partnerships are also being forged between state government enterprises and technology players for quality, safety, traceability and monitoring services using AI and quick response (QR)-code tagging during packaging and warehousing process.
NITI Aayog and other government academic institutions have also opened their doors to reattach alliances with several leading AI technology players to implement AI projects in agriculture.
What is in it for me?
As an agriculture solution developer, you need to build a product/offering that fits into the existing government framework, workflows and technology platform as there is a lot happening from the public sector’s end as well in technology. Government flagship programs like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Health Card, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, require specific technology which can be catered by private sector. The golden rule is to first understand what is the gap in agriculture sector and then jump into the market with the product.