Why a Platform Approach to Innovation is the need of hour to make Agri Sector Atmanirbhar in 2021

Agriculture sector

The agriculture industry employs around 58% of the Indian population contributing significantly to the Indian economy at around 18% of the country’s GDP. Despite its contributions, the sector is highly reliant on factors such as manpower, capital and rainfall, both of which pose a formidable challenge.

This is in contrast to developed economies where the use of technology has made it possible to alleviate some of these challenges and garner better farm yield. 

That being said, the agri sector has evolved in recent years, owing to the advent of interconnected agriculture, smarter methods of food production and strengthening of value chains. As the nation looks to gear up for growth and doubling farm income by 2022, the creation of connected agri value chains is going to be an immediate priority.  

Digitalization challenges faced by agri stakeholders 

 One of the key challenges of making agri value chains digital is pushing the small scale and rural farmers to adapt to online platforms. While the pandemic accelerated digitalization in the agri sector, bringing all stakeholders on a unified platform remains a challenge. The second wave of the pandemic was unkind to the rural farming population since the stringent lockdown hindered the functioning of the value chain in its full swing.

This suggests that though most farmers in the remotest parts of India have mobile phones today, technical and internet literacy coupled with unreliable power supply, are constraints the sector needs to work around. Further, cost of services is also an issue because farm management technologies so far are only affordable for large-scale farmers. While small farmers face the same problems as large farmers, they cannot afford to invest and remain left behind. 

Need for connected agri value chains 

Agricultural value chains include the distribution of goods, expertise and awareness between smallholder farmers and customers. They have an opportunity to gain added value at each point of the output, marketing, and consumption process. They aid in creating agri-entrepreneurs and catalysing the growth of the ecosystem, thereby benefiting all stakeholders. Further, digitalizing facilitates networking and a well-connected and coordinated agri-value chain by removing multiple middlemen and the lack of transparency. Samunnati’s FPOnEXT, a first of its kind FPO membership program, aims to offer a load of financial and non financial benefits to the members of the collective. This also solves the ‘access’ and ‘visibility’ issues with respect to the market and demand faced by FPOs.

Connecting members of the entire agri ecosystem and food supply chain, as well as continued engagement with farmers, leads to creation of multiple inputs and revenue streams for businesses By investing in the digital agriculture ecosystem, India can support the small and marginal farmers of the country by providing them with a platform to voice their concerns and have these addressed in real-time. 

What the future holds 

In an effort to bridge the digital divide in the agri sector, new age agritech startups are coming up with innovations to benefit farmers. These companies are tapping into the evolving infrastructure in regional markets, by sharing useful tips and information with farmers via SMS or helplines in their local languages. For example, Samunnati launched Agri Elevate, a first of its kind ecosystem platform and dedicated search engine for agricultural services which helps FPOs and Agri-Enterprises understand how to improve their businesses. 

All these initiatives are aimed at helping the agri sector become independent and self-sufficient by functioning as a single, cohesive unit. Using digitalization as a tool to develop Connected Agri Value Chains would need more efforts, creativity and strong alliances between the Central and state governments, private players, farmers, as well as development of a regulatory framework, to ensure that technology stays affordable and available. Atmanirbhar Krishi is not just a word but a mantra to a bright future for India’s farmer community. 

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