The term agritech refers to the use of technology in agriculture. Like all other spheres of life, technology is helping boost production, improve efficiency, and increase profits for the livelihoods of those who depend on agriculture. This is a boon for countries that are largely dependent on agriculture for their economy. Globally, it would also help reduce the ever-increasing food prices and ensure agricultural sustainability.
The Agritech market was worth $7.53 billion in 2018. By 2023, it is expected to touch the $13.50 billion mark with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) forecast of 12.39 per cent. In India, agriculture constitutes merely 17 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) — even though 60 per cent of rural homes engage in it.
Agritech uses a farmer-centered approach to transition from traditional farming techniques to modern technology. Some startups doing well in this sector are Agrostar (India), i-Grow (Indonesia), Pundi X (Singapore) and Farm Citizens App (the Philippines).
Here is a gist of agritech’s role in the current farming scenario:
> Farmers are now getting reliable information in every sector of agriculture through artificial intelligence and machine learning. ML helps predict date like which crop genes would be suitable for a particular climate/ land.
> Drones help in monitor ing soil quality, tillage, etc. South African agritech start-up Aerobotics make drones that hovers over farms and monitors ground activities. As per Forbes, drones similar to these are used for carrying supplies to the farmers too. They also create warning alerts to notify the farmers for rodents, spoilt crops, etc.
> Robotics is being used to minimise manual labor is also a common practice. These robots can assist in everything from sowing crops to reaping the harvest. Indian, Bengaluru-headquartered start-up Kamal Kisan is using agritech to reduce dependency on labor. For instance, they use vegetable planters that mechanizes the process.
Innovations in Agritech
Modes of mechanisation, e.g. modern machinery for cutting grains, sprinkling water, genetic modification of seeds, etc. have already been around for decades. Agritech takes it to the next level. Some major developments in this sector are:
> Innovative ideas like indoor agriculture have helped grow vegetables and grains indoor in areas with no arable land. Hydronics and artificial lights are used for the same, which provides an opportunity to grow food without conventional methods.
> Virtual currencies like Blockchain are gradually being used to ensure prompt farmer payments, reduce fraud risks and ensure smoother transaction from pasture to plate.
> Precision farming, also known as digital revolution has fueled innovations in this sector too. For example, driverless tractors tilling on specific parts of the land (as per AI or ML provided data).
Future of Agritech
Agri production needs to be doubled in the coming years. Though it is still at an early stage, publicly traded agri businesses are emerging across the world. Some of these include listed ones like Monsanto (an American agrochemical company helping farmers grow food sustainably) and Syngenta (a Swiss company that conducts genomic research). Governments are encouraging innovation and development in this sector. With continually evolving technology and the need to ensure food security, agritech as an industry can be the driving force for the next generation of farmers.