For starters in this area – an entrepreneur is someone who organizes, starts, operates and in effective control of a business or commercial venture. She or he could also be an innovator in product/service/process or design and can maximise profits by adopting new strategies or ventures. Quite similar, an agripreneur is an individual who starts, organizes and manages a business venture focusing on the agricultural sector.
Broadly, agri-entrepreneurship or agripreneurship provides value addition to agricultural resources typically engaging rural human resources. The finished goods and services coming out of agrientrepreneurial initiatives are generally procured and produced out of resources in rural areas, the consumption of which however may be both urban and rural. Agricultural entrepreneurship is not remotely dissimilar to other forms of entrepreneurship, e.g. for-profit entrepreneurship, sustainable entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, eco-entrepreneurship, but maintains the specific context of the agricultural sector.
Like most other forms of entrepreneurship, opportunity identification, resource organization, risk-taking and profit-making are characteristics that applies to an agripreneur as well, specifically in the context of farm sector however. They will identify opportunities in agri or related industry and launch an enterprise either as a farmer, distributor and sometimes act as an agent in the B2B2C model also. Business planning, market analysis, managing equipment, production operation, negotiating and customer relation skills, marketing and sales, financial and developing training programmes, are some of the many key skills essential in running an agribusiness. The key four of many areas that agripreneurship services are crop advice, agricultural input sales, market linkages and credit facilitation. One close spinoff of agripreneurship is the development of ‘Sustainable Agriculture’, which means “a holistic, systems-oriented approach to farming that focuses on the interrelationships of social, economic, and environmental processes”.
Agripreneurship can be already seen in dairy, sericulture, goat rearing, rabbit rearing, floriculture, fisheries, shrimp farming, sheep rearing, vegetable cultivation, nursery farming, and also farm forestry. In addition, agripreneurs develop initiatives such as agro-produce processing units (rice and pulses mills), agro-produce manufacturing units (sugar and bakery factories/units), agro-inputs manufacturing units (fertilizer production units food processing units), agro-service centres (service centres for repairing agri-based tools and equipment), and also other agri-enterprises that sets up apiaries, feed and seed processing units, mushroom production units, commercial vermin-compost units, organic vegetable and fruits retail outlet, and also the much debated jatropha cultivation.
Newer forms of agripreneurship models link farmers to markets, both rural and urban, adopt a decentralised approach in order to boost youth entrepreneurship and also contribute to developing regional economies. These models also integrate services of credit, market linkages and also high-quality input, crop advisory to large cohorts of farmers. With effective management of different agri-elements, an individual with the risk -bearing capacity and a quest for the latest knowledge in the Agriculture sector could prove to be the right Agripreneurs. Agripreneurship is not only an opportunity but also a necessary force for improving the production and profitability in the Agriculture sector.
Entrepreneurial education is a key factor to consider; this could transform the functionality and impact of agripreneurs. For example, in the Dongbei region of China, specifically Jilin Province, an agrientrepreneurial initiative brought together the Coca-Cola company and the WWF to support over 6,000 smallholders (i.e., farmers who own small plots of land on which they grow self-sustaining crops, and who rely mainly on family labour) corn farmers by skill-development and information provision programmes primarily to conserve water, keep and maintain wetlands, boost agri yields (particularly in the Harbin region that produces and leads in rice production) and also to reduce climate change effects of agriculture. This project could be replicated in various other parts of the world as well; particularly to fit it in the Indian context also.
Evidence suggests that sustainable intensification measures act as a catalyst in reducing rural poverty, food scarcity, upgrading farming techniques, and also saving the environment. To create the right supportive and enabling environment, well-structured institutional arrangements (e.g., public-private partnerships) are required to implement policies and make investments to motivate farmers at every level for increasing production responsibly and also to ensure the availability of equitable food distribution and logistics in both food surplus and deficit regions.
Besides developing regional economies, reducing rural poverty and boosting agri yields, agripreneurship also helps in inducing productivity gains by smallholder farmers and integrating them into local, national and international markets. It helps in reducing food costs, dealing with uncertainties and improving the diets of the rural and urban poor in the country. It also leads to generating growth, increasing and diversifying income, and providing entrepreneurial opportunities in both the rural and urban areas.
While India has emerged as one of the top three countries globally in term of the number of start-ups founded, the start-up ecosystem for agri-entrepreneurship or agripreneurship does not present a happy scene. For example in 2015, out of $6 billion invested in an overall tech start-up, the Agriculture sector managed to attract less than 1 per cent investment. However in 2016, a sum of $3.23b was invested in the Agriculture sector worldwide; of which 53 Indian agri-tech start-ups managed to raise $313m. One would like to believe in the dictum ‘Slow and steady wins’, but regional or State-wise inequality in attracting investment remained a challenge even in 2019. The disperse nature of investment in agripreneurship made in India should invite more debate and mainstream focus.
India needs agripreneurship. This specific type of entrepreneurship can generate innovative solutions to some of the critical agricultural issues such as firstly, entrepreneurs can use precision farming techniques to increase crops productivity. Currently, India produces 2.4 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) of rice and 3.15 (t/ha) of wheat, which is far below China’s yield of 4.7 (t/ha) for rice and 4.9 (t/ha) for wheat respectively.
Secondly, the input costs can be minimized by incorporating data-driven decision making and smoothening efficacy in the farm supply chain. Currently for an output of Rs. 100, the input cost is Rs. 64. This typically makes agribusinesses to be perceived as a low-profit enterprise and thereby reduces investment attractiveness. Thirdly, the colossal crop wastages must be reduced through new entrepreneurial ventures that can improve the supply chain infrastructure and bring in innovative storage facility. Presently, crops worth $14 billion are wasted each year in India.
Indian agripreneurs could adopt some of the successful tech ventures in agriculture from other neighbouring developing countries where their counterparts have integrated Remote Sensing (that can provide bio-geophysical data for agricultural crop monitoring and agro-metadvisory services), Geographic Information System (GIS), Internet of Things (IoT-based smart farming is a system built for monitoring crop field with the help of sensors that provide data on temperature, soil moisture, light and humidity. Such measures will help in monitoring crop health, automating irrigation systems, etc.), and applying analytics can improve farm productivity, minimize farm wastage and thereby increase farmers’ income.
These technologies can also be used to map the cropping pattern, cropping intensity, draught assessment and better understand the agronomics of crops. A report by Accenture estimates the digital agriculture services market will hit $4.55 billion by 2020 globally, thus, pointing out to the fact that agri-tech start-ups in the world as well as India are bound to grow.
By Prof (Dr) Bibhas K Mukhopadhyay & Dr Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay