This post is part of our new Future of Agriculture series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we had with Krishna Kumar, Founder & CEO, CropIn Technology.
What’s the history of CropIn?
The idea of providing SaaS based services to agribusinesses came to me after observing the agrarian crisis looming large on the rural areas of Karnataka in 2010, where local farmers were facing a gamut of problems; ranging from non-availability of finance, climatic vagaries, soil degradation, pest infestation, diseases, operational inefficiencies, and unpredictability of yield.
Taking a resolution to do my bit to prevent farmers’ suicides and avert the agrarian crisis, I left my high rising career at GE and roped in seasoned professionals Kunal Prasad and Chittaranjan Jena to set up CropIn Technology Solutions- an agriculture technology solutions start-up that would address the many pain points of farmers across the country.
From a small bootstrapped start-up that originated in a single-room office in Bangalore’s Indiranagar locality, the company has now reached a stage where it has digitized over 2.1 million acres of farmland, enriching the lives of 500,000 + farmers while working with 125+ clients.
What specific problem does CropIn solve? Who are you solving it for?
We identified that agribusinesses had minimal and outdated technological or digital intervention, and were not able to make informed, data-driven decisions. There are information gaps at different levels of the agri-ecosystem, leading to information asymmetry throughout the chain. Also, with consumers keen to know the origin of their food and how it was produced and processed; there is a need for transparency along the end-to-end agribusiness supply chain.
CropIn provides SaaS based services to agribusinesses in India and other developing nations; enabling clients to analyse and interpret data to derive real time actionable insights on standing crop and projects spanning geographies. The company brings in cutting-edge technology like Big Data analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Geo-tagging and Satellite monitoring to interconnect all the stakeholders at different levels of the agriculture ecosystem.
CropIn adds value to all the players in the agriculture ecosystem, democratizing data for all the stakeholders and increasing efficiency, scaling productivity and strengthening sustainability across the board. Providing sustainable solutions for food, feed and fibre and ensuring farm to fork traceability across the agriculture supply chain are the mainstay principles that drive the company.
Our audiences are the different stakeholders of the agri ‘eco system’ which work around farmers. This includes Contract and Organic Farming companies, Agro Seed and Chemical companies, Banking and Insurance enterprises, Corporates who conduct CSR initiatives for agricultural development and International Developmental Agencies.
The product portfolio includes:
- SmartFarm: Complete farm management solution
- SmartRisk: An agri-business intelligence solution for risk mitigation and forecasting
- mWarehouse: A packhouse solution that enables food traceability and agri produce compliance
- SmartSales: A comprehensive CRM and input channel management solution
- AcreSquare: A unique application that extends the power of technology to farmers
What are three technologies disrupting the agriculture industry?
Agri-tech is a sector that is growing in leaps and bounds as technological applications that have boosted the corporate sector are now being completely re-conceptualized for a sector that is in dire need of improvement.
Some of the major technologies that are currenting disrupting the agriculture sector include-
1. Big Data/ Artificial Intelligence/BlockChain – An average farm in 2050 is predicted to generate a total of 4.1 million data points per day, a huge leap from 190,000 in 2014. The data which is collected will be the foundation upon which efficient, sustainable and ethical farming solutions can be built.
Utilizing big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain, one can now trace each and every food grain from seeding to sale. Parties across the chain will now gain access to comprehensive data on a sector which previously meandered between informally organised to unorganised.
Digitization of data is enabling enterprises to be connected with every part of their supply chain- up to smallholder farmers in the most remote areas, thus supporting a sustainable and traceable supply chain, while at the same time improving the community’s livelihood
2. Computing- Earlier the processing of data was a time-consuming affair, but with technology advancing exponentially in accordance to Moore’s Law*, processing can now be done in a matter of seconds. In addition to this, the size of devices is also decreasing, so much so that a device with a processor as powerful as a computer from 10 years ago can now fit in the palm of your hand.
Cloud computing is another key aspect of this development, as it ensures that the relevant parties have quick and easy accessibility to the relevant data.
3. Networking- The ‘farmer on the phone’ is a concept that may seem alien to some, but it is one that will revolutionize the lives of the people tilling our fields. In an increasingly connected world, networking can play a massive role in smoothening the transactions between labour, farmer, buyer and retailer.
According to Gartner Inc, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. In such a scenario, it is essential for the agro sector to keep up with the rest of the world.
What is the future of farming?
The future of farming is one where technology will play a huge role in daily functionality. Some of the broader changes that we will start seeing in the near future are-
1. Unbroken traceability from grain to plate– One of the biggest inefficiency points in agriculture today is the lack of traceability. By 2050, the Earth’s population is set to swell from 7 billion to 9 billion. As per a recent article from Environment Reports, we’re wasting enough calories from food we’re already growing to be feeding an additional 1.9 billion people. A casual attitude towards transport and warehousing leads to immense levels of wastage. End-to-end traceability through digital visibility across the the agri-ecosystem is key to avoiding this wastage.
From the consumer’s prospective, a lack of traceability leads to doubts about where their food is really coming from. The conscious consumer is also concerned about whether fair trade and labour practices are being followed during production.In this regard, traceability will ensure that the food we eat is being monitored right from the seed stage to planting, growth, transport, warehousing, sale and finally to our dining tables.
2. Intelligent farms that are better connected– Today the organization and management of a farm is a monumental task. Monitoring the crop and utilizing resources effectively takes up so much time that farmers are unable to think beyond the existing labour cycle.
However the future ushers in an age of intelligent farms, where operations can run as smoothly as a production unit. Everyone working on the farm will be connected and a digital platform can tell them exactly what they need to do, and how to go about it.
Data driven farming can erase inefficiencies on our farms, helpings farmers mitigate potential risks and ensuring a thorough understanding of the operational figures throughout the chain.
The availability of data is also an effective crutch for better sustainability practices, an essential aspect of agriculture in the modern epoch. After the data has been collated, it can be utilized to ensure maximum productivity with a minimal impact on the environment.
*Moore's Law is a computing term which originated around 1970; the simplified version of this law states that the processor speed, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years.