Chennai: Farming has always been part of India’s economic identity. In this year’s Union Budget, the government has provided 30 per cent increase in funds at Rs 1.42 lakh crore for agriculture and farmers’ welfare ministry. With sparkling growth in the field of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), several startups have now ventured to use such techs to sow seeds of growth in agriculture. After all, data has proven to be the ‘new oil’ of this century.
Thriving on this tech is Pune-based startup, Shivrai Technologies, founded by entrepreneurs Sanjay Borkar and Santosh Shinde. The duo has developed ‘FarmERP’ – an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform that helps ‘agribusinesses to collect, integrate and analyze huge amounts of data to support their business decisions’. They also operate ‘FarmGYAN‘ which ‘provides science-based intelligent advisory services to farm operators’.
Speaking to News Today, Sanjay and Santosh explain why it’s essential to digitize agriculture. ‘The world is moving towards digital transformation yet a lot of Indian farmers continue to view the agricultural industry as something that is a part of a tradition and not as a business,’ they say. ‘Digitization helps keep the entire process in control and through the collection and analysis of vital data, farmers are able to make bigger decisions.’
To portray benefits of this tech, the duo offered a hypothetical explanation of a person starting out as a tomato farmer. ‘The basic farming process involves getting a good harvest, getting information from market, selling tomatoes you grow and getting good value for it,’ they say. ‘You learn where to get seeds, how they need to be sowed, what are the best practices, how much to water, how much nutrients should be provided and what effect climate change plays. This is when you realize how difficult it is to predict anything during or till the end of the harvest as you cannot say what value you will get.’ But Sanjay and Santosh believe that through digitization when ‘every stakeholder who is part of farming process is brought onto one platform, it will reduce unpredictability’.
Easy to use
The founders explain that ‘FarmERP isn’t sold directly to individual farmers but instead to companies and organizations who work with farmers using this software platform’.
‘The mobile app has been designed in such a fashion that even the technologically challenged can use in an effective manner,’ they say. ‘We are working with NGOs to train and handhold farmers through our other specific offerings like FarmGyan and Farmizo.’
When asked if the economic slowdown has infected the agriculture sector, the duo denied any effect saying, ‘As the population keeps increasing, so does the demand for food. They also pointed that many Agri startups have come up within India and outside in the last four years. ‘They have been groomed well and work on interesting technology,’ they say.
Combating global warming
In ‘World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020’ report from United Nations, it warned of global warming and its effect on economy. Having such similar concerns, the entrepreneurs informed that ‘FarmERP is adding climate-smart intelligence and machine learning into their software solution which will help face the unpredictability of climate change and reduce the risk that is faced by agriculture industry.’
‘Many agriculturists face various challenges that are rising across the globe like forest fires, storms, climate change, and typhoons. So, the immediate effect of utilizing an AgriTech solution for planning purposes can be felt all across the sector,’ they added. Their software also has an inbuilt mechanism to mitigate the risk that occurs with the use of harmful pesticides on fresh produce. ‘We jointly work with research organizations to ensure intelligent food safety guidelines for farmers who grow fresh produce,’ they said.
The startup was self-funded in the beginning but now with Series A funding from TechnoGen IT Services, they have been able to enter new markets. They have also sowed seeds of success here in Tamilnadu. ‘Here, we are working with Waycool, a leading company which procures produce from various farmers,’ said the founders. ‘Prominently we are in India, South-East Asia and African countries, apart from which we are also represented in more than 25 countries.’ (For details visit, www.farmerp.com)