+ The Indian Agriculture Sector – a Ray of Hope for the Economy - CII Blog

India has been historically known for its large agriculture sector, with wide diversity of crops and produce. In the present times, the sector employs 50 percent of the total work force in agriculture and allied sector activities, according to the Periodic Labor Force Survey for 2018-19.

The agriculture sector has exhibited strong resilience in the pandemic situation, supported by well distributed monsoons and a record production of food grains, putting our faith in a faster recovery. It is imperative to provide strong emphasis on the future development of this sector to drive healthy consumption, investment, income growth and employment.

The Government’s resolve to support the rural sector through Agri Infrastructure Fund and other key reform measures augur well for the agriculture sector. High frequency indicators such as fertilizer sales, tractor sales have shown an uptick in September 2020, from the low figures seen in April 2020; August 2020 saw a jump of 75 per cent from -79 per cent in April 2020 in tractor sales.

Adoption of advanced technology to empower the agriculture sector

Adoption of technology is an important parameter to boost the competitiveness of the agriculture sector. Efforts are being made towards digitalization of the entire value chain to increase efficiencies and returns to farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is working on a digital database of farmers which is crucial for enhanced adoption for digital solutions in agriculture.

There is need to engage with start ups and leverage their potential to formulate innovative technology solutions and scale up their adoption in the Indian agriculture ecosystem.

Network of Agri Startups, Venture Financiers, and Incubators (NAVI) – a CII Initiative

As part of CII’s constant endeavor to make technology and innovation an integral part of the agricultural sector, CII, under the aegis of the CII Food and Agriculture Centre of Excellence (FACE), has institutionalized the platform – Network of Agri Startups, Venture Financiers, and Incubators (NAVI). Through this initiative, CII has been working with technology developers, entrepreneurs, farmers, stakeholders from the agribusiness industry, and the Government on ways to ensure technology driven growth and development of the agriculture sector.

NAVI is a cohesive platform that connects stakeholders in the AgTech Innovation Ecosystem at different levels and stages encompassing the entirety of the agricultural value chain.

The platform works for achieving:

  • Pro-bono consulting to develop business plans, pitch decks, commercialization and market-access strategies
  • Mentoring and handholding by industry experts
  • Piloting opportunities with leading corporate partners
  • Incubation and acceleration under partner institutions
  • Real-Time/Virtual investment pitches with leading development bodies, venture capitalists, and angel investors.

NAVI also serves as an innovation sourcing platform for the Industry. By understanding the need of the partner organization through a rigorous innovation gap analysis, it scouts for the most relevant tech-solutions ranging from mechanization and automation, post-harvest management, digital management of farms and operations, while continuously working to expand its ambit to include food-tech startups as well.

Some of the key institutions/incubators/accelerators onboard the NAVI platform Include:

  • Indian Agritech Incubation Network, Social Alpha – BMGF
  • Agriculture Research Organization – The Volcani Centre, Israel
  • Pusa Krishi Incubator, ICAR – IARI
  • Agrinnovate, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India
  • Atal Incubation Centre, Indian School of Business (AIC – ISB)

Outcomes and Impact:

  • NAVI Ventures EF Polymer and TraceX Technologies won the Social Alpha Quest for Agritech Innovations 2019-2020. They are part of the first cohort of the Indian Agritech Incubation Network (IAIN), an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Tata Trusts, in partnership with the Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
  • 100+ startups are registered on the platform at present from different segments of the sectors, with a special focus on the Post-Harvest Value Chain Management segment in order to improve resource utilization and minimize the losses.
  • The platform is presently facilitating funding and incubation for 21 startups presently including the winners of AgLive 2019 – Innovator’s Pitch. Winners of previous editions of AgLive have secured significant funding in the past (Future Farms – $4 million, Intello Labs – $2 million, AgNext – Undisclosed).
  • NAVI is helping selected ventures secure paid piloting opportunities from State Governments along with Atal Incubation Centres (AIC) registered on the platform.

With a host of efforts by key stakeholders in the agriculture sector, we can not only envisage greater investments, adoption of advanced technologies and robust partnerships, but also look forward to a new era of the agriculture sector which will see milestone progress, raise farmers’ income and uplift the overall economy.