Armed with AI & drones, on-line mandis shake up farming, goal to chop waste to spice up farm revenue

A farmer working in a field | Representational image | Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
A farmer working in a area | Representational picture | Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: With guarantees of minimal farm wastage, higher revenue for farmers, and making certain nutritious vegatables and fruits in your plate, a whole ecosystem of agriculture e-commerce portals is starting to take form in India.

These new corporations deploy expertise akin to synthetic intelligence (AI) and drones to inject effectivity and experience all alongside the availability chain. It begins with offering farmers with essential inputs to assist bolster the standard of produce, and ends with bringing them to the buyer as rapidly as attainable.

Some of the main companies within the agriculture e-commerce sector embody INI Farms, AgriBazaar, Monks Bouffe, and Crofarm. At the crux of their operations is an try to finish the 1000’s of crores price of post-harvest losses farmers endure yearly, to make sure higher costs for farmers, and decrease prices for consumers. 

Speaking to ThePrint, the businesses mentioned they’ve succeeded in drastically decreasing post-harvest losses to as little as 1-5 per cent, from 30-40 per cent, relying upon the perishability of the crop.

It has helped make farming extra worthwhile, they added, and eradicate the middlemen depriving farmers of their due returns.

Farmers working with the companies agree this has had a huge impact on their earnings. Two banana farmers advised ThePrint their produce is now promoting for as much as 100 per cent extra. For one among them, the affiliation with a web based mandi has resulted in an improve to producing out “export-quality” bananas.

Also Read: China’s digital farmers are making agriculture more profitable

Cutting post-harvest losses

The Economic Survey 2021-22 pegged post-harvest losses at Rs 44,000 crore (at 2009 wholesale costs). Of this, 4-6 per cent of the losses pertained to cereals and pulses, 7-12 per cent to greens, and 6-18 per cent to fruits. 

The survey attributed the losses to the present mandi infrastructure, which it mentioned elongates the farm-to-fork course of due to out-of-date infrastructure like guide weighing, single-window programs, and lack of recent grading and sorting processes.

This waste results in huge losses for farmers, particularly when there are bumper harvests of perishable commodities like vegatables and fruits. Taxes and cesses levied by Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis minimize into farmers’ earnings, the survey acknowledged. Only a small proportion is invested into the event of the mandis’ infrastructure, as a big portion of the tax goes in the direction of middlemen, it added.

The Annual Report of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (2018-19) quoted a examine by the Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET) that estimated annual post-harvest losses of main agricultural commodities at Rs 92,651 crore (based mostly on 2012-13 manufacturing information, at 2014 wholesale costs). 

The examine additionally famous that many of the waste happens in vegatables and fruits. 

The resolution to this lies in satisfactory processing amenities, and that is one thing the agri e-commerce portals say they’re aiming for. 

What these corporations provide

Some on-line mandis search to supply a platform to attach consumers and sellers and organise auctions for gross sales, whereas others market fruits, greens and different farm merchandise beneath their very own model. 

INI Farms describes itself as an ag-tech firm that controls “entire operations in chosen products from farming to consumption”, together with farm-level aggregation and managing the availability chain, whereas Monks Bouffe works with farmers to derive “value-added” merchandise like peanut butter.

AgriBazaar is a trading marketplace “transforming the agri value chain through technology”. Crofarm aims to connect consumers and sellers, with a promise to ship from farm to fork in lower than 12 hours.

INI Farms, lively in eight states, exports most of their procurement and majorly offers in fruits. To preserve crop high quality and cut back waste, INI Farms has constructed cold-storage infrastructure at 9 websites. The firm picks up the yield from the farm instantly in cell pack homes and brings it to their chilly storages or packing homes, and continues the transportation course of from right here.

In Andhra Pradesh, it has been engaged on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mannequin. 

“In Andhra Pradesh, we work with the government on a PPP model, where the government actually mobilises the farmer. We provide technical know-how, educate them about the production and post-harvest technique,” mentioned INI Farms founder Pankaj Khandelwal.

Providing technical know-how can also be a part of what AgriBazaar does. “AgriBazaar has crop advisory teams that provide in-depth insights on soil health based on past analysis. These experts are adept at predicting weather conditions using tech such as artificial intelligence (AI) and drones,” mentioned co-founder Amith Aggarwal.

“It helps farmers minimise crop wastage due to natural factors such as heavy rainfall, drought, etc. Moreover, with such technological assistance, farmers can have a better idea of when to plant and harvest a particular crop for the highest-quality yield.”  

Mumbai-based Monks Bouffe mentioned it has restricted waste to 1-2 per cent. 

“The wastage is negligible, farmers wrap it in gunny bags and put the produce in state or private buses, we then receive them in Mumbai. Wastage isn’t more than 1-2 per cent,” Monks Bouffe co-founder and CEO Gaurang Motta mentioned.

Infrastructure arrange by these corporations reaches a number of the remotest locations.

Shashank Guwalani, 30, who oversees the operation of a 2,700-member farmer producer organisation (FPO) — an organization taking good care of the enterprise actions of a community of farmers rising the identical or comparable produce — within the Moaist-hit Dantewada area of Chhattisgarh, says associating with such organisations like Monks Bouffe has helped farmers within the area earn higher than what the federal government affords. 

“We procure fine rice at Rs 2,100/quintal while the government MSP is Rs 1,888/quintal for Grade A rice. It’s a particularly tense zone in the country, and the landscape is also not very favourable to farm,” he added. “So, we compensate our farmers well, and associating with such organisations has only helped in greater price realisation.” 

Dantewada district includes 239 villages and 143 village panchayats. The FPO, in collaboration with e-commerce aggregators, units up makeshift godowns throughout the villages for procurement. 

Motta mentioned Monks Bouffe “helps eliminate the middleman by dealing with the farmers and then selling the same produce directly to the consumer on their website or through bulk sales/white-labelling for other brands”. “The reduced wastage also helps us keep the price under check,” he added.

Lower value is a profit Varun Khurana, co-founder of Crofarm, the umbrella model for OTIPY, a Delhi-based e-aggregator of vegatables and fruits, additionally boasts of. 

“Our products are cheaper by 15-20 per cent than the ones available on different platforms in the market. And the system works well because both the farmer and the consumer benefit from it. Farmers prefer our platform because there’s greater transparency,” he added. 

Khurana mentioned OTIPY works on a 35 per cent gross margin, which they extract from the fee saved as a consequence of decreased waste. While OTIPY doesn’t bear cultivation dangers, it takes the onus for storage. 

Apart from the worth issue, this mannequin of creating the farm-to-fork chain extra environment friendly additionally provides extra worth to the meals chain, mentioned Khurana. “Since our process from the farm to your plate is faster, so there’s more nutritional value in the food that you get from us. Over 24 hours, fruits lose 30 per cent of their nutritional value in vitamins and minerals,” he added. “So, the fruit you buy from us is more nutritional.”

Also Read: Covid crisis has shown India’s food policy must have buffer stocks at community level too

Better costs for farmers

The decreased waste, elimination of middlemen and additional help by these corporations are believed to be serving to farmers stand up to 2 occasions extra for his or her produce. 

Anil Patil, a banana farmer from Nandurbar district in Maharashtra who works with INI Farms on over 1,000 acres with different farmers, mentioned they’re now incomes as much as Rs 400-500/quintal extra. 

“We started the business with INI Farms in 2017. Before that, we had to sell to traders at the mandi for local consumption as our product was not export grade,” he added. 

“It (association with INI Farms) has resulted in an increase in the banana’s price by Rs 400-500/quintal. Earlier, the price of our products used to be Rs 700-800/quintal, now it’s Rs 1,400-1,500/quintal, with a minimum of Rs 1,250/quintal.” 

Patil mentioned INI Farms gives technical help at each stage, akin to bud injection and deflowering, to create export-quality merchandise. “Bananas are a 20-30-day crop from farm to fork. INI Farms provided the technique to increase its lifespan. They even help us in packing with mobile pack vans and premium boxes,” he added. 

Another banana farmer, Venkat Ramji Reddy from Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh, provided an analogous account. “Before INI Farms, we used to get Rs 6,000-8,000/tonne. Now, we get Rs 11,000-12,000/tonne, even Rs 25,000/tonne, as our products are export quality now,” he mentioned. “More than prices, it’s about producing good products and transparent business without mediators.”

Aggarwal of AgriBazaar mentioned the “farmers receive payments in their bank accounts upon the delivery of goods through our award-winning platform, Agripay”. “The platform offers end-to-end secure transactions for both buyers and sellers,” he added. “The payment terms are agreed upon during the transaction between both the parties and is time-bound, taking care of the farmers interest,” he mentioned. 

Among different issues, AgriBazaar helps farmers procure loans from a variety of banks and NBFCs. 

Organisations additionally assist farmers make smoother transitions, wherever obligatory. 

“Organic farming is more expensive and so are the crops. If you were to shift to organic today, you’ll end up spending Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 more a month on your ration bill. But it’s our vision to make the price competitive in the next 4-5 years. For this, we’re penetrating the market at every level. Building the capacity to sell B2B and increasing our buying power in total, relying on economies of scale,” Motta mentioned.

Agriculture consultants say the businesses are a welcome initiative with their promise of higher earnings for farmers and a lift to infrastructure.

“If price realisation for farmers is higher, and these companies are contributing to the improvement of infrastructure, then it’s a good idea,” mentioned Siraj Hussain, former Agriculture Secretary and fellow on the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

However, he added, “the model needs refinement and scaling up”. 

“Right now, all these ventures are small and regional and don’t enjoy economies of scale. So, unless they deal in a commodity with a longer shelf life and a higher price, like mustard, I don’t see how profitable these ventures can be.” 

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Dubai sets up trading platform to connect Indian farmers to UAE food companies


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