IBM bets big on agriculture, to help farmers scale up

By Vishal Krishna

IBM’s subsidiary the Weather Company has already worked with 70 startups and wants to reach out to more through Niti Aayog.

India has 100 million farmers, 500 million farm workers, and the farm sector is by far the largest employer. Despite this, productivity is low, partly because of the land holding structure, which is less than 5 guntas and is in need of a fillip in terms of technology intervention.

Many have tried bringing innovations to help the farm sector in the past. Some like Reuters tried providing 2G-based SMS messages on crop prices in 2006 to make farmers keep pace with market prices of agri produce. There are several startups like CroFarm, BigHaat and Peat that have created access for farmers to retail markets, inputs providers, and pest control.

The startup activity to help farmers will now find support from IBM’s subsidiary The Weather Company, which has tied up with Niti Aayog to engage with startups in the farm sector.

IBM believes that by serving the agritech sector, revenue will come from business services and advisory where the Weather Company will be able to combine weather data, big data, data from sensors or internet of things to provide solutions to farmers. Blockchain, Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence will also help farmers services scale up.

The Weather Company works with 70 startups engaged in the agritech sector.

“IBM sees a Rs 5,000-crore opportunity from agritech in India over the next five years,” Himanshu Goyal, India sales and alliances leader, The Weather Company, said.

“Farmers are going digital, and using feature phones to go digital. We are only a couple of years away from farmers using internet on a large scale,” says Sachin Nandwana of BigHaat, which has served over half-a-million farmers and claims to have a mindshare with five million farmers. BigHaat brings supplies and inputs to farmers.

Today, the agritech sector in India is witnessing a number of startups in India disrupting everything from organic farming and equipment rentals to connected supply chains and cloud-based analytics. The startups showcase the diversity in the sector, followed by an analysis of the broader ecosystem. Some cover pricing of produce, others include equipment marketplaces; still others cover digital workflow and smart supply chains. Some of these startups include Farms2Fork, Agribolo, FarmAgain and Aibono that are making inroads in the farm sector.

No wonder IBM believes it to be a Rs 5000 crore business opportunity.


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