Clean Future spoke with Kunal Tiwari, Country Director-Sales (Govt & Development Agencies) about CropIn, its products and its role in promoting technology in agriculture by developing an sustainable agriculture ecosystem that will create value for farmers
Which year CropIn was founded and what motivated the founders to move into agriculture sector?
The idea of providing SaaS based services to agribusinesses came 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 bit to prevent farmers’ suicides and avert the agrarian crisis, Krishna Kumar (CEO) left his high rising career at GE and roped in seasoned professionals Kunal Prasad (COO) and Chittaranjan Jena (CTO) to set up CropIn Technology Solutions- an agriculture technology solutions start-up that would address the many pain points of farmers across the country.
The company currently working with over 165 clients and 1.6 Mn farmers across 20 countries.
Can you describe your product portfolio and what has been the response for your products?
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.
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
How have your products helped farmers and do you have any data to substantiate your claim?
The CropIn app helps farmers identify their problems and enables agricultural experts to advise them on how to improve their productivity.
This is possible at three levels. The first level is the farmers themselves, the second consists of the field officers in charge of them, and the third involves agricultural experts. While field officers assess the produce and the harvest and identify the problems, experts help solve them without having to actually visit the farm. The app delivers everything that the field officers have gathered, and translates the experts’ advice into the required language. This results in the app doing most of the work, reducing the number of middlemen and increasing efficiency.
The initiative won a special mention in the mBillionth 2014 awards for its efforts.
Developing resilience in agriculture to regular weather shocks in the short-term and to climate change in the medium- to long-term is one of the biggest challenges facing Indian farmers today. Large-scale pilots are being implemented in four districts of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to test the effectiveness of digital apps to generate climate resilient solutions for farming needs. This was made possible through a public-private partnership between the State Rural Livelihood Missions in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh with Cropin Technology. These pioneering digital tools are being developed and utilized as part of the Sustainable Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change (SLACC) Project associated with the Government of India’s National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP).
Both SLACC and NRLP are supported by the World Bank. Funded by the Special Climate Change Fund under the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the SLACC project aims to empower at least 10,000 farmers to adopt climate resilient practices. These include a range of technological solutions, such as community-based adaptive planning, conservation agriculture, farm mechanization, efficient irrigation, soil health cards and digital farming practices.
Recently you have announced a partnership with Government of Karnataka, what are the terms of this partnership and how will this partnership benefit farmers?
With an objective to help farmers create more value for their crops and foster their socio-economic development, a project has been initiated by the Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, in partnership with CropIn.
The partnership aims to start a programme that can help farmers create more value for their crops and foster their socio-economic development. The project further looks to bridge across 20 districts of Karnataka, assisting 4.15 lakh farmers and covering 3.4 lakh acres of land. It will assist Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and farm managers to advise farmers in following the right package of practices across crops such as paddy, millets, gram and groundnut.
As part of the mutual initiative, government will leverage CropIn’s farm management technology solutions to help farmers grow the right crops and adopt smart-farming techniques and practices, during the crop cycle. Instead of just focusing on increasing per acre yield quantity, the government hopes to help farmers get optimal value for their yield – a measure to ensure the economic wellbeing of farmers.
Besides setting up a clear farm management system in place, the solution will leverage Machine Learning and AI to help FPOs get insightful data points for making the right decisions and guiding farmers. In the larger picture, the tools provided as part of this solution will help farmer organizations to bring consistency, dependability and sustainability to agriculture.
What role have you envisioned for yourself towards India’s sustainable future?
Working towards our mission ‘To increase per acre value’ and vision ‘To make every farm traceable’ we have digitized over 1.4 million acres of farmland, enriching lives of over 1.6 million farmers along with 165 clients last year. By 2022 we envisage to impact 20 million farms through technological interventions.
Over the last eight years we, CropIn with our partners, have been able to make an impact in the Ag-Tech ecosystem not just in India but in the World. As a system and as a team, we have had the satisfaction of creating a world class product for agri-businesses.
In 2010, we started with a humble background but a big dream of making agriculture more efficient, we started by working with individual farmers trying to solve one farmer’s problem at a time. Soon we realized the scalability of our products, and started reaching out to global agri-businesses.
As we celebrate our success, we need to stay focused on our main aim, which remains to work towards helping farming community grow exponentially. We remain committed to making CropIn the best company to work with, as we truly believe that “We grow when you grow”.
What is your take on Agrophotovoltaic Farming?
Agrophotovoltaic farming appears at first sight to be a promising solution for increasing both the land use efficiency by harvesting crops and electricity on the same field and the renewable energy mix produced on arable land. However, we feel that it is important to gather more experience over the next few years and analyze other crops before drawing up final conclusions.