Startup of the Week: Providing a suite of digital services for enhanced farm productivity

By Sindhuja Balaji

Highlights

DigiAgri is aiming to be that one-stop shop for a farmer's digital needs - by offering a suite of solutions that leverage AI, blockchain, GIS and IoT - DigiAgri aims to assist smallholder farmers in India improve their productivity and profits.

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Historically, agriculture has never been organised in this manner evenly. While the aspects of agricultural output is more tailored, the actual practice of farming is not exactly streamlined. India's millions of farmers have acquired their skills over years of practice and hard manual labour. They toil away on fields every season, every year - largely making guess-timations about soil conditions, weather patterns, crop quality, pest control measures. While their depth of knowledge about crops and farming is unparalleled, often times they work with factors that are constantly in flux. This critical aspect of improved farm management can be addressed with technology. Corrective measures being taken at the very beginning of the agricultural value chain would make the remaining processes in this chain smoother. 

Today's competitive business climate demands every leader to be very hands on. He has to know his business thoroughly, do a constant assessment of what's working and what's not, what his competitors are upto, what the market trends are like... a SWOT analysis basically. This helps businesses stay ahead of the curve, and allow them to cater to customer needs more intuitively. DigiAgri, an Ahmedabad-based startup, is helping farmers understand their farms and crops better by utilising a data-driven approach. 

The startup has the motto of "More Crop - Per Drop, Per Acre, Per Dollar, Per Farmer" - essentially aiming to deliver the best financial and intrinsic value for the farmer on land, water and crop quality. Cofounder Deepak Pareek truly believes that data science can effectively address almost every significant challenge in the agriculture ecosystem. "By using a combination of technologies like AI, IoT, ML, blockchain, GIS and analytics, we are creating a difference across farming by delivering actionable results for farmers."

Hadiyol is a large village in the muncipality of Himmatnagar of Gujarat. Nearly 70% of the 4,000 households are dependent on agriculture as a primary source of income. 52-year-old Jagdishbhai Patel is among the farmers in the area solely dependent on agriculture. For the past three seasons, he has been struggling as none of his efforts were giving him a precise and profitable return for potato and some other crops he was cultivating. Unfortunately for him, his crops yielded very little profit for three consecutive seasons and adding to his distress was that the groundnut produce he harvested could not be sold even at the cost of cultivation due to low quality of the output. 

This is where DigiAgri stepped in. It harnessed data from various sources including ground data - location, soil parameters, irrigation status, agro-climatic zone, farmer data such as demographic information including financial, family and economical activities, public and government data which include macro economical, demographic and geographical profiles such as field surveys, satellite imagery, revenue and administration data, and third party data like weather data, commodity demand and pricing data and agriculture input product information.

The platform's algorithms are trained with data and insights collected based on interactions with 30,000 farmers from 7 countries, on more than 40 kinds of crops. This data spans nearly 200 different parameters. After this, the team roped in agri-preneur Srushti Patel, who lives in Hadiyol village and possesses a background in agriculture. She was trained by the Digi Agri team to support fellow farmers across the crop cycle from selecting correct (profitable, high yield) crop deliver insights in form of a dynamic farm plan customized to each farmer, make available relevant agri-inputs and facilitate ancillary services, and finally help in the sale of the harvested crop.

"DigiAgri-enabled services are delivered to farmers as well as ecosystem players through various modes including mobile applications, web based dashboards, SMS and voice-based channels and automated chatbots. This ensures that customized contextual information can be delivered to all seamlessly," explains Pareek. 

Every farmer recieves a customised report of his crops and farmland. Geofencing is one of the most pertinent offerings of this platform as it allows farmers to plan crop cultivation for consequent seasons. In addition, access to a network of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) allows for optimisation of the supply chain and simplifies inventory management and tracking. Another exciting feature that Pareek is bullish about is AgFin - credit rating and risk mitigation service, which develops a farmer's credit score based on the data collected about him and weighs his risk factors using scores. 

In the first year, Digi Agri impacts farmers’ profitability by aiming to reduce costs by 10%, increase productivity by 18%, enhanced realization by 15% and increased income by 34%, he adds. 

Pareek says, "The farmers of India are underserved, especially in technology and we want to change that. Ultimately, they want solutions not more challenges. When they see how technology enables them, they are more than happy to get onboard with us."

About the author

Sindhuja Balaji

Senior Content Writer

Sindhuja Balaji is a Senior Content Writer with India AI. She has 10 years of experience as a journalist in print, digital & television media, covering technology, business, culture and city affairs. Prior to joining India AI, she led Content, Social Media & PR Outreach initiatives for the NASSCOM Center of Excellence for IoT & AI. She particularly enjoys exploring the potential of advanced technologies and their impact on the economy, business & policy development

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