How Data and AI are Transforming the Agriculture Landscape – Startup Stories

CropIn is working to digitize the farmland and to enrich the lives of the farmers with the help of software-as-a-service (SAAS) to agribusiness. CropIn is successfully optimizing the best agriculture practices, minimizing agri-waste and developing climate resilience and providing timely agricultural advisory.

They are using the data to derive real-time actionable insights on standing crops and satellite imagery to evaluate crop damage and productivity.

Let’s find out the idea behind this AI-based start-up and how they are enriching the lives of farmers with the help of technology.

About the Founders.

The founders of CropIn come from both technical and managerial backgrounds.

Mr Krishna-Kumar

Mr. Krishna Kumar Co-Founder

Mr. Krishna Kumar, Founder, and CEO at CropIn Technology Solutions is a tech wiz and a Business World 40 Under 40 Achiever (2018), who previously had an illustrious corporate career at GE. Krishna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Instrumentation and Electronics Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University.

An epiphany that he had after understanding the plight of the farmers who due to lack of information and changing climatic conditions have been facing challenges, made him shift from his remarkable corporate career at GE and embark on a startup journey of his own. He is a visionary working towards providing for a better future.

Mr. Kunal Prasad

Mr. Kunal Prasad Co-Founder, COO

Mr. Kunal Prasad, Co-founder, and COO at CropIn Technology Solutions have a background in the technical and management arena. He has over 11 years of experience in the technical and management arena with substantial work in sales and business development, project management, product and customer experience.

Kunal’s strengths lie in his strong team management skills, detail-orientation, tenacious attitude towards each assignment that he picks up. With the craving to find some meaning and satisfaction with what he was doing, he co-founded CropIn and took on the responsibilities of a COO. Kunal holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and an MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management.

CropIn’s core team also includes a strong CXO team with significant industry experience, which adds to the remarkable growth of the organization.

What are the concept and the objective behind your business?

We observed that Agri-businesses used primitive technological methods in their fields, and were below par in making effective and well-informed data-driven decisions. The usage of modern technology in farming is minimal at the majority of these businesses. There are information gaps at different levels of the agri-ecosystem, leading to information asymmetry throughout the chain. Also, with consumers keen to know about the origin of their food and how it was produced and processed, there is a need for transparency along the end-to-end agribusiness supply chain. This is where CropIn comes in as a lucrative solution.

CropIn provides SaaS-based services to agribusinesses globally, enabling clients to analyze and interpret data to derive real-time actionable insights on standing crop and projects spanning across diverse geographies. The company brings in cutting-edge technology like Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Satellite Monitoring to interconnect all the stakeholders at different levels of the agriculture ecosystem.

Providing sustainable solutions for food, feed and fiber and ensuring farm-to-fork trace-ability across the agriculture supply chain are the mainstay principles that drive the company.

What are the solutions you are focusing on?

The world population is estimated to cross the 10 billion mark by the middle of this century. This population growth combined with urbanization will require agricultural production to double. To succeed, we need smart solutions for fairly produced, sustainable food, feed, and fiber, which is one of the mainstay principles of CropIn.

During our market opportunity study, we gathered that agribusinesses had minimal and outdated technological/digital resources, and were not able to make informed data-driven decisions. With consumers keen to know the origin of their food and how it was produced and processed, there was a need for transparency along the end-to-end agribusiness supply chain. With the vision to maximize per acre value and the mission to make every farm traceable, CropIn aims to work in line with our Prime Minister’s vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. The new technologies can bridge the existing information gap in the Agri-ecosystem thus connecting all the stakeholders in it.

Our bouquet of products addresses and supports the following aspects –

  1. Involve stakeholders such as government, developmental agencies and corporate on a common platform.
  2. Democratize data to eliminate the information asymmetry across the agri-ecosystem.
  3. Create sustainable livelihood for farmers, who are suffering due to crop failure, by connecting them with banks and financial institutions for crop insurance and yearly salary like schemes.
  4. Leverage agri-alternate data to help farmers build their credit rating, thus providing them transparent access to farm loans and crop
  5. Weather and pest advisory to farmers, thus salvaging their crops from damage.
  6. Regular notifications to farmers on the adoption of right practices and inputs (chemicals, fertilizers, )
  7. Ensure adherence to compliance and certifications, thus opening up new markets for farmer produce.
  8. Access to markets for a fair value of produce.

Are you a solution provider in AI? If yes, what are your offerings? Please explain it in detail with subheadings.

Yes, CropIn enables its clients to analyze and interpret data and derive real-time actionable insights on standing crops and projects spanning geographies by harnessing cutting-edge technologies like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Geo-tagging, and Satellite monitoring to revolutionize the agri-ecosystem.

CropIn adds value to all players in the agriculture ecosystem by increasing efficiency, scaling productivity and strengthening sustainability. We ensure farm-to-fork traceability across the agriculture supply chain through the use of our products. CropIn’s SaaS-based system is not a one-time intervention but a sustainable solution. The company has so far digitized over 5.5 million acres of farmland, enriching the lives of over 2.1 million farmers while working with 207+ clients. The CropIn Platform is supporting 384 crops and 3662 crop varieties, hence our platform is crop and location agnostic.

CropIn currently operates on a B2B business model, catering to agricultural businesses at different levels of the agro-ecosystem. Our product portfolio includes:

SmartFarm: An award-winning farm management solution that enables complete digitization of farms, empowers data-driven decision-making, provides complete visibility of people, processes and field performance, along with the capability to trace and predict the output. It ensures management of a standard package of practices, adherence to compliance and certification, pest and crop health management.

SmartRisk: An agri-business intelligence solution that leverages agri-alternate data and provides risk mitigation and forecasting for effective credit risk assessment and loan recovery assistance. The proprietary machine-learning algorithm built on satellite and weather data is used to give insights at plot and region level.

SmartWarehouse: A comprehensive solution for pack-house, processing and export companies that enables farm-to-fork traceability and compliance, quality control and flexible inventory management.

SmartSales: A comprehensive CRM and input channel management solution, that helps predict and improve sales and ensures end-to-end performance management of the sales team.

AcreSquare: A unique farmer application that helps companies interact directly with their farmers, share content, educate them and provide consultation, thus enabling companies to extend the power of technology to their farmers and cultivate farmer loyalty.

CropIn has garnered the trust and partnership of clientele globally which includes McCain, Tata Trusts Cini, Godfrey Phillips, IFB Agro, ITC, BigBasket, World Bank, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana (PMFBY), Government of Punjab, Government of Karnataka and other Government bodies and many more. CropIn has been awarded by the Govt. of Maharashtra as the Winner of AI Innovation Challenge 2019, The AWS Innovation Challenge, HDFC Innovation Summit for SmartRisk, Agrow Award for Best Innovation in Farming Technology for SmartFarm at London to mention a few of its prestigious recognitions.

What is your biggest challenge?

Some of the major challenges that the small and marginal farmers face in the Agri sector include limited access to investment, inadequate technological interventions, lack of quality inputs, unorganized farming operations, and not enough integration with markets.

Many agribusinesses, on the other hand, are yet to let go of traditional practices and switch to more efficient use of advanced technology. The existing solutions work only at certain levels of the ecosystem and do not connect the entire ecosystem. One of the important challenges we face today is ensuring farm-to-fork traceability of produce, especially when global markets are in question.

In the AgTech space, there are 2 major challenges that we have encountered so far. The first is adaptability, specifically in India, because a majority of Agri enterprises who have already been working with conventional practices view any drastic change towards digitization with skepticism. Also, the common misconception that the use of the application is only to track them and evaluate their performance only adds to the challenge and distracts them from the bigger picture.

The second is mobility and literacy. Though mobile communication and broadband connectivity are at its best yet, there are limitations in its penetration of broadband in rural areas, and there is much to improve with regards to rural literacy. This subsequently affects our reach of expansion in working directly with the farmers. CropIn has been proactively addressing the above issues, which has enabled us to tackle the barriers better than ever before. In addition, the other challenges in various sectors we address and provide solutions to, are:

  1. Farming companies are burdened by limited traceability and operational visibility along the crop cycle. Traceability and operational visibility along the crop cycle is a challenge for farm management
  2. Agri input companies constantly grapple with low visibility on marketing initiatives, inefficient operations and field force management, as well as lack a centralized database of farmers’

Financial lending institutions face issues in credit risk assessment due to lack of historical performance and risk profile of their clients, information asymmetry due to lack of alternative data sources to verify the source data, and high cost of operations as the lending personnel have to physically check on every farmer loan.

Who are your competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?

The Agri space has only recently realized the power of digital transformation and that space is still under-served. It thus opens up a plethora of opportunities to service the growing need.

CropIn is well placed in this regard and is leveraging this opportunity to claim the leadership position, spearheading with its performance-oriented team.

Internationally, there are few companies that we would consider as competition. Nevertheless, the head-start of CropIn, a strong platform, a rich data lake, and a diverse client base gives us not just slight, but a considerable edge in the competition. Since we cater to the entire value chain and most other Agtech companies are specific to one segment or restricted to a limited geography, we believe we are unanimous and uncontested when it comes to competition.

CropIn’s solutions are powered by proprietary algorithms built on ground data, satellite imagery and weather data, which are used to provide insights at the farm and regional level. The results are hence accurate, reliable, and highly predictable. CropIn’s roadmap is defined to offer full-stack AgTech solutions to the agri-ecosystem. CropIn has a track record of carrying out the fastest and most successful technology implementations in the AgTech space on a global scale. Product users have acknowledged that the platform is simple to use, which is a testament to the 92% client retention rate. Moreover, the solutions are crop and location- agnostic, which make them highly scalable. This, we believe, makes us stand out from the rest of the players in the industry.

What are your future plans to scale up your business?

With a robust range of products in our portfolio, we have so far partnered with more than 207+ clients across 46 countries and we aim to position ourselves as a global leader in Ag-tech. In the next few years, we are poised to position ourselves at the TOMA (top of mind awareness). We are looking at adding value to over 20 million farmers globally. We are also ambitious about collaborating with commodity traders, connecting better with financial institutions, and solidifying our business in Africa and Southeast Asia by partnering with major league agribusinesses, and more importantly, raising the next series of financial equity for smooth and sustained growth.

We are investing more on Machine learning, AI, Drone technology, Computer vision to build Agri-tech focused solutions to solve some of the complex challenges faced by farmers as well as by the industry – the mission is to maximize per acre value.

What are the career opportunities within your organization?

CropIn is a great place to make technology work for the agriculture community. We have diversified teams working intensely towards this cause. In Tech, we have various opportunities involving Data Science. Product and Software Engineering and Development. Our Marketing, Inside Sales and Sales teams, are ideal for those who want to bring in a change in the Agri sector using their communication abilities. We have a dedicated Customer Success team working extensively towards customer relationship management and understanding practical issues faced by our clients. We also have agronomists who go deep into understanding the elementary aspects of farming to provide better solutions in agriculture. Be it technical or managerial interest, CropIn is a great place to build a successful career in the AgTech domain.

We at CropIn believe in providing work-life balance to our employees. A few of the initiatives we have taken in this regard are flexible timing, work from home facility, recreation and fun events inside and outside the office.

According to you what makes a leader?

Every business leader has their own definition of what makes a good leader. I guess it has a lot to do with the journey they have been through and what the journey has taught them. I believe a leader is someone who has a clear vision of the mission. He/She is someone who can direct the team towards achieving the goal effectively, can make decisions keeping in mind the greater good and adapt to the changing situations. It is very important for the leader to have faith in their beliefs and trust their leadership instincts. A leader is also someone who can shape other emerging leaders around him/her by inspiring them to take up onus and show integrity and passion towards the cause.

What is the best learning you have in your career and who is your best teacher?

These are the key learning I have gained through my experience as a leader:

  1. Be patient while dealing with any tough It is important to understand and react with a clear mind to the arising situations.
  2. Have a go-getter attitude thinking optimistically and a positive approach makes a big difference.
  3. Prepare yourself for the next 5 Having clarity about the vision of your goal is a key factor in the success of any business.

My best teacher has been my life experience. They have taught me most effectively than anybody else.

2 key lessons for young minds.

  1. Stay hungry, run behind what drives you and work hard towards achieving your dreams.

2. Be patient and trust the journey, it teaches you key lessons that lead you towards becoming a better version of yourself.

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