Digital Agriculture: Harnessing the power of technology and global innovations

World Agtech Congress

This blog is based on the talk given by Om Routray, Vice President – Marketing, SourceTrace, at World Agtech Congress, Delhi. The event was organized by ICFA.

Today, what we are increasingly seeing are a merging of global technologies, global concerns and global innovations. When it comes to agriculture, global innovations are trying to address these global concerns.

Now, a few of those concerns in agriculture are: deforestation, sustainability, fair trade, certification and traceability.

All of those concerns can be summed up in one word – trust.

World Agtech Congress

Banks need trust that the farmer will be able to pay back the loan. Farmer needs to know his produce is safely stored in a cold chain or the seed that he is using is optimal. An importer needs to know that the grower is using GAP or fairtrade practices. We all need to trust that when the label says organic, it is organic.

Technology is trying to bring trust into all these transactions via precision farming, remote monitoring, supply chain traceability and certification and more.

At SourceTrace, that is precisely what we do. We address all of the above issues via a single technology platform. We work across 28 countries and diverse crops to build that trust.

We are in the business of Trust and Transparency

Global Geography

Innovation needs a market. When it comes to innovations in agriculture, there is a trend towards Global South partnerships that we are seeing. India – Africa – South East Asia have become hotbeds of these implementations. For example, outside of India we found markets in Africa and Bangladesh. When you look at the traditional IT innovation and exchange map and overlay the agritech one on top, you see how different they are.

World over, we are working on diverse crops with diverse organizations with very different operating models and customers. But the need is same – transparency. For example, we work with Tamilnadu Newsprint and Paper limited wants to oversee the process from distributing samplings to estimating yield of pulp. We work with Bangladesh Livestock research Institute on a program where cross breed cattle and monitor their yield. We work with another organization in Bangladesh – a fashion brand – that ensures that fairtrade practices are being followed.

We work across 14 countries in Africa in coffee, cocoa, vanilla and fruit plantations to ensure that the practices followed are sustainable, to monitor deforestation and child labour and other ethical practices.

No matter what the project, what region or what the produce is, we bring transparency on the field, in the factory and in the supply chain.

Incentivizing innovation

But now that we are talking about global innovations, let me talk of ones beyond our own. What’s unique about digital innovations in agriculture is that the earth is flat. The whole planet is at the starting line. There are no first and third world countries here. In Delhi, we have a Crofarm, in Nairobi, they have a Twiga. Both trying to serve fresh produce to urban centers.

You see, Innovations need ecosystems. They need a market and they need adoption; it can be fast or slow. But it needs to see adoption.

Let’s talk about the most important agricultural inputs – water. I have seen a few innovations in water. All of them dependent on governments or donor agencies. Not a single one of them is funded, yet. Until we incentivize farmers to save on water and electricity, until they become less regulated, until innovators can see a business opportunity there, I am not sure we will see any breakthrough there.

Making farmers less anonymous

Let me end with putting forth a simple idea. Until every grain is the same, until every farmer and produce is the same, doubling farmers’ income will only remain a pipe dream. We need to enable farmers to tell their story, the story of their produce and own their own brand. SourceTrace enables many organisations to do that. We have not worked directly with farmers yet, but we work with co-operatives and farmer groups. We are working towards making more and more growers understand the value of certification, of traceability and assuring consumers about what is inside the packet. We will love to partner with others in similar space with similar goals.

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