Agri-tech startups have a field day as farmers, investors sow seeds of growth

In Indian agriculture, the scope—and application—of technology has long been limited to genetically-modified crops, high-yield seeds and, of late, a handful of sophisticated tools like aerial images and GPS technology. Needless to say, a lot of challenges that farmers faced remained unresolved, partly because there were no problem-solvers around.

But that’s fast changing. Leveraging rising mobile and internet penetration, an army of agri-tech startups is offering farmers services such as on-demand delivery of farm inputs, online financial assistance, weather updates, drone-driven crop health identification, soil health assessment and equipment on rent, among others. Then, for purposes of edification and infotainment, there are startups offering both financial literacy videos and online games, such as Wonder village and Farmer Book!

The array of offerings clearly suggests these startups are finding takers in farmers.

Ayush Nigam, co-founder of Distinct Horizon, a fertiliser application startup, says the biggest change the industry is seeing is that farmers are now willing to adopt new practices that can improve yields or reduce cost. They are open to trying new technologies as long as they are sustainable and don’t require too much additional labour.

Distinct Horizon, which has developed an innovative machine for deep placement of urea fertiliser to increase crop productivity, counts Tata Chemicals and San Francisco-based as partners. Nigam, who feels the space has been underserved for decades, claims his deep placement technology not only doubles farmers’ profits but also helps maintain better soil health.

Then there are startups like Ravgo, a farm equipment rental marketplace that holds out hope for small farmers who cannot afford expensive machinery. Ravgo follows a commission-based model, wherein it charges a certain percentage from vendors for the business it generates for them. The fact that analysts peg India’s tractor-hiring market alone at Rs 15,000 crore per annum indicates the potential of the segment.

The supply-chain space, too, has seen several startups, with logistics between farmers and end-customers continuing to be a tricky area. Others have gotten into primary processing, packaging and selling of produce, spanning the entire chain.

Rising investor interest
Several of these ventures have been able to raise funds from prominent investors like Indian Angel Network, International Finance Corporation, US-based venture capital fund Unitus Impact, and even Denmark-based Bestseller Foundation, a private philanthropic organisation.

“The sector is evoking investor interest because of the enormous market size and the new-found thrust on the end-customer. If entrepreneurs can prove that their concept works and farmers are willing to pay for it, investors will grab the opportunity,” says Nigam. In case of Distinct Horizon, he claims, the precise fertiliser application technology helps the company recoup four times the investment in the first year itself.

Gajjender Yadav, founder at cow milk delivery startup 4SFoods, feels the rise of socially-responsible consumerism is giving the industry a fillip. Besides, the fact that these startup entrepreneurs are not just sitting in AC cabins, but are willing to get their hands dirty, is also driving the change.

Also, investors are placing their bets on startups like 4SFoods, and other farm-to-fork and organic food ventures given the rising propensity of the Indian consumer to loosen their purse strings for healthy, pesticide-free food.

“The disposable income with the middle class is growing, the first avenue they spend money is the better quality of food. Hence, there is an incentive for companies to invest time, energy and money into delivering better quality food to the consumer. As long as the consumer is willing to pay, there is value in investing in these companies. Look at the organic sector, for example, no one was talking about it 5-6 years ago, but now people are buying organic. In general, they are willing to pay 10%-20% extra for packaged, pesticide free food.”

Using Bangalore-based Farmily, farmers can set up micro-sites to display their produce and reach out to potential customers. Whenever a customer shows interest, the farmer receives an SMS with the customer’s details, which eliminates middlemen from the process.

Another app-based startup, Mandi Trades, also connects farmers and buyers.

“Farmers face significant challenges at every point from buying agri-inputs, to improving yields and finally getting a good price for their produce. We are working on solving some of these challenges through technology,” Shardul Sheth, founder and CEO of AgroStar, had told VCCircle earlier this year.

A direct-to-farmer m-commerce platform, AgroStar is operational in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and claims to have over a million farmers on its platform.

Big Data isn’t behind either, with startups in the space winning insurance companies and banks as clients.

Mostly operating on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, these startups capture data on crop growth, likely yield, soil moisture, temperature and humidity, among other things, sell it to relevant stakeholders. Buyers include players selling agricultural inputs to farmers, apart from insurers and banks.

And the value-proposition is undeniable given data is the ultimate commodity.

“For most insurance companies, the challenge is to estimate the risk profile of the farmer and his farm. You have to have a lot of information, in terms of what crops are being grown, the track record, data on soil, nutrition, weather and pest attacks, the likely output, and the farmer’s income,” says Hemender Mathur, agribusiness investment lead and venture partner at Bharat Innovations Fund.

Not a cakewalk
Agrawal says the creation of a strong farmer network is tough but paramount. “Because many farmers have been cheated a lot of times by corporates and fly by night companies, they don’t trust you easily. They are generally sceptical and for companies to be able to service them and get the output from them is a challenge,” he observes.

He adds that if startups can figure out how to take “basic technology” to small farmers, productivity will rise.

On the tech side, the primary challenge is domain expertise.

For tech-driven startups, says Mathur, seamlessly integrating the technology platform with domain knowledge of agriculture is critical. “I think the challenge is to build multiple layers of analytics. How to analyse these data points in a form that it becomes more valuable and can be sold to multiple users. It needs a lot of domain expertise. People are not asking for data per se, they are asking for insights,” he adds.

Resilient food demand is, however, a good sign, and it will ensure there is always scope for innovation in all areas of agriculture.

“Challenges are on the supply side…there are so many intermediaries and inefficient handling. Aggregation is clearly the missing link. Primary processing, as simple as trading, sorting and packing, are also areas of big opportunity,” Mathur says.

As for the government’s role in the ecosystem, startups feel it needs to bump up the spend on farm inputs to unlock the sector’s long-term potential.

“The government spends almost 10 times of farm inputs on farm subsidies, but it needs to reverse the trend gradually. Farm subsidy makes a farmer dependent while inputs will make him much stronger and independent,” Yadav says.

Ericsson Mobility Report Sees Growth in Data Traffic, VoLTE Subscriptions in India by 2022


  • Ericsson unveiled its Mobility Report 2017 for India
  • Sees an uptake in data traffic driven by increased video consumption
  • 4G users nearly 1.5 times more satisfied than 3G users

As we enter a time where the most popular term in technology today is the Internet of Things, that is expected to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018, we now also see the beginnings of 5G network deployment that will look to support IoT, and a growing need for enhanced mobile broadband capabilities, according to a new report by Ericsson.

The recent approval of the Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) that will enable early 5G deployment, will help achieve more than half a billion 5G subscriptions by 2022, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report 2017. Companies such as Verizon have begun 5G trials in the US, while Indian telecom operators are also expected to adopt 5G technology this year.

Ericsson Mobility Report Sees Growth in Data Traffic, VoLTE Subscriptions in India by 2022

But before 5G takes over, Ericsson sees 4G, or LTE, will overtake GSM by 2018 to become the dominant access technology, making it the fastest growing mobile technology in history, having already covered 2.5 billion people within five years.

Ericsson estimates around 29 billion connected devices by 2022, out of which 18 billion will be related to IoT. Furthermore, it sees over 1 million new mobile broadband subscribers being added each day to reach around 2.6 billion by 2022. Data growth is at its highest since 2013, thanks to a massive growth in India.

India specific growth
Ericsson on Wednesday released its Ericsson Mobility Report 2017, India Annexure, which reports specific trends in mobile traffic, subscriptions, consumer behavior, and technology uptake in the country. Mobile subscription base in India crossed 1.2 billion in Jan 2017 and is expected to increase by 4 percent, crossing 1.4 billion by 2022. One of the main reasons behind the uptick in subscriptions is the downpour of tariff offers by telcos, after Reliance Jio’s entry.

Lower tariff plans for higher data in recent months have also led to an increased amount of data consumption. According to the report, 1 exabyte (1 exabyte is 1 billion gigabytes) of traffic per month is consumed in India and is expected to grow to 8EB per month by 2022. Currently, an average of 4GB per month is consumed by an active Indian smartphone, but Ericsson sees the number rise to 11GB by 2022. 191 million cellular IoT devices by 2022.


Some of the other reasons driving data traffic includes and increased distribution, and consumption of video and multimedia services as well as growth in mobile banking transactions and digital payments, the latter of which can be credited in part to demonetisation.

Consumer behavior and VoLTE adoption in India
But data traffic and subscribers uptake mostly boil down to the performance of mobile broadband in India, and Ericsson says that consumers have four main indices on to measure and evaluate network performance: time taken to upload pictures to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, time taken to open a web page, time taken for a video to buffer or load and download time for email attachments.

“As new apps continue to emerge and usage behavior evolves, network performance will play a more important role in determining smartphone users’ loyalty towards their operators in the future. In fact, mobile broadband experience in India is five times more effective in driving loyalty than tariff structure and pricing,” says Nitin Bansal, Head of Network Products, Ericsson India.

To put it down in numbers, Ericsson’s report expects smartphone subscriptions to reach 890 million by 2022 in India alone and will account for 60 percent of total mobile subscriptions in the country. As of 2016, 70 percent of all mobiles subscription are on GSM technology, and the report foresees that by the next five years, 85 percent will be on LTE and WCDMA/ HSPA technologies.

The increasing adoption of 4G will also drive VoLTE subscriptions, which is expected to reach 4.6 billion by 2022, out of which 370 million is expected to come from India. The report also reveals that 4G users are nearly 1.5 times more satisfied than 3G users, when it comes to data centric services such as video load times while streaming.

The report also highlights the benefits of VoLTE, which includes improved voice quality, high traffic capacity at lower cost, enhanced coverage, long battery life, video calling (ViLTE) from native dialer, among other things. “VoLTE represents a great opportunity for telecom operators in India who are looking to route voice calls over 4G LTE networks enabling lower cost per minute for voice calls as well as free up legacy spectrum bands for re-farming,” states Bansal.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Max, J7 Pro Launched, OnePlus 5 Price Leak, Reliance Jio Growth Slows, and More: Your 360 Daily


  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Max and J7 Pro run Android Nougat
  • OnePlus 5 might cost $479 (about Rs. 30,800)
  • Reliance Jio added 3.87 million new subscribers in April

Samsung launched two mid-range Android phones in its J-series on Wednesday in New Delhi. They are called the Samsung Galaxy J7 Max, which costs Rs. 17,900, and the Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro, which comes in at Rs. 20,900. While the former will be available June 20, the latter won’t go on sale until mid-July, weirdly. Both run the latest Android 7.0 Nougat underneath. Samsung has partnered with Reliance Jio to offer up to 120GB of additional data. Both phones also have Samsung Pay digital payments service, though it’s scaled down as Samsung Pay Mini (no card functionality) on Galaxy J7 Max, since it doesn’t have NFC capability.

In terms of specifications, Samsung Galaxy J7 Max gives you a 5.7-inch full-HD display, powered by a MediaTek Helio P20 octa-core processor, with 4GB RAM. It has 32GB internal storage, which is expandable via microSD card. The phone has a 13-megapixel rear (f/1.7) and front (f/1.9) camera, with flash on both ends as well. There’s a 3,300mAh battery inside. The Galaxy J7 Pro, on the other hand, has a 5.5-inch full-HD Super AMOLED display, powered by an Exynos 7870 octa-core SoC, with 3GB RAM. It has 64GB internal storage, which is expandable via microSD card. The phone has the same camera and flash setup. There’s a 3,600mAh battery inside.

Samsung Galaxy J7 Max, J7 Pro Launched, OnePlus 5 Price Leak, Reliance Jio Growth Slows, and More: Your 360 Daily

OnePlus 5 price, specifications leaked once again
Less than a week ahead of its global launch, the OnePlus 5 has faced more leaks. This time, it’s the price, specifications, and pictures of the new flagship from the Chinese manufacturer. According to a blog, the OnePlus 5 will start at $479 (about Rs. 30,800). In India, the phone is expected to start from Rs. 32,999 for the base variant. Meanwhile, registrations for the phone have been opened on Chinese ecommerce website If you register, you’ll be able to take part in a flash sale on June 22, the listing says.

The same website also provided the specifications and images, which show that the OnePlus 5 will indeed look similar to the iPhone 7 Plus in terms of its design, and rear camera setup. It will run Android 7.1.1 Nougat on a 5.5-inch full-HD display, with two RAM options: 6GB and 8GB. OnePlus has already confirmed the presence of Snapdragon 835, so there’s no point debating about that. The OnePlus 5’s camera setup will most likely have a 20-megapixel f/2.6 and 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensors on the back, and a 16-megapixel sensor on the front. The phone is also said to have a 3,300mAh battery.

Reliance Jio’s growth was slowest in April
According to TRAI data, Reliance Jio experienced its slowest growth in April, though its numbers were ahead of all competitors. It added 3.87 million new subscribers to take its total up to 112.55 million, with Airtel (2.85m), BSNL (0.81m), and Vodafone (0.75m) following behind. The total number of telecom subscribers in India now stands at 1198.89 million, after an increase of 4.31 million over March.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will reportedly launch mid-August
Samsung isn’t shying away from the Note brand after last year’s Note 7 debacle, with the Galaxy Note 8 expected to arrive mid-August, as per a new report. A launch in that month would give it a head start on the iPhone, something Samsung has always been keen on with its Note series.

Meanwhile, a tipster on Weibo has revealed the Galaxy Note 8 will have a dual camera setup on the back. Some section of the consumers were disappointed with the lack of rear camera upgrade on the Galaxy S8/ S8+, and it seems Samsung is happy to oblige with the upcoming new smartphone.

LG G6 now available at Rs. 38,990 in India
LG’s latest flaghship – the LG G6 – arrived in India at the tail end of April, and it’s already seeing interesting price drops. The phone is now available at a Rs. 13,000 discount, which puts the price of LG G6 at Rs. 38,9990. There are two caveats though: only Amazon Prime members can avail the offer, and it’s only applicable to Ice Platinum and Astro Black colour options. There are a couple of other offers as well – for Bajaj Finance card owners, and Reliance Jio extra data – which you can check out here.

Intel invests Rs. 1,100 crore in Bengaluru R&D centre
Intel is putting in Rs. 1,100 crore with its upcoming Bengaluru R&D centre, the company’s India GM Nivruti Rai said in a press conference on Wednesday. Set on an eight-acre campus in the city’s south-east suburbs, it’s also expected to add 3,000 jobs over the next year and a half. This is in addition to the $2 billion (roughly Rs. 12,852 crores) Intel has already invested until 2016.

Google hires Apple chip architect to help with Pixel
Google is looking to drive up its in-house product innovation, and it has hired Apple’s long-time chip architect Manu Gulati to do just that. Gulati announced the job change publicly on his LinkedIn profile on Tuesday, stating that he now works as Google’s “Lead SoC Architect”. He has over 27 years of experience in the industry.

One of the biggest reasons for iPhone’s success is the home-grown nature of its chips, something Samsung has started to emulate with its own Exynos line. Google had earlier shown interest in doing so, and Gulati’s hiring shows that it’s very much on that path now. Expect the Pixel phones to have Google’s home-made chip designs in the near future.

Meanwhile, a leak discovered by 9To5Google and Android Police’s sources have revealed that the Pixel 2 might be manufactured by LG. The nitty-gritty has to do with a bug entry filed by an LG employee for a device codenamed Taimen, which seems to be the internal name for Pixel XL successor. If you didn’t already know, HTC made the first Pixel line.

Instagram’s Archive feature now rolling out to everyone
Instagram’s Archive feature, which lets you store away previously-shared photos to a private section, is now rolling out to all users worldwide. Think of it as Facebook’s “Only Me” setting, which means you don’t have to delete something if you’d rather just hide it from everyone. To access it, you’ll need the latest 10.21 version of the Instagram app, on Android and iOS.

IRCTC offers Rs. 50 cashback for mVisa payments
As part of a digital payment promotion running till September 4, IRCTC is offering Rs. 50 cashback to travellers who use the new mVisa payment option. To do so, you’ll need to first get the mVisa app on your smartphone, link your Visa debit/credit card, and then scan the mVisa QR code on the IRCTC website.

Uber CEO takes indefinite leave, and Yahoo CEO steps down after Verizon takeover
Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick has decided to take time away from the company, after a months-long internal investigation pointed out the various flaws in Uber’s work culture. In an email to staff, he said he needed to become a better leader to run the highly-valued Silicon Valley startup.

Meanwhile, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ended her five-year reign after her position was made redundant due to Verizon’s completion of its takeover of the once Internet giant. She will receive a compensation package estimated to be worth about $125 million (roughly Rs. 804 crores).