Fueled by new-age technologies like drone surveillance, remote sensing and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven solutions, India’s agritech market has the potential to reach $30-$35 billion by 2025. One of the key challenges faced by the agri-businesses is that there are very few software platforms available which have an agri-first approach, and can help them improve the farming process, increase yield and reduce cost or achieve sustainability.
Vinay Nair, Co-founder and CEO, Khetibuddy which is a Unified Agtech platform that strengthens digital infrastructure of agribusinesses, tells IANS that remote sensing, internet of things (IoT) and use of AI/ML have huge applications in agriculture and the need of the hour is make the technology agri-specific and easy to use.
Some edited excerpts from his interview:
Tell us more about your Unified Agtech platform and how it empowers agri-businesses across India?
Industries have flourished once they have access to data related to their business. Agricultural data possesses the power to transform agribusinesses. Agri-domain experts have now realized this and are embracing the future with digitization.
One of the key challenges faced by agri-businesses today in doing so, is that there are very few software platforms which are available which have an agri-first approach. Major agribusinesses either rely on customizing large ERP or rely on available farm management applications which have the challenges and limitations in customizing to suit their requirement.
It is this gap which we are trying to address through our Unified agtech platform. Khetibuddy’s Agtech platform which is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering, allows agri-businesses to monitor, measure and manage their farms, farmers and the entire agri value chain. It’s a suite of modules from farm management, remote sensing, pest management, m-commerce to mention a few.
Any organization who is in the business of serving farmers can use the platform based on their goals. However, unlike other players, Khetibuddy is unique by providing the science behind the tech as well. We provide ready-to-use crop schedules and advisory, which can be customized based on the local conditions with integration to weather, soil and satellite data sources.
If the goal of an agri-business is improving farming process, increasing yield, reducing cost or achieving sustainability–then all of these goals can be facilitated through our SAAS platform.
How are you leveraging AI/ML to help farmers make better informed decisions?
We use computer vision for pest and disease detection. What we have done differently is enable agribusinesses to take over on the model’s learning curve for pests and diseases relevant to their geography with minimal efforts. Our models are easier to train even by non-technical teams from agribusinesses. We developed models for specific crops for early pest and disease detection.
Importantly, we took a hybrid approach for developing continuous model learning mode with support from experienced entomologists in our team with a clear goal of avoiding crop loss.
We are also using ML for statistical modelling methods through which we estimate yields and currently working on detecting crop grown at a cluster/district or state level through remote sensing. These insights help private and public organizations to plan their services accordingly. We have already started working on some of these areas with some government units like Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK).
What are some of the emerging technologies that you are most excited about over the medium term (3-5 years) in the agritech space?
Covid taught us to use technology to continue business as usual. If you are not able to visit the farms how do we ensure we serve the farmers, which include remote farm management through remote sensing, audio/video calls, have automated advisory services, build data models which help in predicting patterns.
Remote sensing, IOT and use of AI/ML have huge applications in agriculture. The need of the hour is to make the technology agri specific and easy to use and consume at the ground level.
You recently announced the launch of a dedicated premium gardening app for your home platform. What is your vision behind this and how has the user response been to this feature?
Did you know that by spending only 15 minutes a day you can grow 60 per cent of the food you consume daily right in your balcony or terrace? That’s what the app under the brand name ‘Khetibuddy Home’ helps you do.
Right from selection of places and inputs to what care you need to take every day to grow food at home, this app can be your gardening guide. Our mission here was to encourage urban people to take up growing some food at home and contribute towards self-sustainability.
We also have curated training courses dedicated only for passionate gardeners through a learning portal which also helps first time gardeners to take up gardening. Since last year, we have on–boarded more than 50,000 home growers on our platform. Now, we have added premium services for a fun and personalized gardening experience. While we work on the larger cause with farmers this allows people in urban cities to also be partially self-sustainable by growing food from food.
You are a born in the cloud organization. What does cloud technology allow you to do better?
With the increase of broadband and 4G across rural India, Cloud helps in the reach. We no longer have to worry about local infrastructure as long as you have the internet. The technology is accessible which was not the case earlier. Today, B2B has to follow the B2C experience– I call it the ‘touch generation’. Every consumer needs all services at their fingertip. This is only possible with technologies like cloud and mobile, so businesses also should be provided such services and not use old technology.
AWS has been a great strategic partner. We grew from 0-1 lakh users and we could plan to scale the platform whenever needed which kept our costs in control with our multi-tenant architecture on AWS. AWS helps us to give a promise of uptime to our customers.
Customers have the comfort when they know we are on AWS which is a great help. Today, we have several servers on production, development, which we use and a variety of technology stack… if this infrastructure had to be maintained by us, our time to be market ready would have increased at least by 2 times. We can focus on our development and not worry about infrastructure needs.