A resolution to prevent farmers’ suicides and avert an agrarian crisis led the technology professional, Krishna Kumar to setup Cropin Technology, with backing from Beenext
Krishna Kumar, a technology professional, always wanted to build something that had a larger impact on the society. When he read about the alarming rate of farmer suicides and how farmers battle climatic changes in the face of depleting natural resources, he had a burning desire to do something to benefit this ecosystem. And during his research, he realised that they did not have any meaningful technology solutions that aided their operations. “There was no technology that connected farmers to the main stream industry and bring the ecosystem closer,” says he. He believed that the agricultural sector needed technology disruption to boost productivity and adopt climate resilient farming for a sustainable future. This set him thinking and Krishna Kumar left his job at GE India innovation centre to build something around the farming ecosystem in 2010. “We never thought of a revenue model, we just wanted to solve the problem. It was an emotional decision,” he admits. This was the genesis of CropIn Technologies, an agri-tech company. It enables data driven farming and connects technology to farmer data and provides it to farming companies, seed production companies, agri input companies, banks, insurance companies, government bodies and development agencies.
Krishna Kumar founded the company by raising funds from friends and family. He later raised close to US $ 4 million from Singapore-based early-stage fund Beenext, Social venture funds Ankur Capital and BSP Fund and Denmark’s Sophia Investment ApS. The company plans to raise another US $10 million which will be utilised towards expansion and investing more on the data science and machine learning capability.
Sowing the seeds
“We observed that farmers and those who work closely with the farmers were not working with data. They were taking decisions based on gut feel,” says Krishna Kumar. The farmers faced a gamut of problems ranging from non-availability of finance, climatic vagaries, soil degradation, pest infestation and diseases, operational inefficiencies, and no predictability of yield.
We observed that farmers and those who work closely with the farmers were not working with data. They were taking decisions based on gut feel
The company built a platform – SmartFarm – which has the ability to provide precise advice to the farmer based on his growing condition and the crops he has set in. It also has the technology to monitor and do independent assessment of quality, yield and issues. This helps the farmer learn from everything that’s happening in one season so that the next one can be better. “If there is a frost attack, the farmer gets advice on how to take action,” adds Krishna Kumar. The predictive and machine learning tool is capable of even detecting a crop and giving its yield and harvest time frame.
Many farms are digitised and the company builds its data layer on top of it. It gives information to its customers. Giving an example, Krishna Kumar says, “Our solution is able to give information about the farmer, his quality of output so that it helps the companies or banks take better decision.” Over a period of time, its product has also evolved and the company has introduced Machine Learning in its solution which has the capability to predict and detect without going to a village. This makes the audit part cost effective. “Post sanction, a bank has to audit the farm which can be done without going to the farm,” adds the CEO.
CropIn also works with companies that are into vegetable exports. It helps them right from the sowing stage to the harvesting stage. It also helps them do post harvest work where its solution can identify each farmer’s produce.
Growth So far
“In 2010, when I quit my job and started this company, I was the only one running it. The other co-founder, Kunal, was still pursuing his MBA then,” says Krishna Kumar. Currently, CropIn has 90 employees and 12 consultants. It is growing at 3x every year in terms of clients, revenue and number of acres on the platform. The company has a presence in Europe, South East Asia and Africa. “International market is a new phenomenon and we are now getting half the revenue from this market,” says he. The company operates in 20 countries, mostly emerging markets, and has digitized over 3.1 million acres of farmland and enriched the lives of nearly 1.6 million farmers while working with over 3,500 crop varieties globally.
The government is also taking steps towards harnessing technology to enable digital transformation of the farming sector. Recently, Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka has partnered with CropIn to help farmers create more value for their crops and foster their socio-economic development. It will facilitate farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and farm managers to advise farmers in following the right package of practices across crops such as paddy, millets, gram and groundnut.
Earlier, CropIn has collaborated with the Department of Horticulture (DOH), Andhra Pradesh, in 2017 to digitize farms under two FPO in the districts of Chittoor and Krishna.
It also works with the Bihar State Government and is part of the Jeevika project that helps the farmers with climate resilient agriculture.
Slow and steady
The company is operating in a very niche segment and has built its business model based on the needs of the farmers. In fact, when CropIn was set up in 2010, Internet and Smart phones were not popular and infrastructure was an issue. “Companies adopting our solutions then were buying smart phones for their people and got them data card which was also costly then,” adds Krishna Kumar. However, the adoption then was slow as the users preferred to write things down. “Even when we were training the field officers, they were not ready for touch screen,” adds he. Now the market has grown and there is a shift happening and even those residing in the rural areas have smart phones with 3G or 4G connection.
Going forward, it plans to add 20 million farms on its platform in the next three to four years. It currently has 145 clients and wants to take this number to 10,000. The company has expanded its wings to the export markets like south of Asia, Africa and increased its penetration in the domestic market. “We are targeting all clients in different markets and that’s our way forward,” says he on a concluding note.
Snapshot: CropIn Technology Solutions
Founder: Krishna Kumar, Kunal Prasad, Chittaranjan Jena
Funding: US $ 4 million from Singapore-based early-stage fund Beenext, Social venture funds Ankur Capital and BSP Fund and Denmark’s Sophia Investment ApS.
CropIn is an Ag-tech company that enables data driven farming by connecting the players in the agri ecosystem. The company works with farming companies, seed production companies, agri input companies, Banks, Insurance companies, Government bodies and Development agencies.