Role of Collaboration Model in agriculture post Covid-19
By Dr Venkat Maroju, CEO SourceTrace
Agriculture around the world has gone through the most disruptive phase in decades. When Covid has been defeated, the old challenges will be around compounded by global shrinking economy, rising poverty and impact of accelerated climate change that we have seen recently. How do we start from a weaker position than before and fight a challenge bigger than faced by last few generations?
While it is agreed that incremental changes may not be enough, there are a lot of debates around what can be called transformational. The recent policy changes in India are being seen as providing a major impetus to the sector. But by no means are those measures enough. We need to look at adoption of digital technologies in this context.
While the number of technology providers has boomed in India, the rate of adoption is still sluggish. Partly due to problems in financing adoption and partly due to lack of digital infrastructure and large showcase projects that can encourage trust. However, the Covid era will be remembered for two things: unforeseen disruption and unprecedented collaboration. Since the coming of digital technologies, this is the first time there was an industry-wide effort to work together in a pure problem-solving mode.
Consolidation will be key
There are a lot of opinions on whether the last decade saw nominal or phenomenal growth for agritech as a sector. But one thing for sure, the coming decade will be about consolidation. For example, we saw a lot of experiments taking place in farm to home space during the lockdown. Farmer groups, logistics companies, entrepreneurs, ecommerce startups and volunteers came together in unprecedented ways to keep the supply chain functional. As a result, a lot of direct farm to home initiatives flourished.
However, will those small businesses retain the lead, will the consumer continue to opt for this when ease is not the prime criterion? This is where collaboration will be key. Companies need to come together to create a value proposition that goes beyond one parameter, that builds a use case that the retailer can’t.
Can we just not deliver but connect the farmer with the customer? Can we give the customer the tools to decide how much information he needs and whether he wants to just buy or enter into an interactive relationship? These opportunities are beyond any one solution. While companies have shown incredible readiness to collaborate during past few months, it will be interesting to see if we still see value in collaboration or move back to the old ways.
Data is the logic that builds partnerships
While collaboration as an idea is laudable, it needs common grounds to enable partnerships. Data can form that common ground. The agriculture ecosystem is still very fragmented and there are enough gaps for collaborations to be mutually profitable. The daunting data gaps can be exploited as business opportunities. After almost a decade of agritech startups competing against each other, now the era of partnerships is upon us.
Making adoption easy
Most clients are still confused about technology. We are guilty of throwing at him a ton of literature on pros and cons of remote sensing, drones and IOT sensors. The new era will be one when these solution providers will tie up in the backend and provide the solution that a customer needs, not three different brochures.
We work in a sector where change is needed urgently but the wheels turn slowly. We don’t have the luxury of time. We need to come together and accelerate the process ourselves and not wait for the ecosystem to evolve.
Partnering your way to growth
Let me give you an example of how we are following this at SourceTrace. When our customers seek traceability solutions, food quality is an intrinsic part of the discussions. It gives us and quality assaying companies to come together. And, that is how we built TraceNext with AgNext, a platform that brings blockchain based traceability and AI enabled quality testing for the first time. The partnership increases the value proposition of our individual solutions and makes it easier for the client to implement advanced solutions.
This is a model that can be followed by others too. The goals can be to:
- Integrate complementary solutions
- Explore new geographies together
- Share sales/extension staff
- Outsource internal technology requirements
- Service different sections of the value chain
Business leaders can decide on the partnership model and modalities based on their operational and strategic needs. But the path to fastest growth is a shared one.