Space tech will help ensure to improve the productivity and profitability of Indian agriculture: Mark Kahn
Mark Kahn, Managing Partner, Omnivore
Omnivore is an impact venture capital firm, based in India, which funds entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture and food systems. Omnivore pioneered agritech investing in India, backing over 30 startups since 2011, and currently manages Rs 9.35 billion (approximately $132 million) across two funds. Omnivore defines itself as a ‘financial first’ impact investor, seeking to deliver market-rate venture capital returns while impacting the lives of Indian smallholder farmers and rural communities. Every day, Omnivore portfolio companies drive agricultural prosperity and transform food systems across India, making farming more profitable, resilient, and sustainable. Recently Omnivore has invested in hyperspectral imaging startup Pixxel and has high hopes for its hyperspectral technology, which should have transformative use cases across the entire agri-value chain. Mark Kahn, Managing Partner, Omnivore shared his views with AgroSpectrum on the role of space tech startups in agriculture. Edited excerpts-
What is the status of agritech in India? What more are we looking for in agritech by 2030?
In 2020, the pandemic forced Indian agriculture to go digital. This shift from informal and analogue systems to formal and digital ones will accelerate even further in 2021. However, with rising awareness of the risks created by climate change, we expect to see more climate-centric and sustainability-focused startups, including in the field of space tech.
Why do we need more space tech startups like Pixxel to solve issues in India’s agricultural scenario?
Technology-led interventions are necessary to enhance agricultural productivity and improve farmer incomes without further degrading the environment. Satellite imagery and remote sensing data are invaluable tools for forecasting agricultural output, regulating crop inputs, and even calculating how much carbon farmers are sequestering. Multispectral, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and hyperspectral satellites can create rich datasets, yielding deep insights to make farming more profitable, resilient, and sustainable.
Will the use of space tech have far-reaching implications on crop yields, optimal use of scarce resources, financial inclusion, food security, and crisis management?
Insights created by space tech will help ensure that we improve the productivity and profitability of Indian agriculture. Likewise, space tech will play a critical role in timely prediction of natural calamities, droughts, and monitoring adverse environmental processes such as deforestation and desertification.
What does the investment trajectory look like for space tech in India?
India ranks fifth on the global Climate Vulnerability Index. We are already dealing with the adverse effects of climate change in the form of rising temperatures, frequent extreme weather events, and fluctuating precipitation. Current farming practices in India are exacerbating the situation by consuming 85 per cent of our freshwater resources while accounting for 20 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions. To combat such challenges swiftly and efficiently, agritech interventions are crucial. Space tech startups like Pixxel can identify key interventions to transform Indian agriculture while also monitoring potential risks for farmers. The coming years will definitely see more investments in this versatile technology.
With rapid advancement of this technology what could be the potential business models that will benefit Indian farmers, majority of whom are smallholders?
While most farmers, except the very largest, will not be direct users of the space tech services, nodal institutions such as FPO’s, cooperative societies, farmer platforms, agribusinesses, and government organizations will play an important role in information dissemination. They can purchase imagery and data, sharing the same with their farmer customers.