When we consider farming, our minds immediately paint a picture of a rural setting with mundane and archaic tools and practices and an overworked farmer dressed in ragged clothing, with dirt under his nails, and sweat dripping from the creases on his face. Truth be told, we consider farming to be a poor man’s profession. While this may be true to an extent, it doesn’t sum up farming in its entirety.
The mindset described above is the result of most rural farmers still relying on crude methods and equipment, in small or large farmlands. Luckily, entrepreneurs like Dr Bijaylakhmi Goswami and Taufik Ahmed and their team of competent professionals are dedicated to giving farming a better face by introducing farmers to modern technological interventions and 21st-century solutions.
After working closely with farmers for many years, and closely observing their struggles and challenges, the duo came up with the idea for a startup that will utilise modern methods in easing the difficulties farmers face not just in day to day practices, but in the profession as a whole. Founding member Dr Bijaylakhmi Goswami describes this journey in simple terms.
“After completing my PhD in biotechnology in 2003 from Gauhati University, I started working on organic farming, farm planning, vermiculture, soil fertility and greenhouse management. I have also been involved in training women, mostly belonging to a lower-income group, in different innovative potting art like terrarium planting, cachepot planting, dish garden planting, vermicomposting, nursery raising etc. My long-term association includes Alayaran, an orphanage, and New School Permaculture. Of late, I have consulted different technology-based projects for SmartFusionware Technology which relates to precision farming. The only way to bring changes in the farmers’ condition is by adopting suitable technology like the Internet of things (IoT) and machine learning, coupled with good agricultural practices (GAP). This could bring a breakthrough in agriculture and allied fields if implemented in an economic, eco-friendly manner with a conscious effort on saving energy. So, with a challenge to bring technology to each farmer’s doorstep, Agrithink Services LLP was formed in 2019 with co-founder Taufik Ahmed. The start-up was incubated by Assam Start-up and also recognised by Start-up India,” says Goswami.
With a plethora of bright minds all working together to achieve this seemingly daunting task, the founding members kick-started this venture with a simple agenda. “Our primary objective is to help people understand the complex myriads of today’s technologies and how they can be utilised in a simple and orderly manner to see results,” says Goswami. Agriculture has always had its challenges. Depending on the type of soil, crop and field management, farming could either be a pleasurable experience or an unbearable one.
As the demand for agricultural products continues to surge, it is only logical that our approach to agriculture changes also. With acute land pressure due to population explosion and the need for massive urbanisation, it is almost impossible to manage any farm without suitable technological interventions. Also, managing huge acres of tea gardens in Northeast India and other parts, and producing nothing but quality produce can be very challenging and strenuous work without modern interventions. And this is where Agrithink comes into the picture.
“Our line of work includes application of economically and ecologically viable technologies in the field so that farming becomes precise. Our applications are developed with high precision real-time data developed in a scientific environment by our team which are supported with available literature in respective fields.
The research and development work revolves around developing A-Z solutions of some of the critical areas of farm management like soil fertility, cropping pattern, pest and disease management, irrigation and all other relevant areas using IoT and other suitable technologies. These technologies are also planned to be incorporated in areas like tea production and quality enhancement; farming of flowers, vegetables, fruits, spices, etc. Providing instant and constant expert service in a cost-effective, smart manner based on real data generated by self-developed measures and devices are designed to be the pillars of this foundation,” explains Goswami.
Ever since Agrithink began helping farmers achieve the next level of productive farming, they have been able to design unique systems that will help in achieving their aim. From smart soil management system, advanced application of patented smart micro-climate monitoring and control device for enhancement of mushroom quality, and smart micro-climate monitoring and control system (SMMCS) to live and in-situ expert service/consultancy, and so much more, Agrithink seems poised to create real value.
Although some farmers may struggle with adapting to technological innovations and may reject this proposal, Goswami believes gaining their acceptance is possible. “In agribusiness where farmers are the target clients, the main challenge is to get their acceptance. Technological innovations capable of reducing their pain and producing a positive impact on the farmers are willingly adopted by farmers. It is the job of the business owner to establish that the new technology he/she is bringing has a better impact on their age-old techniques.
“Moreover, one must be flexible to customise technology according to a farmer’s needs. Fear of rejection, even after acceptance, will keep every innovator busy in sustaining the positive impact of that technology,” she adds.
These innovations come with a lot of benefits for everyone, especially the farmers. It does not just improve agricultural practices and end produce, but also works in the farmers’ best interests. So far, there have been several positive feedbacks, and as such replicating this result in other cities and states is the next logical step.
Talking about other challenges, Goswami reveals, “Like all IT businesses, we have to be cautious about security threats. Internet and other infrastructure challenges like power are also there while working in interior places. But our able team can cope up with all such challenges of the internet and energy. Now, these challenges and barriers have become Agrithink’s USP. Farmer’s acceptance is an age-old challenge of any agri-tech business. But one can easily overcome it with honesty and dedication.”
Due to the pandemic, most businesses are going through a rough phase. The team at Agrithink is currently busy focusing on sustaining the venture by implementing smart ideas.
“We spend hours developing strategies to adjust and sustain our business. Fortunately, all the devices and solutions of Agrithink use technology like IoT and well-planned apps which were developed keeping in mind to tackle any disaster situation. Our devices and support systems help one to remotely monitor and control many important farm events, which is one of the main reasons for getting field acceptance and opening business avenues. All our innovations consider disaster as a major challenge and have been developed accordingly and saw successful implementation in the last pandemic. The concerns of safety of employees and team members and lockdown are posing some problems to go for new field implementations. Strategies have been kept flexible to cover any need in the farmer’s field and sustain the business. For this the team is working by making sustainable changes in some micro-milestones without changing the broader timeline,” Goswami says.
Achiever of MASI award and recognition, the team with its hard work and smart innovations plans to be covering and doing business in the eight Northeast states and across the country in the next five years. Their latest notable success story is the implementation of SMMCS in Model Floricultural and Cash Crop Farm of Horticulture Department, Sikkim.
“We hope to create more impact through job creation, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. As our motto reads, we serve you to grow. Our mission is to serve mankind while expanding our business to touch the horizons. Precision farming or whatever new farming concepts are evolved, farming is about farms and farmers. No field technology is successful without working with farmers and understanding their emotions and pains. So, in addition to satellite and other technology aids one must sweat in farms to set up a successful agri-business and create impact,” she notes.