Among the innovations that the agricultural sector has witnessed in recent years, precision farming holds a prominent place. It is a method of increasing average yields by using more exact amounts of inputs as compared to traditional farming techniques. Demonstrating the benefits of precision farming in a small region of Telangana is Samhitha Crop Care Clinics, an agritech startup. Through judicious use of technologies such as drones, wireless sensors and data analytics, Samhitha has made farming simpler and more profitable for over 800 farmers.
Tracing the roots
The seeds of Samhitha were sown early in its founders who hail from an agricultural background. “The struggle of marginal growers due to age-old farming techniques, imbalanced use of fertilisers and mismanagement of soil and water were etched in our memory. Later, I helped wine growers of Napa Valley in the US by using data and digital systems. The use of telemetry devices and data analytics enabled the farmers of Napa Valley to become aware of the factors that influence the growth and productivity of crops and we wanted to replicate the same in India as well,” says Jagan Chitiprolu, CMD of Samhitha.
Formally established in February 2021, Samhitha hopes to chart a strong growth trajectory in 2022. It has onboarded more than 5,000 acres of citrus farms in the Nalgonda belt of Telangana. In December 2021, the agritech startup closed a seed round of $1.5 million led by the TechStar Group, which also saw participation from Quadrant Resource and US-based angel investors.
Breaking new ground with tech
At Samhitha, technology is used to build what is called a Digital Tree Health Audit (DTHA) system. The team employs experts to capture crop imagery data using drones and run comprehensive tests on soil and water in labs to assess their quality. The data points collected from these systems are then processed centrally to produce analytical insights on every tree in a farm. The field advisors leverage the insights extracted from the data to deliver timely recommendations to the farmers. Their mobile app, Citron, is used as the means to store all data and insight reports and channel advisories to the farmers.
“Owing to cultural, socio-economic and climatic conditions, unsustainable practices are deeply entrenched in India’s agricultural sector. Since agriculture is the source of livelihood for nearly 50% of the Indian population, we want to empower farmers to transition to tech-driven precision farming, which can maximise their yields and profits. But our agenda is not limited to the introduction of precision farming; we have conceptualised an elaborate roadmap to help Indian farmers overcome crop-related, market-related and credit-related challenges,” says Shyam Gunnamreddy, CEO of Samhitha.
Besides driving crop productivity and profitability for farmers through precision farming and its advisory system, the company plans to expand its advisory framework beyond citrus, adding more cash crops like pomegranate, banana and orange. The Hyderabad-based agritech startup is also working to set up a robust market linkage framework for farmers to cater directly to demand from fruit markets, general and modern retailers and exporters. By 2022 end, it is targeting to onboard 10,000 acres of farmland to its precision farming advisory system.