Siddhartha Bora: AgSpeak Is Leading Agricultural Farming Into The Digital Age

Siddhartha Bora | AgSpert Technologies

Tell us about yourself?

I am a mechanical engineer with specialisation in materials science + nanotechnology. My family comes from a farming background, and I have been in touch with farmers ever since I was in school. After having completed my master’s, I got the opportunity to work directly with farmers from the northeast as part of the farming projects of The Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi.

My job was mostly data analytics and project management but, for gathering data, I used to meet more than 100 farmers every week. The exposure helped me get an insightful understanding of core problems faced by the majority of farmers of India, which I eventually molded into AgSpert with help from my college Alumni Dhritiman.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

People think ideas are worth investing in when it comes to startups. It is, however, the execution and MOAT that makes a good idea into a viable and profitable business.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I would have dedicated more time and energy to learning about managing corporate finance, as it is one of the key driving metrics when it comes to building successful startups.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I strongly believe in design thinking and the same goes on to reflect into our product usability, which is highly user friendly for our customers

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

I have developed a habit of doing three-fold research on any new strategy before implementation. One is direct research-based, one customer feedback research and third, being research on sustainability of the strategy

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Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

After my time in data analytics, we bought in 3 new co-founders to work into the technology and drive ground operations and rolled out the first MVP of our data-powered ag-analytics tool AgSpeak.

AgSpeak is a cloud-based D2C tool for agribusinesses and agribusinesses & brands to directly discover and engage with farmers. AgSpeak empowers agribusinesses with remote farm management; location-based advisory broadcasting and product promotion through a phygital (integration of physical and digital) mode of interaction with the farmers. AgSpeak consists of a multilingual mobile application for farmers and a desktop application for agribusinesses, along with local rural entrepreneurs who operate in the field.

AgSpeak was launched in December 2020 and is today helping agri-businesses digitally discover, reach and engage with 4,000 plus farmers in Northeast India.

The need for rural physical presence of businesses to boost farmer confidence is a proven concept for effective marketing of products and services. We are combining that with an IoT powered online tool that helps agribusinesses not just provide smart extension, which is vital to good crop production but also creates more digital engagement from farmers’ end. In turn, this helps these businesses get farm-level insights on crops, probable threats, weather, land data, etc. Our rural micro-entrepreneurs operate in a farming cluster of 5-6 K.M radius on behalf of agribusinesses in materializing their operations.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further proven the urgent need for remote smart farming tools in boosting agricultural productivity. We have a wide range of paying customers using our phygital tool for various use cases. We have government extension institutes using our platform for remote extension and advisory broadcasting, agro-input businesses for product promotion and penetration, contract farming companies for farm management and bulk harvest procurement, and what not!

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Our customers get options for farm data management, hyperlocal data-powered crop simulations, and personal chat with farmers.

1. Contract farming businesses
2. Plantation farms
3. Progressive farmer groups, FPCs & FPOs
4. Agro-input manufacturing businesses like East-West Seeds, Tropical Agro, and Orgaman
5. We are also serving government clients including the State Agricultural stakeholders.

The market today is ripe and ready with rural smartphone penetration increasing by 30% in India. The precision farming segment in India is only emerging and today worth $5B. The current CAGR being 10% makes it a lucrative $12B in 5 years. Over 10 million farmers own smartphones in India today. We have realized an important aspect of profitability for small farmers is engagement with agri-businesses. Direct interaction of agribusiness and farmer today is only 5-8%; despite showing a promising 20-25% increase in farmer income in contract farming clusters.

The platform is free to use for farmers. Our paying customers benefit through direct farmer extension, farm management, product marketing, and analytics.

Where do you see your business in five years?

We expect to grow by 300% from now with a targeted geographical reach of 2 continents and an ARR of $100M.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

Being in the agricultural industry with the majority of ground-level stakeholders being farmers, we think the right channels of sensitisation and value-driven onboarding are the biggest challenge presently. However, with smartphone penetration increasing by 15-30% annually among rural Asia, we expect to mitigate the challenge completely in the next 5 years.

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Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Our A.I powered system detected Early blight disease in potato farms during a pilot trial thus saving a net of 100 Quintals of potato production through non-invasive and environmentally friendly control means, thereby also reducing typical GHG emission from the same farm due to the use of chemical pesticides by 12%.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Our clientele includes businesses that work to provide services to growers and farmers or procurement of agro-products. The majority of leads come through word-of-mouth from existing clients and through social media campaigns.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Research enough on the idea and find the one right customer to build a prototype who will get value out of the offered product/service before you decide to dive completely into the business.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

The future holds tremendous possibilities for innovators who can develop value-driven products powered through data. As data has become the new oil, data-powered products with a smart x-factor will be able to find a better fit amongst the new generation of consumers who expects smooth and at the same time powerful experiences.

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