Krishna Kumar – A Leader Revolutionizing Agriculture Ecosystem through Cutting-Edge Technology

Krishna Kumar- CropIn

CropIn is a leading global AI-driven AgTech organization that provides SaaS and data solutions to Agri-enterprises globally. CropIn enables enterprises and businesses in the agriculture ecosystem to adopt a data-driven, sustainable approach to functioning through its ground-to-cloud technology solutions.

CropIn’s unique suite of innovations enables various stakeholders to adopt and drive digital strategy across their crop value-chains and operations. The company empowers the Agri-enterprises with data insights that help drive initiatives around Digitization, Predictability, Traceability, Financial Inclusion, Climate Smart Agriculture, and Sustainability.

CropIn operates on a B2B model and caters to customer segments like seed production companies, farming companies, agri-input companies, governments, development agencies, CSR arms of private organizations, exporters, commodity traders, and the BFSI sector. CropIn’s product offerings are crop- and location-agnostic, thus enabling high-speed and scalable technology implementations in the AgTech space on a global scale.

In a talk with Mr. Krishna Kumar, Founder, and CEO of CropIn, he shared his thoughts on the current industry scenario and how CropIn is transforming agriculture businesses.

What were the initial challenges you faced? 

CropIn was started in 2010, with a vision of maximizing per acre value and farmer livelihoods by harnessing the power of smart technology. In the AgTech space, we identified there are quite a few challenges that needed to be addressed. The first is adaptability, specifically in India, because a majority of Agri enterprises who have already been working with conventional practices see any drastic change towards digitization with skepticism.

Also, the common misconception that the use of the application is only to track them and evaluate their performance only adds to the challenge and distracts them from the bigger picture. The second is mobility and literacy. Though mobile communication and broadband connectivity are at their best yet, there are limitations in its penetration of broadband in rural areas, and there is much to improve about rural literacy. This subsequently affects our reach of expansion in working directly on-ground.

We realized that the existing solutions in the market are based on traditional or classical farming practices with a minimal and sometimes inefficient use of technology. The agribusiness sector is yet to adapt to advanced technologies to harness its true potential. There are information gaps at different levels of the agri-ecosystem, and the existing solutions do not eliminate this information asymmetry.

Many agribusinesses, on the other hand, are yet to let go of traditional practices and switch to more efficient use of advanced technology. Information gaps at different levels of the agri-ecosystem are also prevalent, and the existing solutions work only at certain levels of the ecosystem and do not connect the entire ecosystem. One of the important challenges we face today is ensuring farm-to-fork traceability of produce, especially when global markets are in question. Some of the major challenges that the small and marginal farmers face in the Agri sector include limited access to investment, inadequate technological interventions, lack of quality inputs, unorganized farming operations, and not enough integration with markets. 

How have the company graphs changed since the foundation? Can you share a few statistics?

Since the inception of the company, we have catered to 225+ clients globally. CropIn has digitized over 13 million acres of farmland, enriched the lives of nearly 4 million farmers, and manages data of 388 crops and 9,400+ crop varieties. CropIn’s global footprint spans 56 countries across 5 continents. The company has seen significant growth over the last 2-3 years and the graph is only growing exponentially on a positive scale. The company was founded with an initial investment of around 7 lakh rupees, which was funded by friends and family. Today, CropIn has been able to raise a Series C funding of $20M recently, in these times of market uncertainty and financial crunch, being amidst a global crisis.

What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?

CropIn’s consistent focus on making the solutions more diverse in their implementation, prioritizing client satisfaction through an in-depth understanding of each challenge faced, the ever-innovating attitude the product team carries, and our commitment to the vision set are broadly the reasons for the company’s long-standing success. We understand the market and hence make continuous innovation in our offerings, making our solutions adaptable. This builds trust in the solution and ultimately, in us.

CropIn caters not just to one industry vertical but to many segments. The product offered to each segment varies according to the requirement and the geography involved. CropIn caters to various customer segments at different levels of the agro-ecosystem, such as seed production companies, agri-input companies, Government bodies, development agencies, exporters, commodity traders, and BFSI, thereby providing a platform that benefits all stakeholders.

CropIn’s superiority in providing world-class Agri-tech solutions has been validated by Indian and international challenges put forth by major enterprises like AWS Digital Innovation Challenge, Accenture Ventures Applied Intelligence Challenge, Ag-Tech Developer Challenge conducted by Rainforest Alliance, Artificial Intelligence Innovation Challenge organized by Govt. of Maharashtra and NITI Aayog (India), HDFC Bank Digital Innovation Summit, Artificial Intelligence Connect, Agrow Awards 2018, London, UNDP’s Agorize Challenge for its Cultiv@te Program in the Philippines, World Bank’s Innovation Challenge for Agriculture and Food Security Risk Financing in Southern Africa, among several others. These add to the vast experience and success that the company has been associated with, ultimately building credibility. 

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Steve Jobs

What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?

CropIn’s data-driven farming solutions enable agri-enterprises and growers to ‘maximize per-acre value’. Its farm data and agronomy management platform, SmartFarm, empowers stakeholders to improve efficiency, productivity, predictability, and sustainability of their crop value-chains. SmartFarm enables agri-enterprises to adhere to food safety standards thereby ensuring farm-to-fork traceability.

The platform helps growers adopt sustainable farming practices to build long-term economic viability and resiliency for local farming communities. CropIn has partnered with several global players in agriculture, including development finance institutions and government entities in 56 countries, to drive their digital and sustainability goals.

CropIn’s machine learning-based predictive analytics platform, SmartRisk, improves underwriting and risk assessment, enabling banks, insurance providers, and other financial institutions to make informed underwriting decisions, identify new markets and expand product portfolios to service high-volume low-ticket opportunities.

By analyzing and interpreting farm-centric data for over 388 crops with nearly 9,500 variants across trillions of data points that grow every day, SmartRisk helps achieve high prediction accuracy at a plot level. It does this by combining computer vision with deep-learning algorithms, on multispectral imagery derived from aerial scouting (satellites and drones), field scouting data, and hyperlocal weather.

Other Products:

  • SmartWare: A comprehensive solution for packhouse, processing, and export companies that enables farm-to-fork traceability and compliance, quality control, and flexible inventory management.
  • AcreSquare: A unique farmer application that helps companies interact directly with their farmers, share content, educate them and provide consultation, thus enabling companies to extend the power of technology to their farmers and cultivate farmer loyalty.
  • PlotRisk: An application that enables a farmer to remotely monitor his/her farm plot through satellite imagery and analyses every farm pixel to provide crop health, yield estimation, water stress, pest and disease predictions and other parameters at a plot level.

Competitive Advantage:

CropIn’s innovations are crop and location-agnostic in nature. This makes them scalable, customizable, and integrable to the client’s requirements. The solutions act not only as problem solvers but also as knowledge repositories for the agribusinesses to be future-ready. The innovations are highly efficient given they are data-driven and built on 0.3 trillion datasets-based algorithms. The testimonials and a retention rate of 92% speak for themselves about the reliability of the solutions designed by CropIn.

How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?

CropIn is always innovating towards addressing new and more complex challenges every day. We aim to expand our innovations into newer geographies, understand the region-specific challenges and make our innovations adaptive to those conditions. The intent has been proactive and positive. CropIn is looking to explore the predictive and prescriptive analytics side of AI further and deeper than before.

The company is working extensively towards building capacious AI innovations for addressing the newer challenges stemming in the world as we speak. CropIn is expanding its global presence further in the SEA region, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This is being achieved by diversifying into newer customer segments such as Telecom, Machinery, Plantations, to name a few. The company looks to strengthen connectivity with the Agri ecosystem through partnerships with local companies through a channel partnership model.

Is there any new addition to the list of products/services? Anything exciting you would like to share?

CropIn is currently working on developing a technological upgrade to SmartFarm, an integrable platform for all tech implementations in the farm controlled under a single interface. There are also consistent efforts being made to make our products implementable in external conditions and geographies where remote sensing can be challenging due to cloud cover.

Can you please brief us about your professional experience?

I hold a B.E degree in Instrumentation and Electronics Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum. I worked at GE for a brief period before co-founding CropIn in 2010 with Kunal Prasad. Played various roles during my stint at GE (Appliance, Industrial, and Energy) – As Graduate Engineer Trainee, Programmer, Senior Programmer, Information Management Leadership Program (Leadership Role)

From launching a start-up with a vision to bring a data-driven approach to agriculture to creating an organization that has enriched the lives of nearly 4 million farmers, my entrepreneurial journey has been full of some amazing lessons that helped me learn and grow.

Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?

There were many critical decisions we took during our journey which helped CropIn to scale globally. Within 6-8 months of starting up, we realized the B2C model is not scalable and hence we moved to the B2B model. We took a platform approach – building crop and location-agnostic platforms which can scale quickly in any geography. We decided to scale globally and made necessary changes in our product to service global customers and meet their standards. Decided to invest in AI & Machine Learning technologies to advance the agriculture sciences using data and building on Agriculture knowledge graphs.

What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?

I started CropIn with a vision to improve farmer livelihoods and increase per-acre value for smallholder farmers. The goal is today a reality with CropIn digitizing over 13 million acres of farmland and positively impacting the lives of 4 million farmers worldwide.

CropIn was able to raise 3 successful rounds of Series funding from prestigious investors like ABC World Asia, CDC Group, Kris Gopalakrishna, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Strategic Funds, Chiratae Ventures a total of $33M so far. Recently, we have received Series C funding despite such difficult times. This has been possible only through consistent performances in terms of business and innovation growth.

  1. CropIn started from an office in Bengaluru to a full-fledged AI-based AgTech which has a presence now in Netherlands, Mumbai, and Delhi. Through the team’s continuous efforts, CropIn today caters customizable AI- and Data-led Agtech solutions to clients in 56 countries and has been able to identify more than 9,500+ crop varieties and work with 388 different types of crops. CropIn has become the partner of choice for 100+ enterprise clients globally. The company is now a 200+ strong family and has seen significant growth in the last 3 years.
  2. CropIn has been to establish elite partnerships with Governments around the world in working on agricultural development projects like the CCE Optimization Initiative carried out by the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), the center’s flagship crop insurance program to name one. CropIn partnered with UNDP, World Bank, IFC on developmental projects that focus on sustainable agriculture and growth.
  3. Through the implementation of Cropin’s innovations, We have been able to contribute towards women and rural empowerment as well. The field facilitators for many projects where CropIn engineered the solutions have been rural women and these projects have opened opportunities for them to take up crucial responsibilities. Educating farmers on scientific methods of farming is another contributing factor towards a better tomorrow for their families.
  4. CropIn has developed agri innovations that work on prescriptive analytics, remote sensing, and climate-sensitive advisory. SmartFarm, SmartRisk are great examples of the same. By harnessing the power of AI, CropIn has successfully been able to implement risk monitoring and mitigation, forecasting intelligence and traceability into farmlands and the results have been lucrative for agribusinesses, and Banking and Financial Services.

List of external awards won

  • BusinessWorld’s 40 Under 40 Achiever 2018
  • Listed in the Top 25 Tech Entrepreneurs of 2019 by Entrepreneur India Magazine for innovation in harnessing technology for the greater good of the businesses.
  • Won the 2019 Indian Farm and Agriculture Technology Customer Value Leadership Award presented by Frost & Sullivan.
  • DFID UK Tech Rocketship Awardee: June 2018 – Awardee and Delegate at the International Business Festival London.
  • The Innovation India forum awardee, supported by FICCI and Millennium Alliance
  • Nominate as a non-official member of the National Startup Advisory Council, to build a strong ecosystem for start-ups in the country
  • Speaker at the ‘Horasis India Meeting’ in Malaga, Spain, organized by the Government of Spain and the Confederation of Indian industry.
  • Speaker at Planet A International Agricultural Forum

Is there any special experience with your clients you would like to highlight?

Back in 2010, during the earliest days of CropIn, the clients were a little skeptical about moving towards the digitalization of agricultural practices. We were one of the first to bring in an innovation that was data-driven in agriculture, the one which is a fusion of data, agronomy, traceability, and sustainability. But once they saw the wonders that the innovations started to bring in post-implementation, they were very helpful and they helped us connect with their peers, generating new leads and ultimately a growing clientele for us.

The clients not just brought in business but also helped in the evolution of the product through agronomic inputs and voluntary support for the product. One of the special mentions would be to that client who helped in starting our international journey and funded my trip to the UK and Europe. The belief that our clients have in our products has today translated to the credibility we have in the AgTech space.

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