Today we speak to Anuj Kumbhat, Founder & CEO of WRMS to understand how WRMS is shaping the farming and agritech sector through its innovative product offerings.
Read the complete interview:
TechGraph: Could you help explain how far WRMS has come in its existence? From when it began to where it is now?
Anuj Kumbhat: Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS) was incubated by IIT Kanpur in 2004 with investments from SIDBI and have received investments and grants from luminaries like UPL, ILO, and the Ford Foundation.
Over the years, we have built a strong reputation with a formidable presence across 22 states in India and 15 countries across the globe.
From designing weather risk management services to developing the world’s first income-guaranteed smart & sustainable farms, WRMS is home to numerous national and international firsts. Be it devising the world’s 1st village-level insurance settlement solution using low-cost AWS, or creating India’s first solution that combined Index Insurance with Farm Advisory and cutting-edge Weather Forecasting Services, the company has always helmed innovation in the sector.
We are also the first organization to launch Index Insurance in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Fiji with a team of over 500 multi-disciplinary experts across Agricultural Science, Data Science, Meteorology, Actuarial Science, and Information Technology the company is always working upon breakthroughs that can make the agriculture and dairy sector more robust.
TechGraph: How is WRMS utilizing its sectoral expertise and technology to solve the unsolved gap in the agriculture sector?
Anuj Kumbhat: Traditional farming methods incur a lot of risks both related to production and subsequent earnings/profits. There is minimal to no usage of technology in traditional farming which creates a hindrance for farmers, especially smallholders, from keeping a track of water usage, sowing practices, etc.
Also, traditional farming is not even financially backed. Hence, in cases of low-income farmers end up with nothing but a financial deficit. Also, the farmers, without any concrete scientific knowledge of their land, use chemical fertilizers that turn their lands into a barren wasteland or ultimately reduce the productivity of the crops grown with the help of unsuitable fertilizers.
On the contrary, WRMS’s flagship solution “SecuFarm” is a savior. It helps farmers integrate and apply smart and sustainable technology and make them well equipped with the analytical as well as a functional approach to how to maintain and use the maximum potential of their land of agriculture.
Automatic intelligence has effectively helped farmers to reduce practices such as over-irrigation and usage of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. With the help of the SecuFarm app, smallholders get secured incomes as the process involves land analysis and further classification of sustainable agriculture practices to adopt to enhance the product quality with well-calculated data analytics backed with high-end technologies.
In case a farmer doesn’t get the expected and predicted produce result, he’s compensated as per the land area. Such a smart initiative ensures that smallholders have enough finance to support their livelihoods no matter the post-harvest results.
TechGraph: How is technology transforming the farming sector? Do you think the trend had taken hold even before the pandemic-induced disruptions?
Anuj Kumbhat: The global pandemic proved a blessing in disguise for the Agritech sector. The Agritech sector gained tremendously from the lockdown and even after it. Like all other industries, India’s agriculture sector — the biggest contributor to the nation’s GDP — was faced with huge uncertainties after the coronavirus outbreak. But the technological advancements introduced by startups on the back of strong government collaboration certainly changed the face of the Indian agricultural sector and steer the nation towards a better and self-reliant tomorrow.
The future of Agri storage solutions is more digital, modular, and flexible, bringing traceability to each farmer’s grain and transparency concerning the quality of the produce.
The Indian Agritech sector has huge untapped potential. It has been gaining increased attention from venture capitalists (VCs). Although at a nascent stage, Agritech is bound to change the way the agriculture business is done. The wheels are already in motion and it won’t be long before we see another green revolution-like transformation in India. It will certainly be positive for companies involved in the agricultural ecosystem.
TechGraph: What are the new trends in the farming sector?
Anuj Kumbhat: Smart farming is a new concept that deploys technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), computer vision, and artificial intelligence (AI) for farming. Robots and drones are accelerating farm automation by replacing manual farm operations such as picking fruits, killing weeds, or water spraying. Imagery from drones and satellites, coupled with the Global Positioning System (GPS), provides a high-resolution and location-specific view of the field.
Further, IoT devices, powered by sensor technology, collect real-time field data that allows farmers to make data-driven smart decisions. In addition, the widespread adoption of precision agriculture and indoor farming in recent years has fueled IoT growth in farming.
Taken together, these technological innovations generate disruptive and sustainable changes in agricultural practices. The focus is to not only improve the overall quality and quantity of crops and enhance livestock management but also to achieve the ultimate goal of a sustainable future.
TechGraph: How do you see AI, and machine learning concerning their relevance in farming & Agritech? What will the future look like?
Anuj Kumbhat: No industry niche has not started to enjoy the benefits of AI, ML, and IoT. The agriculture sector is no exception.
These modern technologies together have successfully revolutionized the agriculture industry in ways one cannot imagine — combating the most common problem the world is facing, i.e., bridging the gap between food demand and supply.
AI, ML, IoT, and other revolutionary technologies are being aggressively deployed by startups in the agri space to boost efficiency, productivity, and transparency in farming.
India’s agriculture industry has advanced significantly, and with the emergence of tech-driven agriculture businesses, it has the potential to become “the world’s food bowl.”
In FY22, we should expect a slew of technological advancements in the agricultural industry. Through such advancements, smallholders will be assured incomes and zero hunger backed by sustainable farming practices.
In contrast, Agritech is seeing an infusion of entrepreneurs that are familiar with deep technology and come from farming backgrounds. This enables them to employ the appropriate technology at the grassroots level. We should expect increased technical breakthroughs and the use of electronic systems across agriculture value chains as the sector attracts more investment.
TechGraph: WRMS has signed MoU with Government bodies for agriculture & Agritech solutions; could you shed some light on this?
Anuj Kumbhat: WRMS helps the government bodies in the successful implementation of government schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY schemes) by subsidy optimization, timely loss assessment & claim settlement, providing farm-level manpower services for crop assessment & monitoring agriculture insurance, and promoting innovation in agriculture.
Thus, making the PMFBY scheme manageable, cost-efficient, time-efficient, and transparent. Additionally, the company also works with government bodies such as Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) to conduct pilot studies related to the optimization of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs).
Ingen Technologies, a fully-owned subsidiary of Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS) recently collaborated with the Regional Meteorological Centre, Guwahati, Assam, India, Meteorological Department (IMD), and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India, and bagged the contract for procurement, installation, and maintenance of Automatic Rain Gauge Stations in the North East States of India. The company is working with many government organizations like Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, Andhra Pradesh State Development Planning Society, and more.
TechGraph: What is the roadmap for WRMS going forward?
Anuj Kumbhat: The company is seeking investments to expand WRMS SecuFarm to a million farmers in a 3-4 year timeframe. Our mission is to secure 1 million farms by the year 2026, we will continue to focus on technology implementation and risk management advisory services.
Along with this, we will work towards enhancing the quality of our offering which includes multidisciplinary capabilities spanning data analytics, technology, and finance to address and resolve complex agrarian challenges. We are also seeking partnerships with like-minded organizations working with smallholder farmers and FPOs so that we can reach the deepest pockets of the country where a farmer is sowing a seed in the hope of a good yield.