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How Cropin Plans To Help Tackle World Food Shortages With Cloud Technology

In a world in which the United Nations warns as many as 276 million people now face food insecurity, the global agriculture sector is under huge pressure to increase production. Yet major challenges stand in the way of that goal, from geopolitical tensions to climate change. Agricultural technology (Agtech) business Cropin hopes its digital tools can make a massive difference in supporting the sector as it tries to reduce food shortages and hunger worldwide.

Launched in 2010, Cropin has spent the past 12 years building a suite of technologies based on digitalisation and the use of data within agriculture. The idea is to provide agribusinesses and other key players in the sector’s value chain with intelligence that enables them to make smarter decisions – on which crops to plant when and where, for example, on the amount of irrigation and fertiliser required to optimise yields, on how to avoid disease, and on a range of other factors critical to delivering the supplies the world needs.

The latest stage in the company’s evolution is its launch today of Cropin Cloud, a new platform that provides access to a broad set of digital technologies in a single location.

“The global agriculture ecosystem is facing large disruptions triggered by climate change, geopolitical tensions, food supply-chain challenges and an ever-increasing global population,” says Krishna Kumar, CEO and co-founder of the business. “Solving these challenges demands a technology platform that enables the ecosystem players to transform their business operations.”

The idea is to combine three different sets of tools in one place. First, the platform provides access to a series of apps with different use cases throughout the agricultural industry, aimed at farmers and large agri-businesses, but also at other players such as banks and insurers. These offer benefits ranging from increased supply chain visibility to enhanced risk management.

The second element of the platform is a data hub, enabling users to combine a huge range of data; this includes data sourced from customers themselves, via remote sensors, internet-of-things connected devices and machinery and drones, for example, as well as third-party sources such as satellite imagery.

The third piece of the jigsaw is Cropin’s intelligence tools, which comprise 22 models that use machine learning and artificial intelligence to support better planning and forecasting in areas such as crop detection, crop stage identification, yield estimation, irrigation scheduling, and pest and disease prediction.

It is the opportunity to leverage all three suites of tools simultaneously that Cropin believes will be especially powerful. While the agtech sector has made significant advances in recent years, developing into one of the hottest technology areas, the unified solutions common in other industries are thin on the ground.

Cropin also points to its competitive advantage in having spent the past 12 years building up its data and intelligence worldwide. The result is that it now has critical data on more than 500 crops – and 10,000 varieties of those crops – in more than 90 countries around the world. The founders initially focused on developing countries such as India, but very quickly realised that a lack of technology and data was not exclusive to these nations. So far, Cropin has been able to digitise 16 million acres of farmland and the company believes it has improved the lives of more than 7 million farmers.

“Agriculture technology is complex and needs specialised expertise in multiple areas like geographic information systems, agri-science, AI and ML models, weather data, and IoT, among others,” says Vijay Nelson, Cropin’s chief product officer. “Crops are copiously diversified and the digital solutions required to monitor them need hyper-tuning.”

The company’s client base largely comprises bigger corporates that subscribe for Cropin’s services through a software-as-a-service model. These include multi-national food businesses working with farmers in countries around the world, who want to help these producers increase yields and to become more resilient, as well as banks and insurers that provide critical financial services to the industry.

Key challenges include helping the industry to adapt to climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and to combat food wastage. Food production demand is set to double over the next 20 to 30 years, Cropin points out, with the world’s population on target to exceed 10 billion by the middle of the century.

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