Farming 3.0: driving growth with talent

The agriculture industry has been undergoing a paradigm shift over the last few years. It has undergone a transformation from being a sector that is farmer-led to executive-led, giving a huge scope to professional talent.

A couple of weeks ago, during an internal interview, I was asked a question on whether we have enough and more talent in the agri space. That set me thinking. Now, as I pen down my thoughts, I don't think I would be wrong in saying that "professional talent" in the agri space is the buzzword. Let me explain.

The agriculture industry, which was sized at around Rs 23 lakh crore in 2015, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 8% to Rs 36 lakh crore by 2021.

As in any industry, with this kind of growth, the complexities too will increase and that is probably the reason why the farm industry is adopting many corporate business practices like customer management, demand forecasting, supply chain management, digital marketing etc.

Additionally, economies of scale are gaining greater importance and are driving the industry towards more organised and formal setups. This is, perhaps, creating a shift from being a farmer/individual-led industry to a business/executive-led industry.

Given the number of opportunities in the agriculture space, ranging from soil management, productivity improvement, water management, post-harvest management, advisory services and many more, young talent is being nurtured and is readily taking up farming as a career. Today, farming as a profession is no longer being looked upon as monotonous and labour intensive.

Era of innovation

Among the many significant new-age trends, one revolutionising this industry is digital disruption, with both the government as well as the private sector leveraging this shift to bring in efficiencies by serving the farmers and customers in a more disintermediated way. We call this paradigm shift, Farming 3.0.

Today, we are witnessing a lot of young entrepreneurs coming up with startups and path-breaking ideas, challenging the traditional way of operating in the agri space. We have also recently invested in one such entrepreneurial venture called MeraKisan, which ensures benefits both to the farmer and the consumer by removing the middleman.

We are also leveraging the digital medium to provide advisory services to farmers through our agri advisory platform, MyAgriGuru, which is an integrated network for all the information related to a crop at one place. As 'smart' farming increasingly becomes the norm, the industry will need an army of skilled professionals with a wide range of competencies to tend to the burgeoning ecosystem around it.

With the industry undergoing this paradigm shift, I believe professionals have to be very quick in constantly responding to these trends and largely to the ever-changing world, in order to succeed in such times. They have to keep upskilling themselves and be innovative to grow in the organisation. The industry needs 'ideas people' who can plot breakthroughs to unleash the potential of the sector.

Domain knowledge

In order to help farmers improve their productivity by helping them adopt new-age technologies, best practices and innovative farming methods, professionals in this industry need to understand the space. Therefore, it is advisable to have a strong domain knowledge.

We need to become agripreneurs; with an entrepreneurial mindset of thinking big, collaborating and at the same time taking ownership, coupled with strong domain expertise.

The potential in this industry is huge. A lot of positive developments are taking place, given the government's thrust on helping build and promote this sector.

Digital acumen, big data management, customer connect, dealing with ambiguity and disruptive innovation are some of the new skillsets which professionals who aspire to work in this industry need to acquire.

The industry is opening up a slew of opportunities and professionals should participate in this encouraging change by striving towards delivering farm tech prosperity through their innovative thinking and a strong domain knowledge.

(The writer is MD & CEO, Mahindra Agri Solutions Ltd)

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