Not so long back, over 50,000 farmers marched to Mumbai for their demands of a complete loan waiver, fair pay and transfer of adivasi land to farmers who have been tilling it for years. These farmers marched about 180 km in the blazing sun over the six days.
The reason of this age-old problem of farmers in India is the very fact that these farmers have loans which they haven’t been able to pay back and a majority of them have been denied loans from formal financial institutions resulting in farmers taking money from loans sharks.
Estimates suggest 500 million smallholder farmers globally need financing of $450 billion approximately; yet only 3% of the need is met.
The fact that banks continue to shy away from giving loans to farmers is because, they don’t have any data to make a decision to accept or reject a loan request.
The current scenario is that when a farmer approaches a bank for loan, he, among other papers, submits his survey ID, a bank employee is physically required to visit the land and submit a report regarding the loan request.
This “Agrarian crisis” is the rampant phenomenon of suicides among Indian farmers from 1990 to the present. It has been exacerbated by the inability to repay growing debt resulting from loans often taken from local moneylenders and micro-credit banks to pay for high priced high yield seeds marketed by MNCs and the non-implementation of minimum support prices (MSP) by state governments.
Between 1998 to 2018, this one of the most burning issue of India has resulted in the suicides of 300,000 farmers in the country, on record.
A Silicon Valley-based startup Harvesting, with its predictive Machine Learning (ML) algorithms has created a product for financial institutions (banks, MFI, co-operative, commercial and development banks) which will provide them specific farm land data by putting in farmer’s survey ID. It will give them a snapshot of the land, its yield capacity and types of crops that can be cultivated. Thus making it more efficient for banks to disburse loans to farmers.
Harvesting is essentially a FinTech startup headquartered in Silicon Valley, and now has 100% subsidiary & operations in India.
The startup is building Agriculture Intelligence Engine (AIE) which will help bring speed, accuracy and transparency in the world’s largest and oldest industry — agriculture — to drive financial inclusion for farmers around the world. AIE uses remote sensing satellite imagery from from NASA and EU Space Agency, on-ground data and other data sources, and then converts it into credit score for farmers and translates that into data insights with the help artificial intelligence (AI).
Such data insights are currently missing from the loan value chain in India, which in turn, has kept financial institutions from lending heavily to the farmers here. With the application of big data and AI, Harvesting aims to make the farm loan value chain more efficient in India.
Harvesting aims to work with financial institutions (FIs) like banks, co-operatives, development and commercial banks, micro-finance institutions to provide them accurate and specific data about farmlands in India.
Harvesting’s technology enables agri-lenders to get a snapshot of his land, crop yield, time for sowing and harvesting at a touch of a button along with a credit score of the farmer by just providing Survey-ID of the farm. Such data insights are currently missing from the loan value chain in India, which in turn, has kept financial institutions from lending heavily to the farmers here. With the application of big data and AI, Harvesting aims to make the farm loan value chain more efficient in India.
Harvesting has developed 3 complementary products to help financial institutions finance smallholder farmers:
- Credit Risk Scoring System
- Farmlands Monitoring System
- Land Records Monitoring System
Funds for the Cause
To date, Harvesting has raised an angel round last year and has received a grant from Catalyst Fund, an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co as a fiscally sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Company will be raising a large seed round this year.
Harvesting is a brain child of a serial entrepreneur Ruchit Garg, who started the Company in 2016 . After selling previous company in 2015, Ruchit (who is based in Silicon Valley, California) had a choice of starting another tech company which would cater to ever growing consumer internet or start a technology driven for-profit business which can drive immense impact on the ground and make a world a better place for everyone. During a trip to India, Ruchit realized that most of the issues small farm holder farmers faces across the world is due to asymmetry between farms & anyone else in the agriculture value chain.
Ruchit believes that current technology can solve this massive information gap which not only will solve issues for small farmers, but have power to help reduce the food security for humanity. Being a technology entrepreneur, he decided to build ‘Agriculture Intelligence Engine’ which leverages AI & Remote Sensing, to help connect finance with farmers making it easy for financial service providers (agri-lenders) to work with farmers.
Prior to Harvesting, Ruchit was Founder & CEO of 9Slides, an online learning company for growing businesses, which was acquired by Limeade in 2015. Ruchit has worked for Microsoft at its Headquarter at Redmond, WA and Hyderabad for several years and contributed on many key projects such as XBOX Live, Windows 7, MSN Games etc. Ruchit is also chairman of Shobhit University Alumni Network, and mentor/advisor to several startups in India and USA.
Ruchit is also chairman of Shobhit University Alumni Network, and mentor/advisor to several startups in India and USA.
Plans for India
In April of this year, Harvesting rolled out its operations formally in India and recently on-boarded Sunil Srivasatva, a former Deputy Managing Director of Indias largest bank, State Bank of India, in the companys advisory board.
The Company will be building its team in Bangalore, and is in discussions with many major commercial and PSU banks who are active in agri-lending vertical.
The Road Ahead
Harvesting has recently partnered with World Bank’s CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) to develop new credit scoring mechanism in Uganda to improve their access to loans. The company will support Pride, Uganda’s leading micro-finance institution. Harvesting is working on multiple such projects in different geographical locations including Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey and India.
Silicon Valley and India will be the two major centers of operations for the Company. However, Harvesting is seeing interest from financial institutions in markets like Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Nepal and Myanmar and also consider opening a subsidiary in African continent to serve the continent