The agriculture sector is betting big on AI and data science. Founded in 2015 by Sateesh Nukala and Sachin Nandwana, Bighaat has harnessed data science to create a platform for farmers to help them in sowing, harvesting and providing crop advisory and accessibility to a wide range of high-quality farm inputs.
Their one-stop agro store offers a personalised experience to the farmer throughout the lifecycle of the crop. The website supports multiple regional languages like Hindi, Telugu and Marathi.
“BigHaat chooses a unique model of digital and feet-on-street to reach the target farmer community. 80% of our acquisition of farmers happens online with 20% dependent on the feet-on-the-street model, a unique and differentiating aspect of BigHaat,” said Sateesh Nukala, CEO & Co-Founder, BigHaat, in interaction with Analytics India Magazine.
BigHaat is India’s largest Agri Inputs digital marketplace platform providing farmers end to end crop advisory and a wide range of quality inputs such as seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, nutrients and farm implements using AI and data science. Over four million farmers have benefited from the platform.
Sateesh Nukala and Sachin Nandwana — both from strong agricultural family backgrounds — started Bighaat after witnessing the day-to-day challenges faced by farmers first-hand. The duo wanted to transform the lives of farmers by disrupting the sector with a technology-led platform.
“Farmers need high quality and highly relevant inputs to reduce the impact of pests and diseases and increase yields and crop quality, with on-time crop advisory. This is a critical requirement for the farmers throughout the crop cycle that is fulfilled by BigHaat,” said Nukala.
So far, BigHaat has raised $3 million from key investors including Ankur Capital, Rockstud Capital and Beyond Next Ventures.
AI And Big Data Analytics
Nukala said farmers today are facing challenges in the traditional supply-chain with conventional retailers not being able to offer technical crop advisory and exploiting the farmers with inferior and expensive inputs like seeds & pesticides, leading to lower yields and, by extension, lower income for the farmers.
BigHaat is addressing these challenges through its tech enabled farmer-centric platform connecting high quality input manufacturers with the farmers directly and providing stage-wise technical crop advisory enabling farmers to choose highly relevant inputs at every stage of the crop cycle conveniently. “With our unique product and solution strategy, we have been offering a personalised experience to the farmer throughout the lifecycle of the crop, offering the content in vernacular languages, and enriching their knowledge,” he said.
BigHaat has partnered with over 200+ leading multinational, Indian and several innovative new age Agri Input manufacturers to provide seamless service to large communities of farmers across India. “Thus, our platform is the primary point of contact for both, the manufacturers and the farmers,” he added.
The tech centric platform builds a profile of the farmer based on farmer engagement and transactions data. BigHaat is delivering personalised experience to the farmers to discover knowledge and highly suitable products based on the profile being built in the backend AI system.
“We also have an AI based cognitive intelligence solution ‘Crop Doctor’ that helps farmers to diagnose instantly the pest/ disease problem in the crop and recommends a suitable solution,” he added.
Highlighting a use case, he said the Crop Doctor allows the farmer to upload an infected plant’s image, and their self-learning AI model identifies the pest or disease and recommends most suitable solution and products to the farmer to minimise the crop damage. “We are also showing product recommendations to farmers based on the profile being built, helping them to discover various suitable products at different stages of the crop,” he added.
Based on the profile of the farmers, BigHaat is able to predict and estimate various needs of farm inputs required by the farmer at an on-going and subsequent stages of the crop.
Apart from this, they have an AI-based lending-as-a-service to offer formal financing to customers. They are also working to bring an AI-based business intelligence platform for Agri Input manufacturers to provide market intelligence, demand vs supply heat map, and customer intelligence.
“Data plays a critical role in this space, where we can leverage this data with crop science to build an amazing ecosystem for farmers and various stakeholders in the agriculture value chain,” he said.
On their tech stack, Nukala said they are using a tensor flow framework for building AI-based cognitive intelligent models for Crop Doctor functionality; and AI-based personalisation and recommendation engine using Python.
“We are growing phenomenally this year due to the strong tailwind from Covid and farmers’ accelerated adoption of digital platforms. It’s a good sign for Indian agriculture ecosystem, and we see this momentum being sustainable as well, as it is driving behavioural changes with the farmers,” said Nukala.
The growth can also be attributed to the fact that farmers have accepted the technology wholeheartedly as they reported 80% of farmer acquisition which was done digitally. “BigHaat has already reached 50% of pin codes in India,” he added.
Having said that, they face challenges in terms of quicker deliveries to farmers. “On top of that, BigHaat is also trying to address credit needs of the farmers, which is very prevalent in the industry. Here, BigHaat is planning to leverage on farmer profile, to build risk assessment and creditworthiness for each farmer to decide to lend and the credit limit against the inputs purchases on its platform,” shared Nukala.
Bighaat witnessed a 3x growth last year and with tech-driven engagement, the startup aims to scale further. “With rural internet adoption significantly growing, we are poised to hyper-scale with huge market opportunity in front of us,” Nukala said.