Saturday Sprouting Reads (Ecosystems, Private-Public Partnerships, Gram Swaraj)
How do we grow data ecosystems in agritech? Can Mahatma Gandhi's ideas about 'Gram Swaraj' (Village Republic) be rebooted for agritech contexts?
Welcome to Saturday Sprouting Reads!
Season 3 of Agribusiness Matters is live! In this Season, we are going to deep dive into the concept and practice of growing/shaping ecosystems.
Agribusiness Matters is read by those who seek interdisciplinary perspectives on a multi-variable, multi-agent domain called Agriculture in an age of runaway Climate Change.
About Sprouting Reads
If you've ever grown food in your kitchen garden like me, sooner than later, you would realize the importance of letting seeds germinate. As much as I would like to include sprouting as an essential process for the raw foods that my body loves to experiment with, I am keen to see how this mindful practice could be adapted for the food that my mind consumes.
You see, comprehension is as much biological as digestion is.
And so, once in a while, I want to look at one or two articles closely and chew over them. I may or may not have a long-form narrative take on it, but I want to meditate slowly on them so that those among you who are deeply thinking about agriculture could ruminate on them as slowly as wise cows do. Who knows? Perhaps, you may end up seeing them differently.
Saturday Sprouting Reads goes out to 28.5 K+ curious agribusiness readers across the globe.I am accepting requests for unconventional content sponsorship experiments from contrarian agritech startups chasing the holy grail of sustainable impact. Do write to me if you want to collaborate.
Strange as it may sound, many who work at the intersection of technology and agriculture don’t seem to be aware of the power and potential of ecosystems.
Why should you care?
John Hagel, in one of his interviews, gave the best 2-line pitch:
“..Most companies still view growth as a choice between growing internally or growing through acquisition. They miss the third option – leveraged growth through ecosystems.”
Ecosystems are also powerful when you want to scan and prepare for the future.
“When you are building for the future, there is always lots of uncertainty and you incur huge R&D costs in the process. What is the best way to let others incur that risk and then magically incur that capability?”
Leaf Agriculture is a case in progress (They came out of stealth in Feb 2020!) of tantalizing possibilities when you consider the power of ecosystems.
I also dug into how Corteva and Cropin could take a, well, <cough> leaf from Leaf Agriculture.
If the word ‘Ecosystems’ sounds hazy and woolly-headed to you, consider this. This recent World Economic forum article presents the power of the ecosystems by another name: Public-Private Partnerships. I dug into this article when I saw this fancy infographic published by Karnataka Government.
“. There is potential for 40-60% of agricultural surplus to be sold through digital marketplaces by 2025, reducing waste and help improve farmer price realization by 10%,” - Ramesh Chand, India’s Trillion Dollar Digital Opportunity
Before you dismiss these orgasmic statistics, consider the ideal happy path this model prescribes.
On paper, this sounds great!
In practice, well, it reminds me of a great quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
“In academia, there is no difference between academia & the real world. In the real world, there is.”
Jokes apart, how do we make such possibilities real in the real world?
Today, in this current phase of the agritech revolution, most players are keen to acquire rather than build partnerships. Ask Shane about the Telus Tech stack and you will know what I am talking about.
We are in those times where we have to write powerful screeds about the moral responsibility of sharing data and then go on to build centralized repositories to query and find Ag Data.
We will evolve! There is no other choice.
Before they were called so, localisation and decarbonisation strategies were expounded in the year 1909 by Mahatma Gandhi who earned his skin in the game by walking his talk.
“Health records published in the journal also revealed that he walked a total of 79,000 km during his political campaigns from 1913 to 1948. Gandhi's choices with regard to transport were based on the idea of avoiding the misuse and abuse of resources. He relied on a rigorous rationalisation of transport options and avoided the unnecessary reliance on cars for covering short distances. - Down to Earth quoting a health study”
Yes, that’s 7-9-0-0-0- kilometres, with approx 18 kilometres a day of walking for 40 years.
NABARD’s Deputy Managing Director Suryakumar PVS extends the Indian Government’s One District, One Cluster Policy and remixes Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of Gramswaraj to present how these old ideas are relevant more than 100 years after they have been propounded.
I want you to pay attention to this excerpt:
Now, why go for a pilot Gram Swaraj?
Individual farmer-oriented approaches have not delivered enough. Our administrative system is divided into several line departments but the recipient is one — the farmer. The optimal approach is considering the village as a unit for planning, by adapting the area approach.
Livelihoods must then be planned so that village(s) can specialise and have enough marketable surplus for produce aggregation. The infrastructure required must then be created to match actual requirements. Support from line departments is usually straitjacketed and cannot handle the area planning approach.
Hence, empowered project management units can only implement Gram Swaraj initially. When this idea gets grounded, the line departments can be re-engineered. The ‘One District One Product’ scheme essentially emphasises on specialisation, for economies of scale to work, right from production to marketing. The idea is to further refine it to the village level.
What can we do to make Farmer Producer Organisations work at scale in this country? The clues are sitting right in these excerpts.
Is any brave IAS Officer/Agtech Policy decision-maker listening?
So, what do you think?
Today begins the third season of Agribusiness Matters. Lots of new things in the pipeline. How happy are you with today’s edition? I would love to get your candid feedback. Your feedback will be anonymous. Two questions. 1 Minute. Thanks.🙏
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