It was founded 12 years ago by two friends Krishna Kumar and Kunal Prasad the venture has since grown to expanding into a global player with its granular information about the agricultural practices.
Sk Krishna Kumar about the founding story of Cropin Technology Solutions and he claims it was more an emotional choice than one that was based on business logic.
It began 12 years ago when Krishna–as everybody calls him in the company–and his childhood pal Kunal Prasad, deciding that they could not watch as Indian farmers were throwing their crops on the roadsides or even committing suicide due to not being able to pay back loans. They had attended the same school in Ranchi and had prepared in Delhi for entrance to engineering college exams, and then went to various colleges. They kept in contact with Prasad working for Tata Motors, in sales and marketing. He also completed an MBA along the way, and between the two–and Krishna being a techie with General Electric. The year 2009 was the time Krishna phoned Prasad to announce that he would quit his job. The next year Cropin became a reality.It was the time that “agri-tech” wasn’t a word and’startup’ was part of the usage. While they were the term was a bit out of date in India they were on something. They realized that technology could end the disparity in information and thus prices between the two, such as the amount that a farmer who grows tomatoes makes at Chikkaballapur as opposed to what a buyer in close Bengaluru is paying for it. Therefore, farmers would gain more money and food-related businesses, such as Mother Dairy, one of their first customers–would receive an increased supply.
A year later, this hard work will pay off in big time. Today all over the world is getting on board, but not only using cloud computing or digital technology as well as the significance of data-driven agriculture amidst an environmental crisis and increasing population of humans. “In the last few years we’ve witnessed a lot of scale in business,” Prasad says. In actuality, he relocated to Europe in March to oversee the effort to enter that market. He is also in charge of both development and public alliances. “Digital has become the current normal and everyone is now aware of the importance of data-driven agriculture.”
Krishna Prasad and Krishna Prasad are betting their lives on the development of what they believe is the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-based cloud. Everyone within Cropin refers to it as an ‘ag cloud’ for agricultural intelligence, by mapping crops and land on three-quarters of the globe. They’ve done it for 12 countries on a hyper-local basis of 10 square meters. “We are dedicated to combining agricultural sciences with AI science,” Krishna says.Cropin has around 250 clients in 56 countries, which includes India, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin and North America. The clients include multinational corporations such as McCain, Philip Morris, Syngenta and Unilever fertiliser companies, suppliers of farm machinery, banks , insurers, government agencies , and development organisations.
The company’s platform assists customers manage over 500 different varieties of plantsations, horticulture and field crops , row crops and around 10,000 varieties of crops. The information is gathered into what are referred to as “crop knowledge graphs”. Cropin helps customers increase the per-acre yield as well as the quality of their produce. It’s developing machine learning (ML)-based models that can predict the outcomes of farms well ahead of harvest time and attempting to “make farms more climate smart’ through AI technologies,” Krishna says.
The money is out there. The US alone, nearly $1 trillion is flowing each year into the value chain, as per the US Farmers and Ranchers in Action which is a group composed of ranchers and farmers led organizations and experts. Estimates of the return are huge too. Connectivity technology in agriculture could boost $500 billion in global GDP before 2030. according to consultancy McKinsey estimates.
Cropin’s products can be used to accurately evaluate the health of land, its locations and levels of water stress as well as levels of nitrogen and other nutrients, ‘disease pressures as well as other variables which are all aimed at obtaining the most accurate information on expected yield. For instance, SmartFarm Plus is used by teams from Unilever who visit farmers that provide coconut sugar, and then update the app with details regarding the farms. The app also provides specific location-based information that teams can share with farmers. “We can track how much coconut sugar we’ll likely be able to receive–strengthening the resilience of Unilever’s supply chain–and more importantly help smallholder farmers become more resilient, get good harvests and care for their land,” Unilever said in a June blogpost.
Cropin is also in contact with various government agencies as well as with government. For instance in India Cropin provides data about the estimation of yield and acreage to gram panchayats in their participation in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme) for the purpose of paying out payouts to farmers in a large scale.
Journey to the Ag Cloud’
It doesn’t matter if they are small, scattered farm in India or larger one in the US The issues remain similar, Krishna says.
When Cropin began, “there was no digital in agriculture. People couldn’t even imagine the ways that data and agriculture could work together, in the future,” he says; even in the US and Europe there were no companies like these, and the growth began after 2012.
The first problem was easy The first was that there was very little or no information. The information that was available could be found in the diaries of unorganized from farmers, as well as the Excel sheets of big customers. One of Cropin’s initial solutions was an application that was designed to assist customers in understanding the data as an asset which would later become the basis for an intelligence-based solution. The first stage of Cropin’s work of developing applications that digitize all activities in the farming process.
Vijay Nelson, chief product officer, discusses the way that the simplicity of these apps made to make them successful. For instance, with one application, collecting information is as easy as walking through a plot while the app is running. The data is then fed into dashboards designed for agronomists with calendars for historic and current snapshots. Auto detection of images taken in the field is an option that is in the works.
There is also the data hub, which is which is fed by the models. This was a phase of expanding data acquisition to other regions of the globe as well as different crops and different climates. Cropin achieved this by using applications that were location and crop-specific and enabled the company to generate 18 trillion data sets to build its AI models using. The application’s introduction to customers across different countries made it possible for Krishna Prasad and Prasad help bring thousands of farmers to Cropin.
The final phase involved investing into the AI capability. The work on this began around five or six years ago and, as time went on, Cropin created 22 ML models that were built from the 18 trillion data sets from farms. These models are in the level 5 of technological ready (TRL 5 which means that the technology is tested in real-world simulations or situations) and Krishna is working to bring the models into TRL 7, where they are ready for more extensive commercialisation. The gradation system, which has the nine stages, was developed by the American Nasa, the space agency. Nasa and is used widely by the most innovative people.
“We can divide a nation into 10 square millimeters, and overlay the data over the past six years up to the present and projected view” Krishna says. “And we can keep this updated each months.” Cropin completed such mappings for India as well as grain as well as paddy in Nigeria along with paddy and wheat in Bangladesh. The AI models are commercially available across 13 countries, tracking around 32 different commodities.The plan is to take tech and knowhow developed in India to markets around the world. To do this, Krishna and Prasad are setting their sights on a much more ambitious project. “We are calling it the industry’s first cloud for intelligent agriculture, where we have brought all the digital apps and tools in a box,” Krishna says. This ‘Ag Cloud’ is to be launched in a matter of weeks.
“Our bold objective is to calculate the intelligence of crops for one-third of the globe and let the globe join into the cloud,” he says. The goal is to provide the cloud to all businesses that is affected by agriculture to ensure that “industry users can make use of it to improve the business process”.
Customers utilize Cropin to access their data in an modular way by tapping on specific products like SmartFarm or tools to track and traceability, etc. Certain customers have requested custom dashboards.
With the Cropin’s top strategic accounts, customers tend to be able to hire their own expert such as data scientists, agronomists and analysts, according to Nelson. They are looking to incorporate their own data along with Cropin’s data, into applications that provide valuable insights. They may also wish to develop their own apps built on top of Cropin’s information hub. This is exactly what Cropin is trying to build, Nelson says.
A fungible moat
The data hub also serves as an obstacle for Cropin and is organized agri data that will require years to duplicate. The company’s SmartFarm is being updated to collect more detailed information and provide a brand new dashboards that provide an overview of everything happening on farms. Nelson believes it will be available soon. “This is how we’re constructing the AI platform, to ensure that everyone within our customer organization can benefit from them” without the need the assistance of an agronomist according to the capabilities of their technology and data systems, Ag Cloud customers can connect in to the platform at any point. The platform is now “fungible because of its flexibility , as well as the features it provides to its customers, he states.
Agronomists today are able to observe four villages simultaneously or even in the course of a day, according to Rajesh Jalan, CTO; Remote sensing, digitalisation and data from the ground increase the expert’s bandwidth by many times. In the US For instance, it’s typical for farmers to own 500 to 1,000 acres. If, for instance sprinklers don’t work on a couple of acres Cropin’s platform will determine the cause according to him. “So we will show you the source of the issue and the cause about, and the reason, and then I can do to fix it.”
Cropin AI Lab
Today , if a client would like to access a Jupyter notebook (a web application used to create and share computation-related documents) and check out how a brand new type of seed performs on two distinct plots within two different climate zones, it’s possible with Cropin’s platform Krishna declares.
A real-world issue that a client recently asked Cropin was: can Cropin detect a specific plant in the country, and more importantly, a specific kind of this crop. “We carried out this across the entire country of Bangladesh and we also evaluated the performance of this particular variety in comparison to other varieties under different climate environments,” Krishna says.
The point is that, in a number of cases Cropin has solved portion of data work that is involved in building the pipeline, something that data scientists devote most of their time working on, Kumar says. This means that they’ll have the opportunity to focus more time on the actual modeling and analysis. Cropin’s six-year AI project is now officially designed in the form of Cropin AI Lab because it will be working more closely with business sector, Krishna says. In order to lead this effort industry-expert Praveen Pankajakshan was brought into the role of vice director of the data sciences and AI. More than 20 years’ expertise in image and signal processing as well as pattern recognition and ML in a wide range of areas.
Cropin has between 25 and 30 customers that are considered strategic accounts’. They are the ones with whom “we are looking to establish an annual business of over $100 million in 3 years time,” Krishna says. Prasad claims that the company’s “committed annual revenue recurring is somewhere in the $15-25 million range however, he hasn’t given an exact figure. In 2018, Cropin was in the range of $1.5 million company as per Nathan Latka, who interviewed Krishna and creates an SaaS podcast that is focused on industry and an information service. By 2021 Latka stated that Cropin’s revenues were $18 million.
The business grew 2.5x during the fiscal year that ended in June, and its AI technology has witnessed 6–8x increase in the number of customers who have adopted it, Krishna says. The company is expected to grow 2.5-3x according to him. This means that an ARR goal of $100 million in the coming three years may be achievable in the event that the AI cloud is successful particularly with strategic clients as well, and in time to the wider customers.
The company has also closed an investment round that was pre-series D and is expected to soon start discussions for a raise of between $50 million and $100 million for series D financing The founders of the company say. In parallel, assembled an elite group of executives to oversee the next stage of growth.
Nelson, Jalan and Pankajakshan are among the five to six senior executives who joined Cropin within the past twelve months. Krishna and Prasad believe they can boost the company’s revenues to $100 million in annual revenues within the next three years , or more.
Nelson is in close contact with Jalan. While Jalan creates the product’s roadmap and Jalan oversees the implementation. Both have worked for many years working at Microsoft and worked on a variety of technology and product. If Nelson created a large team involved in Outlook, Jalan was there in Azure prior to the time it was Azure.
Mohit Pande, chief business officer Mohit Pande, chief business officer Sujit Janardanan the chief marketing officer both come both from Google. Pande is an entrepreneur with an exit that was successful, is responsible for the growth and development in Cropin’s accounts strategic. “The Agri sector is booming currently, and over the next few years, you will see the growth of some major agri-tech companies across the globe,” he says. “We do not have an agri-tech unicorn as of yet in India and likely not anywhere else in the world,” but that will be changing sooner or later.
“Sustainable agriculture and food are the main investment focus of ABC World Asia,” stated David Heng, founder and CEO of ABC World Asia, in an announcement in June of this year when his firm made an investment into Cropin’s series C financing. The investors who have invested in Cropin comprise BeeNext as well as the Bill & Melinda gates Foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund. Cropin already has $33.1 million in funding thus to date. Cropin has an official advisory board comprised of Barrett Mooney, chairman of the board of directors of AgEagle, Ranveer Chandra, chief scientist at Microsoft, TVG Krishnamurthy, director of the Ola Board of Directors for Ola the company, as well as Iya Khalil, head of the global division of the AI Innovation Center at Novartis.
Karan Mohla, partner at Chiratae Ventures India Advisors, at the time of the series C financing”says “We are extremely excited about the new models Cropin is creating… to serve a variety of stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem.” Cropin is “on the brink of reaching massive scale as a global corporation.”
Community and partnerships
The company’s founders aren’t ignoring the industry’s partnerships, also. Cropin has established a long-lasting partnership and a close relationship with Amazon Web Services, for instance. “We cooperate with AWS globally to offer solutions to large companies within the US” which own hundreds of hectares of farmland are able to manage multiple crops and employ sophisticated ML tools, Pande says.
For information, Cropin has tie-ups with IBM Weather, six satellite services, and a variety of mechanisation companies. Cropin has also joined forces with other high-tech firms like Teralytic that can measure the health of soils and moisture up to 10 feet below, Jalan says, and enterprise system integrators, such as True Digital in Southeast Asia, Nokia in Europe, and Eco BCG in the US.
Thus far, Cropin’s SmartFarm has helped customers get farm-level information in digital formats. “What we’re now experiencing a surge in the growth of products that are related to intelligence,” Pande says, which include SmartRisk which is a information on regional crops and PlotRisk to provide information on the plot level.
Janardanan is focused on spreading awareness about Cropin’s capabilities, and position it as an AI technology leading in the field of agriculture. There’s also a chance to build a community of experts and professionals in the field since this is still a new market, he claims.
The magnitude and extent of the issues within the industry are so huge that it will require all within the ecosystem to work together. For instance, “if I don’t have an existing marketplace, how could I find an online marketplace partner to connect with my platform” to gain mutual benefits Janardanan suggests. “Or could I find an John Deere or a Mahindra to connect with the Internet of Things sensors from their farm machinery into my pipelines of data. This is the biggest change, and it’s the direction we’re aiming for.”