India’s organic food and beverage consumption has grown in recent years due to its advanced demographic dividend, improved purchasing power and increased interest for the perceived health and wellness benefits of certain organic products. In market year (MY) 2019, organic food and beverage retail sales reached $69 million and is estimated to grow in the short-term at a CAGR 20 percent – taking it above the $2 billion mark by 2024. Further propelled by a surge of demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, India continues to be an emerging market for organic food and beverages with robust prospects.
The main challenges in organic supply chain are related to cost and logistics of moving locally produced organic produce to the market. The concept of food mileage which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of production until it reaches the consumer, gains prime importance in organic food. The faster it reaches the greater the shelf life. Adi Naturals, an Organic B2B platform in association with the Centre for Sustainable Development a NGO undertook a study on the organic food supply chain in Karnataka and Telangana. As a part of the study, organic farmers and farmer groups (50) were visited at the farming sites and interviewed to know the current status of organic farming and the organic market including use of technology.
The study revealed that most organic farmers get subsidy for organic certification of NPOP and NOP, and so the area under cultivation has increased quite substantially. Most farmers have been trained in organic cultivation by different experts and are therefore aware of the methods. They claim that they get yield lower than chemical based farming, but the investment is much lesser compared to the latter and hence more profitable.Most farmers do only basic quality check which is primary or manual cleaning. Few are providing lab tests based on demand from buyers. While some of the farmers have machines for cleaning and grading most are not aware of how grading is done for organic produce.
The study also found that majority of farmers are aware of mobile apps though they do not use them frequently.Regarding the utility value of the app, they suggested the app can be used for dual purpose. One is to put up their products for sale (in case they get better price or unsold stock) and the other to get or share information on better farming practices especially to improve their crop yield, better manure and combating pest menace.
Interestingly no farmer has a pre-fixed contract with any customer. Farmers are hesitant to go in for any written contract as they feel it binds their freedom to sell and the price may get locked in, which is disadvantageous to them. Most of them are willing to sell their produce to any customer if they get a good price. They sell it at 20% higher price than the APMC yard price since it is organic.
In order to address the supply chain issues related to quality and strengthen the market linkage, a virtual decentralized aggregation model is proposed based on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
The biggest missing link is the availability of real time farm level data to the buyer that can enable them to make buying decisions much faster and more accurately. Real time farm-level data is possible by having Raitha Sahayaks (RS) based on geographical locations close to the places of organic cultivation. In order to provide more accurate information, the RS has to make a basic quality assessment from the quality related data collected from the farm such as colour, size, infestation and broken material. The quality related information will be also uploaded along with the produce of the farmer. This information will give the buyer a firsthand idea of the quantity and quality of the produce he is looking for. If the buyer is satisfied with the information, he can place an order online. In case the buyer needs more information, he can contact the RS and get necessary information. Several such RSs can be on-boarded with the help of an app. The app will contain details of the farmers and the produce from each RS.. Based on farm level information the RS will send out messages to the buyers on the type of produce that is available which matches closest to buyer requirement.
In summary AI based Quality Control Platform does quality analysis of organic staples along with shelf life calculation. It also does prediction and suggestions to clean the material to enhance shelf life. It can recommend the right buyers to sellers and vice versa which makes easier decision making and faster way to close the deals using Raitha Sahayaks.