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AgLab– Apple Tech Series– Innovation Showcase

Updated: Dec 1, 2022



An AgLab- Apple Tech Series- Innovation Showcase was co-hosted by ThinkAg and FIL Industries on 23rd November 2022. The event oversaw an Industry presentation from Amit Bhardwaj, Business Head- Planting Material (Apple), Seven Star Fruits (Mahyco Group), followed by presentations from 4 potential innovators viz. BigHaat, Fasal, SourceTrace and InfyU Labs, represented by Jitesh Shah, COO, Dr. Nilesh Zende, Head- Agri Research, Om Routray, VP- Marketing and Amit Srivastava, Co-Founder & CEO respectively. The event was superbly moderated by Syed Junaid Altaf Bukhari, Group Executive Director, FIL Industries.


The video recording of the AgLab is available on https://youtu.be/THdKLyI2g7E


Below are some key takeaways from the AgLab.


Context

o There is a unique opportunity for India in apples vis-à-vis where we are today and where we can be over the next few years

o For this, many changes in strategy are required at the ground level in planting varieties, cold chain, fruit handling, AgTech innovation and farm mechanisation

o Farmers are facing multiple challenges, starting from logistics to pricing

o Even corporates have faced substantial challenges this year, across different facets, because of the weather dynamics


Apple production – a status report

o Global apple production is 80-83 million tonnes; China is the leading producer, accounts for more than 50 per cent of the production with 42.4 million tonnes

o India produces about 2.2 million tonnes and is ranked fifth globally in apple production behind China, the US, Poland and Turkey

o India’s productivity at 7.4 tonnes a hectare is way below the world average of 16.9 tonnes per hectare and behind those of the US (39.6 tonnes), China (18.6 tonnes) and Poland (13.8 tonnes)

o Various reasons for low productivity in India – genetics, traditional cultivation, non-availability of high-quality dwarfing rootstocks for high density plantation, lack of infrastructure facilities on farm and off farm, other countries have shifted from traditional cultivation to high density plantation


Indian landscape in apple (2022-23, July-June)

o Area planted – 326,000 hectares

o Area harvested – 278,000 hectares

o Bearing trees – 80 million

o Non-bearing trees – 12 million

o Commercial production – 2.3 million tonnes

o Imports – 0.43 million tonnes

o Total supplies – 2.78 million tonnes

o Total consumption – 2.6 million tonnes

o Exports – 45,000 tonnes

o Withdrawal from market – 0.135 million tonnes

o Top six apple growing States in India – Jammu & Kashmir (77.71 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (19.19 per cent), Uttarakhand (2.52 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (0.32 per cent), Nagaland (0.09 per cent), Tamil Nadu (0.01 per cent)

o India is import dependent as far as apples are concerned; so, there is a clear-cut opportunity for domestic production to take it from this level to the next


New paradigm shift from traditional to high density plantation

o Entails a higher investment, but that is more than made up by higher yield, increased productivity and better prices

o For instance, plants per unit are 178 to 250 per hectare in conventional cultivation versus 3,300 to 4,000 per hectare in high density plantation (HDP)

o Investment estimate is ₹15 lakhs per hectare in conventional against ₹40 lakhs per hectare in HDP

o Managing the orchard is challenging in conventional while it is easy in HDP

o The fruit quality is average in conventional against excellent in HDP

o The yield is about 10 tonnes a hectare in conventional cultivation while it is about 70 tonnes a hectare in high density plantation

o The fruiting time is much higher at 7-8 years in conventional cultivation whereas it is only 3-4 years in HDP

o The operational profit is estimated at ₹4.12 lakhs/hectare in conventional cultivation while it is estimated at ₹31.25 lakhs/hectare in HDP

o Farmers are aware of the enormous benefits of shifting to HDP


Opportunities in apple value chain

o Opportunity of one billion planting material universe in apple under HDP cultivation

o Every year, about 2,000-3,000 hectares are shifting from traditional to HDP cultivation, which is valued at about ₹500-1,000 crores of opportunity

o Growth of this shift from traditional to HDP is also increasing at the rate of 1.3 per cent every year

oCold storage capacity in Srinagar is around 200,000 tonnes, which can be as high as 1,000,000 tonnes in years to come

o Domestic demand for apple is increasing at the rate of 4.2 per cent per annum

o Per capita consumption of apple in India is 1.52 kg versus global per capita consumption of 10 kg/year

o Current imports exceed 400,000 tonnes valued at ₹5,500 crores

o Import dependency is increasing every year because of increasing consumption


What companies and AgTech start-ups can bring to the table

o Faster availability of new varieties of quality planting material, with confirmed genetic identity and diseases/virus free

o Bring in globally practised latest horticulture technologies and new rootstocks and scion varieties to Indian growers and orchardists

o State-of-the-art tissue culture laboratories

o Digital first and farmer-centric technology platforms that offer a full stack of services, right from quality inputs, and market and credit linkages

o Crop advisory, precision farming and precision irrigation

o Data analytics that provide powerful insights into customer preference, weather patterns, market trends, price trends

o Soil, topography, moisture advisory and micro-climatic data

o Apple growers practising HDP have benefitted immensely from irrigation advisory and pests and disease alerts

o Help track and trace source from the farm right through the value chain

o Portable, hand-held devices that use infrared spectroscopy with artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine quality inside the fruit without having to cut it open

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