Saturday Sprouting Reads (Bayer<>Microsoft, MSP, Agrifood Lifesciences)
Greetings from Hyderabad! Welcome to the last 2021 edition of fortnightly Saturday Sprouting Reads!
Programming Update: In other news, Agribusiness Matters became a parent and delivered twin babies recently.
Saturday Sprouting Reads - Fortnightly Saturday Meditation Ritual to ruminate over 2-3 articles in Agritech and Agribusiness. As slowly as wise cows do.
Agrifood Life Sciences Files - Fortnightly Look at Emerging Developments in the world of Agrifood Life Sciences from India and other large smallholder farming countries' context.
By default, all readers of this newsletter would be notified when I publish stories from the twins and the parent, which will focus exclusively on subscriber-only stories. However, you can choose to receive /not receive separate email notifications when I publish them under different sections.
This is part of my master plan to pivot Saturday Sprouting Reads as a separate brand under the umbrella of Agribusiness Matters and do interesting content sponsorship experiments with “outlier” agritech startups tenaciously chasing the elusive holy grail called “Sustainable Impact”. If you are keen to reach out to a 28K+ agritech/agribusiness-focused audience across LinkedIn and Substack and have “unconventional” content sponsorship ideas, let’s talk.
This will be the last post for 2021. The next subscriber-only post will be published in the first week of January. Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Próspero año y felicidad
My name is Venky. I write Agribusiness Matters every week to grapple with vexing questions of food, agribusiness, and digital transformation in an era of Climate change. Feel free to dig around the archives if you are new here.
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.
If you’ve been paying attention to Bayer India’s partnerships with Indian agritech startups over the past two years, you see an interesting pattern.
The central insight that strings all these partnerships together is a powerful force multiplier for agritech startups: Agritech Startups Are the New Channel Partners for agri-input manufacturers.
In this subscriber-only article, I dig more into the Bayer-Microsoft partnership and address two questions:
What makes Bayer set an “ambitious target of 100-percent digitally enabled sales in the Crop Science division by 2030”?
Why can’t Bayer do “100-percent digitally enabled sales” through traditional channel partners? Aren’t they too going digital? Why do they need agritech startups to be their channel partners?
Chief Economic Advisor, Government of India, Krishnan Subramanian pens a damn persuasive oped narrative about the dangers of legalizing MSP.
Even if you are the kind who is somewhat empathetic to the demands of farmers in the ongoing farm laws controversy in India, if you read this article, it’s highly likely that you might start to question if your empathy is grounded with reason.
Narratives are the ponzi schemes of your mind. And it is to the credit of this economist to spin a seductive narrative that is built on a tenuous premise: Newspapers ~ = Crops.
If you are a grey piller like me, someone who prefers to delve into the nuance without taking any sides, I would recommend reading yet another economist’s oped which starts wisely with the quote, “politics and nuance are strangers”.
It was around May earlier this year when Mark Kahn and I started talking about agri-food life sciences and how India seems completely lost in the hype about digital technologies that we've forgotten how essential life sciences are.
By focusing only on digital technologies, the agritech revolution underway in India has completely neglected agrifood life sciences.
We started talking with various entrepreneurs, and soon Renuka Diwan joined in and dug deeper, sharing more data points that showed us how abysmal the scene in India is when compared to what it could really be.
When we study how technology evolves over time, we discover that every technological revolution, at some point of its evolution, will face strong limiting factors that prevent the technology from attaining its full potential.
When few components of interlinked technological systems progress faster than others, the laggards become the limiting factor.
Technology historian Thomas Hughes called these limiting factors “Reverse Salients”. Technological revolutions cannot leapfrog into the next stage of evolution until the reverse salient is addressed.
The agritech revolution that is underway in India is currently struggling with a “reverse salient” that no one strangely seems to be talking about.
We talk about agri-food life sciences in our oped with The Indian Express. This is my first oped in a traditional newspaper. I mean, those which come with word limits from dead trees. This also opens my foray into the emerging world of Agri-food Lifesciences.
With my new newsletter section, Agrifood Lifesciences Files, I am going to slowly crawl into this world (as babies do) and ask stupid questions and make sense of it, as I crawl along.
Soon after I published this oped, a curious friend pinged me with this question.
“..What is the real issue? Biotech companies are in plenty. For more, you need more demand for biofertilizers, etc. which doesn't exist. Indian veggies don't want to eat fake meat and Indian non-veggies definitely do not want to eat fake meat. …So what is expected to change and why?”
I will delve into this question in the first edition of Agri-food Lifesciences Files. Stay tuned.
So, what do you think?
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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