Mahindra: Finding RoboFarmer

The Space

Don’t even ask how much the global agriculture business is worth! Well, if you did ask, it would be $5 trillion and set to grow by a further 70% by 2050. Powering this enormous market and optimising agricultural production is the precision farming market worth $5bn in 2020 and forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13% out to 2027. Increasing investments in technologies such as driverless tractors, guidance system, and GPS sensing systems are expected to contribute to the growth of the precision agriculture market. Mahindra & Mahindra is an Indian tractor builder established over 50 years ago and now the world’s largest tractor company by volume, producing over 330,000 tractors annually (to March 2019) and sold in 40 countries.

The Brief

There are over 2 million Mahindra tractors operating worldwide today. But what does tomorrow’s tractor look like? The precision farming division of Mahindra wanted to know what new technologies and solutions were coming down the line in terms of robotics and automation to help the farmer increase output without additional effort or cost. Furthermore, with a focus on smaller Indian and Chinese farms, any technologies should be relevant to the specific needs and operating models of those business.

What We Did
  • We prepared the ground We conducted an online workshop with the Mahindra team to understand and prioritise the crop types, farming styles and farm sizes we should focus on. The current state of the market is such that each technology 
  • We planted We reached out to our network of innovation nodes to seed and discover what was going on in farming automation. As we engaged with the market, we found that the key challenge of automating farm operations is resulting in an incredibly diverse range of solutions and approaches to this key challenge. From hardware to software and from automating existing machinery to inventing entirely new categories of machine, we found there is a lot of innovation out there.  We mapped and categorised these findings to help make sense of the market and summarised over 200 innovative ventures and developments for Mahindra to review.
  • We harvested Reviewing the ventures with Mahindra over a series of iterative sessions allowed us to separate the wheat from the chaff and identify which ventures to connect with. 12 tri-party calls were set up to enable the ventures and Mahindra to connect, ask questions and develop a better understanding of their respective businesses, understand the potential fit and make decisions on where to go next.

What Happened Next

Of the 12 shortlisted ventures and technologies, Mahindra chose to continue with 5, taking them to the next level of negotiation and relationship building.