Spearheading the crop revolution are startups and entrepreneurs who believe that organic farming and millet cultivation is the last hope to produce food without destroying the environment.
India is celebrating 2018 as the ‘Year of Millets.’ While the health benefits of millets are well known, this crop is beneficial even for the farmers. The water-retentive nature of the crop and easy growth, coupled with high nutrition value makes millet a super crop.
Millet consumption has witnessed a steep decline in the past decades with a decrease in production from 40 to 20 percent since the Green Revolution. However, today with more people realising the health and lifestyle benefits associated with millets, there is an increased global demand for this crop.
And spearheading this crop revolution are startups and entrepreneurs who believe that organic farming and millet cultivation is the last hope to produce food without destroying the environment.
Below we list few of these organisations.
1. ONganic Foods
With the aim to find a market-driven solution for small organic farmers, Ekta Jaju founded ONganic Foods in 2015. Based in West Bengal, this social enterprise is working across the value chain – farming, processing, research and development, domestic sales, and exports.
Through their organisation, the team assists the farmers to lower their cost of cultivation, and helps revive the soil. Through contract farming, ONganic gives farmers access to premium markets, and market information ensures that the farmer makes an informed decision on what to grow.
“Cultivating organically with the community has led to a revival of native salt-tolerant varieties that had been forgotten. Through ONganic, we now sell this product to an urban consumer and increase our incomes,” says Laxmi Mondal, an organic farmer from Sunderban.
ONganic produces 50 plus organic products, including a wide range of exotic rice, oil seeds, spices, pulses, and herbs. Their supply chain encompasses 300 farmers and they work on over 200 hectares of land. They aim to impact 10,000 farmers by 2025.
A spin-off of non-profit SwitchON, ONganic is supported by the Technology Development Board, Government of India; Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprise; and is incubated by Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
2. Health Sutra
Founded by Sai Krishna Popuri and Maheedhar N V, this Hyderabad-based startup offers a wide range of products made of jowar, bajra, and ragi.
“Sutra is a Sanskrit word for a rule or a formula, and our Sutra is offering people a healthy lifestyle,” the team explains.
The team realised that millets formed an integral part of Indian diet traditionally. However, with the change in lifestyle and dietary habits, consumption of millets stopped in households; hence, through ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat food products such as flakes, rawa, porridge and pops, Health Sutra aims to reintroduce these healthy grains.
These products are free from gluten, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. At present, Health Sutra’s products are available in over 850 stores across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
3. Sucitva bio-products
Sucitva bio-products, an organic and natural products company, is on a mission to engage with farmers directly and ensure a sustainable livelihood through “knowledge, innovation, and transformative actions.”
Their aim is to SAVE — soil, agriculture, village, and environment.
"Organic food virtually eliminates the risk of chemical residues; strict avoidance of all chemicals in all stages of production makes organic food much more environmentally friendly because the use of all-natural production methods eliminates the risk of soil and underwater contamination,” the team explains.
By engaging in organic farming and connecting with farmers across the Karnataka region, the organisation sells produce like pulses, spices, cereals, sweeteners, dry fruits, and oil. Further, organic produce is also processed in-house and packaged into various species for food recipes under the brand name of ‘Gramya Dharma.’
The Bengaluru-based social enterprise is conceptualised, financed and managed primarily by women.
Mahesh and Chandra Basavanna have set up OrgTree, which is enabling farmers to grow millet, adding value to their produce and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Based in Madya district of Karnataka, the social enterprise is introducing millets to the urban populace in the form of snacks.
“The idea is to provide healthy food made from locally sourced millet working directly with the farmers. OrgTree follows sustainability to the core in all practices. Sustainability in terms of production and delivery processes, economic and environmental sustainability. Kiru is the product brand name that imbibes all these principles,” says Mahesh.
OrgTree gets its millets and other core ingredients from the community of farmers around the manufacturing facility. Seed distribution events were conducted to encourage farmers to grow millet in the region and those farmers supply millet to OrgTree.
“OrgTree is building a community of millet-growing farmers and building the economy of the region we operate in. It produces finished products in the place where the millets are grown, working directly with the farmers, and passing on their rightful benefits to them,” says Chandra.
Currently bootstrapped, OrgTree has an online presence and delivers to all metropolitan and tier-2 cities across the country.