Five farming-as-a-service startups that are empowering farmers, and making the sector more profitable
Farmers are the backbone of the nation, with over 70 percent of Indian households still dependent on farming. However, over the last few decades, farmers have become the forgotten workers of the nation.
But thanks to the startup era, farmers appear to have come to the forefront, in large part, due to agritech companies. Adopting the farming-as-a-service (FaaS) model, numerous agritech startups are now endeavouring to bring forth farming-related advanced technological mechanisms to help farming become a sustainable and profit-yielding enterprise.
These agritech startups provide a wide variety of services to farmers – from providing farming equipment at affordable prices, to ensuring crop protection.
Not only are FaaS-based agritech companies aiding the farming community to become more profitable, they are also able to make profits themselves. Perhaps this is why even big tech giants such as IBM are betting big on the agrarian sector.
This is thanks to an increased interest from investors looking to infuse millions in the companies. One of the primary ways by which such startups differ from other traditional farming solutions is by offering technology-driven solutions to current farming issues.
Below is a list of some of the most innovative and successful agritech startups, revolutionising the agricultural community in India.
Oxen Farm Solutions
Founded in 2012, Oxen Farm Solutions aims to boost India's agricultural productivity by ensuring farming equipment is made affordable and accessible. According to Founder Vishwajeet Sinha, the company brings all the parties involved - the farmers, the farming equipment manufacturers, and the government policies - on to one platform.
According to Vishwajeet, mechanisation is the solution to labour issues - a problem every farmer faces across India. However, mechanisation can be a costly affair for farmers, since most use farming machinery only for a few weeks. To address this issue, he created Oxen, aiming to help farmers rent out equipment at affordable prices.
Oxen provides equipment for various services, including land preparation, crop harvesting, management, and more. The founder claims that Oxen reduces farmers' labour cost by 50 percent. The firm also uses high-tech mechanisms, such as IoT, to determine machine performances. Oxen also uses satellite images to look into the health of the crops and harvesting status.
The company is now established in five Indian states - Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, but hopes to expand its services to more states.
This farmer engagement startup, which adopts farm-to-mill, farm-to-fork, and farm-to-warehouse models, aims to link farmers to the marketplace. Founded by Balaji Balaram in 2015, Agribolo has engaged over 2.5 lakh farmers across India. Agribolo aims to break through the current and established agricultural trend, which is usually controlled by moneylenders and middlemen.
According to Balaji, to overcome the farmers' crippling debt and consistent crop failures, a partnership and co-ownership model must be adopted in the agricultural sector.
In an earlier interaction with YourStory, Balaji said,
“We plan to achieve it through creating the decentralised ecosystem and looking at the farmer as an opportunity instead of a customer or a consumer, as this will enable us to create a host of business opportunities to make the franchise model and the rural distribution model sustainable."
Agribolo allows farmers to determine the kind of services they require according to the season, demand, and supply. Farmers can also partner with various businesses available on Agribolo's platform.
Its Kisan Seva Kendra provides farmers with the opportunity to connect with banks and financial organisations, and aims to reduce the farm interest rates from the current 24 percent to 10 percent per annum. Agribolo also hopes to raise around $6 million to $8 million, and expand its platform to connect farmers across India.
Founded in 2016, FaaS-based Gold Farm enables farmers to access any farm equipment via a mobile app, or by contacting the firm's call centre. Founders Abhilash Thirupathy and Karthic Ravindranath aim to help both farmers and tractor owners profit by connecting them via the mobile app. So far, Gold Farm's platform connects around 250 booking agents, and over 500 tractor owners to farmers in its mobile app.
Gold Farm employs over 100 people, and has helped over 25,000 farmers. The firm has also converted 7,500 hectares of barren land, and has helped plough and harvest over 25,000 hectares of land across two districts in Karnataka. Although the firm is currently established only in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, it hopes to expand across eight more Indian states, and also into Bangladesh.
The company was launched in 2016 by Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, and aims to rent farming equipment to farmers at affordable rates across the country. The firm has a toll-free number, and a mobile app that helps connect farmers to the platform and place orders for farm equipment.
The company has already helped over one lakh farmers, and is established in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
This farm equipment-providing startup aims to make farming more affordable and respectable. The idea of launching the firm first occurred to Alekh Sanghera when he heard his 88-year-old grandfather talk about how farming is no longer considered a reputable profession.
Sanghera, along with his friend Mehtab Singh Hans and their mentor Lokesh Singh, founded farMart. So far, the company's services has been availed in over 300 villages and by over 1,500 farmers.
Empowering farmers is the need of the hour, not just to ensure that farmers' livelihoods are secure but also to bridge the ever growing gap between India's burgeoning population and the possible scarcity of food. Unlike India's population, the nation's agricultural production has not grown as rapidly. If India is to avoid a major food shortage in the future, farming must be made a sustainable profession.