These five agritech startups help farmers grow better and healthier produce
Agriculture is the backbone of the country. With over 70 percent Indian households still dependant on farming, the sector holds a huge potential for agritech startups. Today, a farmer rarely knows where his produce ends up, or how. With global warming and scarcity of water, he is protesting for sustainable practices and more support from the government.
The Modi government, in its manifesto for the elections, promised to double a farmer’s income by 2022. In the recent budget too, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasised on “gaon, garib aur kisan” being the government’s agenda. She too promised to invest in agriculture, and was reported to have said,
“We will support private entrepreneurships in driving value addition to farmers’ produce from the field and for those from allied activities, like bamboo and timber from the hedges, and for generating renewable energy.”
YourStory digs deep into the fields of agriculture to unearth startups using technology to benefit agriculture and simplify processes:
Launched in 2016, VilFresh provides village fresh agro and milk products to people in Coimbatore. It also supports the livelihoods of small-holder farmers and rural youth.
Founded by Selvakumar Varadharajan, it has provided employment opportunities to more than 2,000 people. Born to a middle-class agricultural family in Tamil Nadu, 37-year-old Selva has a master's in finance and control from Shri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya College of Arts and Sciences (SNMV) in Coimbatore and an M Phil in management from Periyar University, Salem.
Laymen Agro operates under the brand VilFresh. In a previous interview with YourStory, he had revealed, “We have identified our priorities as the three Es - enriching farmers, empowering rural youth, and exciting urban customers.”
The startup recently raised Rs 1.15 crore in angel funding led by Native Angels, with participation from Upaya Social Ventures and Sangam Ventures. With this, the startup plans to enter Tirupur and Madurai soon.
FreshVnF is founded by agripreneurs Atul Kumar, Vikas Dosala, Sumit Rai, and Aashish Krishnatre in 2018. It uses machine learning (ML) to optimise a farm-to-fork supply chain by connecting farmers with hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Claiming to have delivered more than 15 tonnes of fresh produce per day to more than 300 clients, it is now aiming to provide fresh farm produce to the end customer within 16 hours of harvesting.
Based in Mumbai, FreshVnF recently raised $2 million in a funding round led by Equanimity Ventures with participation from GVFL (Gujarat Venture Finance Limited) and non- executive vice-chairman of Asian Paints Limited, Manish Choksi, through his family office.
Fruit Box & Co
Founded by Rishi Sakhuja and sister-in-law Radhika Gupta Singh, Delhi-based Fruit Box & Co is an ecommerce platform with B2B and B2C verticals, providing healthy alternatives to snack on fruits.
The startup was bootstrapped in August 2018 with an initial investment of Rs 10 lakh. Prior to this, the 32-year-old Rishi had worked with Super Banana, which supplies to retailers like Bigbasket and Modern Bazaar. There, he noticed that people were becoming increasingly conscious about healthy eating. Fruit Box & Co was born from this observation.
Radhika was at that time working for a bakery (Ambrosia Cakes) where she observed how fruits were substandard in quality. She joined Rishi in bringing healthy fruits to consumers.
Radhika now manages the design and packaging while Rishi is in charge of sourcing, farmer networks, wholesalers, and importers.
So far, the duo has tied up with over 500 farmers, wholesalers and importers. Their fruits are sourced from different countries across the world. While bananas, mangoes, oranges, grapes and strawberries are mainly produced locally, they import apples from the US and New Zealand, guavas and passion fruit from Thailand, avocados from Mexico, and pears from the US.
This agritech startup was founded in 2010 by Devendra Gupta, Prateek Singhal and Vivek Pandey. The startup develops technology-enabled products to strengthen the farm-to-fork value chain of perishables, with a focus on renewable energy and sustainable development.
Based in Pune, Ecozen has developed two products so far – Ecofrost, a portable cold room that maintains low temperature, and Ecotron, a pump controller for irrigation. Both are solar powered.
Last month, the startup raised an undisclosed amount of funding in Series A from Caspian and the Hivos-Triodos Fund.
With plans to launch a new cold chain of products, and enter new geographies for irrigation sales, co-founder Devendra Gupta revealed that Ecozen is looking to raise another round of funding soon.
Approximately 20,000 farmers in India have used their products, the company says.
FIB-SOL Life Technologies
Founded by Anant Raheja and Kavitha Sairam in 2013, the startup develops low-cost bio-fertilisers that help farmers to improve crop yield and soil quality. FIB-SOL also aims to improve product shelf life for manufacturers, help suppliers stock inventory efficiently, and boost farmers’ income as well.
They offer three products under GEL and DROPS which contain microbes that provide nutrients to make farmland more fertile for cultivation. They are priced at Rs 420 and Rs 100, respectively.
The idea of starting up struck Anant while he was pursuing his doctoral degree in 2012. At the time, the IIT-M alumni affairs office launched a programme to provide Rs 10 lakh to boost entrepreneurship in biotechnology. Anant took a chance, and Kavitha Sairam joined him.
In May last year, the startup also received Rs 1.5 crore in angel investment from Keiretsu Forum in Chennai.
(Edited by Suruchi Kapur)