Amidst COVID-19, this farm-to-table startup is helping farmers earn more with cloud farming
About 58 percent of the Indian population’s livelihood depends on the agricultural sector.
However, issues such as higher input costs, difficulties in availing credit, access to good quality seeds, middle-man exploitation, storage and supply chain issues, and natural calamities like drought, flood, etc., plague the Indian farmer community.
Having grown up seeing the issues besetting the agricultural landscape, Vikas Mittal and Ankit Agarwal, Co-founders of agritech startup Orinko, decided to improve farmer’s quality of living.
With Orinko, the co-founders aim to revolutionise the agritech landscape and improve farmers' quality of living while building credibility for end-customers.
Vikas and Ankit met each other while working at Adobe in 2010. After pursuing his MBA from IIM-Shillong, Vikas joined Delhivery in July 2014. Meanwhile, Ankit also moved to the Gurugram-based logistics startup and joined Vikas in the product team in March 2017. While working there, the duo always discussed the problems faced by the Indian farmers and wanted to find solutions for them.
Finally, in October 2019, Orinko was incorporated as a full-stack agritech fruit and vegetable (FnV) startup and became operational in February this year.
The Bengaluru startup aims to make farming more sustainable, predictable, and profitable for farmers with the use of technology while keeping in mind the consumers’ needs.
“We work on a unique model that addresses the farmers' needs, as well as that of the end customers when it comes to fruit and vegetable produce,” Vikas Mittal, CEO and Co-founder, Orinko, tells YourStory.
Using the cloud farming model, Orinko has integrated with farmers and micro-entrepreneurs, providing them access to the market with price transparency, thereby eliminating the middle-man.
The startup sells farmers produce in the market under its brand, thus providing them with a market-competitive price, on-time payment, and delivery support.
It also ensures timely farm inspections, operational support, logistics for farmers, and on-time payment — all of which are the major hurdles for the farming community. The cloud model, in turn, ensures meeting the minimum produce weight requirements and revenue.
“When it comes to the customers, we are solving trust, price, and availability issues. We are building trust with our customers by allowing them to trace the produce journey of fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables — from the seed to the store,” says Ankit Agarwal, COO and Co-founder, Orinko.
According to the co-founders, Orinko stands for four value propositions, which it wants to deliver to its customer through its farm produce.
Firstly, all the fruits and vegetables provided by the startup are chemical-free. Secondly, the unique traceability QR code on each vegetable packet provides the seed to table tracing information and images of the farm where it is grown.
Thirdly, all the products are tested for quality checks internally and in government-approved labs. And finally, utmost care is taken regarding hygiene at each step of the supply chain.
How is it solving the farmer’s issues
Apart from traditional farming practices, Orinko also helps farmers with hydroponics (soil-less) farming to efficiently increase the production of healthy fruits and vegetables.
Its hydroponics farms are regulated and meticulously monitored for nutrients. Presently, these farms produce about 30 percent of fruits and vegetables. The remaining 70 percent of the produce comes from regular soil farms.
In fact, agri experts visit these farms regularly and work closely with the cloud farmers with planning, farm infra setup, agricultural input selection, input procurement, growing and monitoring, harvesting, packaging, transportation, and sales.
These specialists take readings of key parameters using Orinko’s app. Based on the readings, they suggest solutions to the farmers. All the information gathered can be remotely accessed by the farmers or the startup through a mobile phone.
“We ensure farmers get fair pricing and earn maximum profits. We create a schedule of staggered plantation and harvesting with the farmer for the whole crop cycle. Our in-house developed precision agriculture technology platform empowers farmers to manage crops, operational processes, finances, and workforce. The platform enables farmers to remotely monitor and track the productivity of each person, process, and operation inside the farm from his mobile/desktop,” Vikas says.
The QR code on the packets enables consumers to trace the product journey, thereby maximising their experience. Upon scanning the QR code with a smartphone camera with an active internet connection, customers are directed to a page that contains information, including the kind of seeds and insecticides used while growing the vegetable, its origin, age, and shipping details.
“The entire network has been planned to maximise the freshness of the produce and to maintain the 24-hour timeline we promised our customers. So, right from the plantation of seeds, monitoring the harvest, bringing to the facilitation centre, and making it available at the customer doorstep — everything is enabled with technology into the entire value chain to maintain this kind of freshness,” Ankit explains.
Orinko’s farm produce is available in over 200 offline stores, as well as across multiple online channels, including Supr Daily, Dunzo, Swiggy, Fresh To Home, Star Bazaar, The Organic World, and Town Essentials. It is planning to tie up with Amazon and Flipkart in the months to come.
COVID-19 impact and future plans
Orinko has an annual run rate of Rs 3.2 crore, and it aims to scale it up to Rs 14 crore in the next three to six months.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on its business as consumption patterns of consumers changed. Vikas says, “After COVID-19, consumers have become more aware and concerned about hygienic, healthy, and safe food. Our unique traceability feature provides this transparency and addresses such concerns. Since March 2020, we have seen a 17X growth in our business.”
The agritech startup has built a network of over 25 cloud farmers with over 50 acres of farm and 32 SKUs (stock-keeping units), functioning across Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune. It also has plans to expand to other cities in the next six months with an additional 50+ SKUs.
However, hiring has always been a challenge for the co-founders since they cannot pay similar salaries like that of Amazon or Flipkart to their employees.
“To tackle this, we reached out to our friends from previous companies, IITs, and IIMs, and pitched our idea. We offered ESOPs to our employees to compensate for the salary part,” Vikas says.
In December 2019, Orinko raised a seed funding of $1.5 million from early-stage venture capital fund 021 Capital, backed by Flipkart Founder Binny Bansal.
Edited by Suman Singh