[The Turning Point] This techie started an agritech startup to help farmers earn a fair price for their produce
India’s agriculture sector has been facing a crisis on many fronts. One of the many difficulties faced by the agriculture community is selling the produce at reasonable prices.
Pradeep PS, a software engineer, saw it all very closely and decided to solve it with his startup Farmers Fresh Zone or FarmersFZ. Started in 2016, the Kerala-based agritech startup is an online marketplace that sells vegetables, fruits, spices, and other farm products directly to consumers from farmers. The startup also helps farmers in production planning and to follow good agriculture practices.
Pradeep claims the company has helped farmers to improve their income by 20 percent. “We have a unique cluster approach that helps us achieve fresh fruits and vegetables direct from farm-gate to the customer’s doorstep in 15 hours,” he adds.
He says, “We run on a simple philosophy - connect rural farmers with urban customers by sourcing produce that is fresh as well as pure produce, delivering it at their doorsteps.”
How it started?
Growing up in an agricultural family in Kerala, Pradeep saw his family members were finding it difficult to sell their produce at a reasonable price. When he realised this was a constant problem for his family members, he spoke to other farmers to know more about the problem.
Pradeep realised there was a lack of marketing in the space, and an ecommerce platform could solve that problem. Out of curiosity to learn more, he joined as a web developer at Fingent, a New York-based custom software development company in Kochi. During this time, he developed and launched the website for FarmersFZ in 2015 as a side hustle, and in eight months, he had around 52 customers. He went back to his hometown Kodakara in Thrissur, Kerala, and partnered with eight farmers and assured them a good price for their produce.
“Initially, we used to sell outside our workplace at Infopark, Kochi, after my work hours. We were also able to get more reach with the support from companies such as UST Global and TCS. We could develop corporate model with them where in they allowed us to set up stalls within their office premises,” recalls Pradeep. The team soon got incubated by Nasscom. In 2016, Pradeep left his job and decided to focus full-time on FarmersFZ. In just three months of official launch in 2016, Pradeep says the startup started earning profit.
A subscription model box
Apart from ensuring a fair price for farmers’ produce, the startup has also developed a tech-based algorithm for yield prediction and profit calculation depending on the data collected on the platform. The team has also taken into demand prediction to understand the consumer demand patterns, and based on this, the farmers are asked to cultivate crops accordingly.
Recently, the startup introduced a unit-level traceability feature called ‘Know Your Farmer’ as part of quality control, facilitating regular checks to ensure non-toxic and pesticide-free products.
FarmersFZ, which operates from four Kerala cities, achieved a five-fold growth in the 2020-21 fiscal. “With a focus only on fruits and vegetables, we are India’s first startup in the direct-to-consumer sector to cross $1 million in revenue in a financial year,” claims Pradeep.
FarmersFZ is planning to expand to six cities this year outside of Kerala, and is targeting a revenue of Rs 300 crore in next three years.
In 2018, the startup raised Rs 2.5 crore from Indian Angel Network, Malabar Angels, and Nativelead Foundation. Now, the startup is in talks with investors to raise Series-A investment to expand to more cities in south India.