This organic farming startup is changing the way we eat and helping farmers with better income
“You are what you eat.” This famous phrase captures the essence of healthy eating, and there is an increased shift towards consuming foods that are organic and chemical-free. The demand for such produce has sparked the interest of entrepreneurs to cultivate organic food.
One such example is Bengaluru-headquartered Nimble Growth Organics. Founded by Rahul Saria and Nagendra Kalkuli in 2017, the startup is cultivating a wide range of organic food such as fruits, vegetables, exotics, and greens.
Nimble Growth claims to be cultivating about 150 tonnes of organic produce a month and is engaged with over 250 farmers who are cultivating organic produce spread across 500 acres. The cultivation is done at Haveri, Gundlupet, rural Bengaluru, and various other locations in Karnataka, and the produce is being sold in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
The founders have been successful professionals in the field of technology and finance but had the urge to do something in the larger interest of the society.
“We wanted to do something for the society, which can have multi-fold benefits. We decided to cultivate healthy food that will transform chemical farming to organic farming,” says Rahul, who has worked with startups like Vedantu and Rentomojo.
Nagendra comes from an agricultural family and had a good understanding of the ground realities of the farming sector. Although he spent close to two decades with the technology industry, he says agriculture has always been his passion.
Before reaching out to farmers to convince them about organic farming, the co-founders went about learning as well as understanding the best practices in this area. They met some of the leading experts in the field, including farmers, who were into organic farming.
This led to the creation of a unique proprietary knowledge bank by Nimble Growth called the package of practice (PoP), wherein it lists out the steps to be taken — from soil content testing to harvesting of the organic produce.
However, it was not easy for the team as it had to convince farmers about shifting from conventional farming to organic methods. The key challenge was to do with loss in income.
“The biggest challenge of converting from chemical to organic farming is that the yield dips by about 30-40 percent in the first two years of cultivation,” says Rahul. The yield from organic farming matches that of chemical cultivation in about three years, and after that, there is higher output.
To overcome this challenge, Nimble Growth convinced the farmers that they would purchase all their produce at a pre-determined price even before sowing. This ensured there was no loss of income for the farmers during the transition period.
Rahul also cites the element of trust in building a harmonious relationship with the farmers as the community was keen on having a long-term engagement.
Added to this, the farmers were not tech-savvy, and efforts had to be made about the entire technology process of organic farming. To overcome this, Nagendra has been spending the majority of his time with the farmers.
Nimble Growth managed to rope in a sizeable number of farmers for organic cultivation. The startup also guided the farmers in a step-by-step process — from sowing to harvesting.
The startup also leveraged various kinds of technologies to monitor the entire process as it wanted to ensure the traceability of the produce.
Rahul says, “Through our laptops in Bengaluru, we can monitor the progress in the farms.”
As part of its business model, Nimble Growth aims to enter into contract farming with the farmers, where it sources their produce at a pre-determined price.
The startup has demand coming in largely from B2B customers, which include large format retail stores, independent outlets, and online marketplaces and aggregators.
Further to this, data plays a pivotal role at Nimble Growth. Starting from annual demand prediction, breaking down the same to three seasons and further breakdown to monthly and weekly harvesting plans at an SKU level requires a good crunching of numbers using data science.
“Our production and SCM plan has multiple variables to play around with – SKU, farmer location, production capacity, soil quality, pricing, MSP, delivery time, route mapping, order management, quality, etc.,” says Abhishek Bhagchandka, a founding member who takes care of the Operations and Analytics.
Given the strides made by Nimble Growth since 2017, it now has farmers who are approaching them to shift themselves into organic farming.
“We want to create the social impact along with scale, and Nimble Growth looks at farmers as partners,” says Rahul.
The farmers are also benefitting as organic produce commands a higher premium in the market, resulting in higher income. Nagendra claims some of the farmers are generating around Rs 1.5 lakh income per month.
Business and future plans
The bootstrapped venture has already received angel funding from some of the leading startup founders.
According to Rahul, the startup has already achieved an EBITDA break even with healthy gross margins.
The organic produce market in India was estimated to be around $1 billion in size in 2020 and is growing at around 20-25 percent annually, according to multiple estimates.
The founder of Nimble Growth believes there is enough room for every player in this segment, and it does not see any large scale organic farming entity as competition in the present scenario.
Rahul believes the USP of Nimble Growth Organics is its PoP and its certification from regulatory authorities for being an organic producer, which is a very stringent process.
Also, Nimble Growth’s technology ensures traceability of its produce to ensure quality standards.
“We are a super passionate team, and our idea is to grow with strong fundamentals, and one can succeed only if you are there in the farms day in and day out. We bring in a rich combination of corporate and farming experience,” says Rahul.
Nimble Growth is looking to add about 1,000 farmers during the course of this year and cater to more metros.
“We would like to increase our SKUs and the market reach in terms of export of fruits and medicinal plants, and are looking to expand to the five neighbouring states,” says Pradeep M L, a founding member, who heads Sales at Nimble Growth.
Edited by Megha Reddy