Launched during the pandemic, how this agritech startup onboarded one million farmers, over 50,000 retailers

Bengaluru-based nurture.farm fosters resilient farmers, making agriculture simple, profitable, and sustainable through technology-led solutions.
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Pranav Tiwari and Dhruv Sawhney had one thought when they wanted to start up after working at Ola and Zomato Hyperpure - there are thriving ecosystems for entrepreneurs in many sectors around the world that provide access to the best of talent, working capital, and resources. But for the farmer, there is no such organised ecosystem available.

This led them to start nurture.farm, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UPL, out of Bengaluru in 2020. 

The agritech startup fosters resilient farmers, making agriculture simple, profitable, and sustainable through technology-led solutions. 

The platform already claims to be having one million farmers, 50,000 retailers, has served over 2.5 million acres, and over 2,000 machines.

How it works?

Incubated by UPL, nurture.farm operates as an open platform to supply products, innovation, and mechanisation.  

The startup is part of the OpenAgTM network. According to the founders, UPL has made a renewed commitment to collaboration by bringing together different players in the food system to generate an impact on the society, where agriculture is valued, food is sustainable, and farms and farmers prosper.

OpenAgTM is a network that redefines the way the industry works — open to fresh ideas, innovative techniques, and new answers to make food products more sustainable. 

The startup aims to make agriculture simple, profitable, and sustainable, which enables digitisation of the farming life cycle, higher yield and income for farmers, financial inclusion, and higher value creation of the farming ecosystem, as well as affordable access to products, services, and technology. 

Growth 

Since its inception, nurture.farm claims to have grown to a team of over 150 employees, who have diverse experiences in building and scaling consumer tech, mobility platforms, food tech, agri science, supply chains, and logistics.

Talking about the problem they are looking to solve, Pranav explains, farmers around the world face numerous challenges due to the lack of timely and reliable information, lack of scientific advice, and mechanisation.

He adds, “Their access to crop insurance and health insurance is limited even though they are at the mercy of weather conditions and endure high risk of crop disease and failures. In fact, their risk factors are so high that they do not have the luxury to think long term."

"We can’t get rid of such uncertainty altogether but, by nurturing a sustainable ecosystem that intervenes at every step of the farming life cycle, we can foster the growth of a resilient farmer.” 

The startup’s mission is to build a resilient and sustainable farming ecosystem around the world by reducing risks and improving the quality of life for farmers, through a range of technology-led solutions.

“We have come a long way in the last 18 months. We have grown our mechanisation service offering to eight states across India, covering many new crops. In addition, we have launched a retail distribution ecosystem, onboarding 50k+ retailers, serving multiple brands and categories,” adds Pranav. 

Explaining how they have evolved in the past year, Dhruv says, nurture.farm is bringing together four primary ecosystems as part of its solution offerings:

nurture.farm is a digital platform for farmers to drive precision agriculture at scale through crop health solutions, advisory services, and farm level mechanisation. nurture.retail is an ecommerce platform for retailers to purchase agricultural products from merchants.

nurture.trade connects farmers and buyers and facilitates the supply chain to enable transactions globally with end-to-end traceability. The nurture.sustain platform drives sustainable agriculture globally through regenerative agricultural practices and reward farmers.  

According to UPL’s annual report, Nurture Agtech, the company that owns nurture.farm had a turnover of Rs 3 crore, and loss after tax of Rs 26 crore.

Why an integrated approach? 

Global food security is one the biggest challenges we face today. The agriculture sector needs to feed 7.5+ billion people today and about 11 billion people by the turn of the next century. 

“To rise to this challenge, we need to provide 500 million farmers worldwide with several innovative and affordable solutions, and sustain our planet’s limited resources for a better future. Risk, uncertainty, longevity of farm health, farmer prosperity, and many more factors need to be understood at an ecosystem level to be solved holistically,” says Dhruv. 

By using available interventions, the startup claims to be helping farmers reduce their operating costs by 25-30 percent and increase their overall income by 2x-4x or more (varies by crop and region). 

Some of the key interventions include increase yield/acre for farmers through crop solutions, advisory services, IaaS-spraying, harvesting, and soil testing services with tech-enabled advisory services.

It also focuses on precision agriculture and packages of practices for crops with financial services (insurance, credit), carbon sequestering and water efficient practices through ProNutiva packages, market linkage of buyers to farmers and enabling global trade with traceability, direct to processors and retailers, creating an integrated approach for channeling global funding into scaling precision agriculture practices and adoption. 

Pranav says: “Nurture.farm was born right around the time when the pandemic hit the country. “On one hand, it made reaching out to our customers harder, and it also underscored the need for being able to deliver and monitor services through technology.”

Bringing sustainable practices 

With a focus to encourage and drive regenerative practice, nurture.farm has developed Crop Residue Management Program to eliminate the practice of crop burning. 

The platform has enrolled over 500,000 acres of paddy crop into the program that offers a biological solution, in the form of a spray, that facilitates the decomposition of the stubble. This directly eliminates the need to burn, causing less pollution and allowing for the ground to maintain the nutrients that are so vital for the next harvest. 

The program not only allows the field to maintain soil health, but is also educating farmers on sustainable agricultural practices that are normally inaccessible to small holder farmers. 

“Through the mechanisation-as-a-service technology offering, we are providing our large spraying machines to smallholder farmers that otherwise would have never had access to such technology or machinery,” adds Pranav.

Market and future 

According to IBEF, the sector was valued at Rs 18.55 lakh crore in 2019, and is estimated to grow by 10.2 percent until 2024. Nearly 60 percent of India’s population is dependent on agriculture for sustenance, it says. 

Some of the other startups in the agritech space include Ninjacart, Harabaag, Technifybiz, Fresh VnF, Ecozen, CroFarm, Farmpal, and Agribazaar. 

The startup is now looking at how it can create and shape the future of sustainable agriculture through technology-led solutions and create value with the many stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem, in India and also globally. 

These include scaling the farm mechanisation services platform in India; scaling the retail platform; building resilient, engaged, informed, and enabled ag networks and communities; driving regenerative practices in farming; defining and introducing new forms of sustainable labels across the food systems and value chain for buyers, consumers and more. 

The startup is also building and scaling the marketplace opportunity in commodity trading, connecting buyers and sellers of ag produce globally; and it claims to be empowering marginalised communities to find equal opportunities and equal access through its platforms. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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