How this Bengaluru-based agritech startup is automating farming
Mallesh T grew up in an agrarian household in Karnataka’s Mandya district. Despite being a paddy-growing district – one of India’s most profitable crops – he could sense that the farmers in Mandya were in despair.
“The farmers in Mandya complained about poor irrigation despite having almost five rivers, including the Kaveri, flowing through it. The district also records the highest rates of farmer suicides in the state. This was confusing because the nearby district of Kolar had a dearth of groundwater but was still flourishing by growing commercial crops,” Mallesh tells YourStory.
Mallesh says he realised that the problem was not the lack of water resources but the lack of proper irrigation techniques. He saw the scope for automation in this situation, an idea that eventually resulted in the foundation of, an agritech platform that aims to enhance agriculture productivity for marginal farmers.
Established in 2016, CultYvate is run by Farm2Fork Technologies Pvt Ltd. The startup implements various concepts, tools, and methods to irrigate crops efficiently. It integrates IoT (Internet of Things), artificial intelligence (AI), satellite, machine learning (ML) and various crop models to develop the products.
Apart from smart irrigation systems, CultYvate also develops smart fertigation systems – the injection of fertilizers, used for soil amendments, water amendments and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system and greenhouse automation techniques. It works closely with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and various state governments.
How does it work
CultYvate collaborates with companies that supply irrigation tools in a village and develops smart irrigation systems based on information such as crop variety, soil type, and other agro-climatic conditions.
“We invest roughly Rs 10,000 for developing one system that can automate irrigation for around five acres of land. The system is set up on an experimental basis for one season. The companies who collaborate with us pay for the experiment. Farmers adopt and pay for the system directly once they realise its benefits,” explains Mallesh.
The smart system supplies water to the farmlands in a timely manner without needing the farmer to step into the field. The system also sends a report on the water quantity, soil moisture and weather conditions to the farmer’s mobile phone after every round of irrigation.
CultYvate says it prioritises collecting information about the crop, climatic conditions and the soil before offering a solution. This sets it apart from other players in the segment such as EcoFlo India, BluRain and Galcon,
Mallesh adds, “Indian farmers irrigate their lands based on the availability of electricity, labour and their gut feelings. But if the water is not provided to the crops in the right quantity and at the right time, the crops will definitely suffer.”
CultYvate recently raised Rs 4.5 crores in a pre-Series A round of funding led by Sirius One Capital Fund, along with other marquee investors including Sunicon, The Chennai Angels, LV Angel Fund, and Prodapt Technology Holding.
It has also received grants from the Government of Karnataka.
Guruswamy Ramasubramanian, the general partner at Sirius One capital, comments about his investment in CultYvate,
"Water is a scarce resource and getting scarcer every day. CultYvate is using advanced technology to optimise its use in agriculture. The combination of an entrepreneur with passion and insights, a globally relevant problem and a viable technology solution proved compelling for us.”
Before raising the funds, CultYvate could impact around 200-300 farmers. With the help of the raised funds, the startup says it has reached out to around 10,000 farmers in multiple states.
CultYvate, which has a 24-memmber team including advisors from premier institutes, says it has helped conserve around 600 crore litres of water. In the past 24 months, it has impacted the lives of 1,250 farmers across five states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab.
The Markets and Markets Research group has projected the global irrigation automation market size to grow at an estimated CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 18.5 percent from 2020 to reach a value of $6.7 billion by 2025.
CultYvate says it is planning to tap into this opportunity by developing its systems to cover larger areas through satellite connections.
Startups in the growing farm-to-fork segment include, SaaS-based platforms like , and platforms similar to CultYvate such as , and .
The team is also working with Google for developing machine learning products, especially for developing irrigation solutions for sugarcane and cotton.