[Startup Bharat] This agritech company boosts crop yields with protective farming inputs
Brothers Saurabh Agarwal and Akshay Agarwal launchedin 2019 with one aim: to manufacture advanced, innovative, and protective farming products to ensure optimum quality and yield for Indian farmers.
The Surat-based agritech startup is a manufacturer and distributor of protective farming inputs such as mulch film, shade nets, crop/fruit covers, sticky traps, pond liners, lay flat tubes, vermi beds, mulch laying/hole punching machines, and agri wires.
“We ensure optimum quality and high yield for the Indian agricultural and farming industry while lowering its carbon footprint. The platform is involved in process-oriented R&D for the manufacturing and development of products and materials. Our unique franchise model along with the hub-and-spoke distribution system works well,” says Saurabh, Founder and CEO, GROWiT India Pvt Ltd.
The D2F (direct to farmers) startup has also established Grow Kshetras (demo farms) in every taluka to educate farmers about protective farming and other profitable farming practices.
GROWiT is currently active in various states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka.
The agritech startup serves 15,000+ farmers through about 117 franchise stores, and its focus areas are quality food, climate smart agriculture, farmer empowerment, and enhancing farmer productivity.
“Presently, GROWiT is focusing on horticulture crops. But, we are planning to shift our focus towards other cash crops such as cotton. These plants require adoption of new technology to increase per acre output,” Saurabh says.
Saurabh has done his graduation from Cardiff University, UK, with a specialisation in supply chain management, and an MBA from S P Jain Institute of Management, Mumbai.
Akshay has done a course in engineering from University of Massachusetts, Lowell. The plastic engineer focuses on product development at GrowiT.
GROWiT was started by Saurabh Agarwal, who is passionate about agriculture and grows his own fruits and vegetables. This led him to think about what his contribution to the Indian agriculture industry could be.
Extensive research revealed that most farmers in India are not farmers by education; they are farmers by their lineage, which is why adoption of technology is extremely poor.
Hailing from a family business background, he started doing research on technology that could help Indian farmers and travelled to Israel, China, the US, Spain, Italy, Mexico, etc to understand how farmers in those countries functioned.
He realised that India had a very low rate of adoption of protective farming technology, which helps control the micro environment around the plant for better growth and increased farm output.
“India’s farm output in horticulture crops is at least 2-3x lower than the global average. If we don't do anything about this, we might soon be a vegetable and fruit-deficit country rather than being a surplus country,” Saurabh says.
GROWiT came into existence in 2019 to address this problem.
The USP and market
GROWiT’s range of protective farming techniques and innovative products aims to improve farm productivity and enhance crop quality to increase farm income.
“GROWiT is the only player that is providing solutions in the protective farming space - that is for a controlled micro-climate using natural or man-made products,” he says.
“The company does not have any direct competition as we are the first mover in the protective farming space in India. There are other agritech startups into seeds, fertilisers, and precision farming, but they are not our direct competition. In fact, we can be partners in the future,” Saurabh says.
The market size and opportunity are huge.
According to IBEF, 58 percent of India’s population depends on agriculture as the primary source of livelihood, but most farmers face problems like outdated equipment, poor infrastructure, and lack of access to markets.
Numerous startups have stepped in, using technology to help farmers increase productivity and reap better yields.
A NASSCOM report in 2019 said India was home to more than 450 agritech startups, growing at a rate of 25 percent year on year. A report by EY states that the Indian agritech market has the potential to reach $24 billion by 2025.
It is this opportunity that the agritech startup is targeting with its 120-member team. “We have around 70 agronomists; the rest are the support team,” the founder says.
Funding and monetisation
GROWiT was started with an initial investment of close to Rs 4 crore by the founders over a span of two and a half years.
The first formal round - Rs 3 crore in seed funding – was raised in April this year through a close network of investors. The round was led by Mehul Shah from IVY Growth. Others who joined the round are Coppermint LLP, Gaurav Singhvi (Co-founder, WFC), Rajeev Goel (Sagar Life Sciences), Sunay Shah (Mahati Electrics), Rohan Desai (CEO, Triumph Capital), and Mukul Goyal (Tapi Capital LLP).
The platform plans to invest in research and marketing to expand its customer base and produce standard quality, cost-effective protective farming materials and products. The fund will also be used to strengthen the GROWiT app.
The founders claim the agritech startup has been profitable since inception and is growing exponentially. The platform generated around “Rs 18 crore in revenue in FY22 and is expected to generate Rs 40-50 crore this year”.
“We generate revenue through the sale of our protective farming products. We also have a policy of ‘Buy Back of Mulch Films’ wherein the company repurchases the previous crop cycle mulch from the farmers. The average ticket size for the farmers is Rs 20,000,” Saurabh says.
The way ahead
Saurabh says the market share of protective farming in India would be “around $6 billion, if all horticulture crops are covered by protective farming. The revenue target for GROWiT by 2030 is 10 percent of this market, which is around $0.6 billion”.
Stating that the sector is competitive, he says educating farmers and the franchise network help GROWiT stand apart.
The agritech startup aims to serve around 30,000 “GROWiTtarians” (farmers associated with the company) within this financial year.
“The company is working on many collaborations in the agritech space to expand its reach. We aim to have 500 franchise stores by the end of this fiscal year and around 2,000-5,000 franchise stores between FY25-FY30,” Saurabh says.
Edited by Teja Lele