Practo for cattle: Verdant Impact helps livestock farmers with telemedicine access
Verdant Impact, founded by farmer Manish K Prahlad, offers a holistic animal husbandry platform, including telemedicine and RFID-based health monitoring, addressing healthcare gaps in India's rural cattle farming.
India has a thriving livestock industry. From being the mechanical power in agriculture to being a source of nutrition, cattle farming is deeply embedded in the rural economy—so much so that India is home to the world’s largest livestock population, numbering over 536 million.
However, when it comes to cattle health, there’s a lot of ground to cover. India has a poor patient-doctor ratio, with the government estimating fewer than 12,500 veterinary clinics in India as of FY22. With over 95% of cattle reared in rural areas, access to healthcare is a significant pain point.
Enter Verdant Impact, a full-stack animal husbandry platform that aims to help farmers take better care of their animals as well as make well-informed decisions when trading livestock. Founded in January 2020, the Jaipur-headquartered startup offers a telemedicine facility, Animal ICU, which provides real-time diagnostics, remote monitoring, and virtual veterinary consultations for livestock care.
It was recognised as one of the most promising startups emerging from India in YourStory’s Tech30 list unveiled at TechSparks 2023 in Bengaluru.
Solving farmers’ woes
Manish K Prahlad, Co-founder ofand a farmer, started working on the platform after some of his buffaloes contracted a disease he couldn't recognise. Prahlad hails from Banswara, a small town in Rajasthan that doesn’t have a railway station. When his cattle fell ill, he couldn't find any medical practitioner who could help, and the buffaloes eventually passed away.
“People often underestimate the importance of cattle in villages. These animals send our kids to school and, after 20 years, pay for their marriages. The financial burden caused by the death of our animals is huge,” he tells YourStory.
The economic impact of animals succumbing to treatable diseases is enormous. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, the economic losses in India due to foot-and-mouth disease, a viral infection affecting animals with divided hooves, were projected to be $3.1 billion in a severe incidence scenario, according to NITI Aayog
Such unavoidable deaths severely impact the livestock sector as a whole. Its contribution to the total economic productivity in the broader agriculture and allied industry has grown from 24% in 2014-15 to 30% in 2020-21.
Drawing from his experiences, Prahlad and co-founders Vimal Shastri, Maya Zeph, and Dr Navneet Kumar created a platform on which farmers can upload videos, photos and detailed descriptions of their animals for consultation from a doctor or a paramedic. The owners can receive prescriptions, alternate remedies, or an ambulance facilitated by the platform, depending on the diagnosis.
After launch, Animal ICU quickly gained recognition and Prahlad received invitations from state animal welfare departments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Jharkhand to help them set up telemedicine facilities. The company has so far onboarded 1,500+ veterinary consultants.
Prahlad also wanted the platform to be holistic in terms of livestock services. Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags inserted underneath the cattle skin and a stationary reader device, which can read the tag from a distance, Verdant Impact also facilitates monitoring and tracing of the cattle's health, location, and movement.
“We have designed the system so that the experts can determine if the health of animals is deteriorating or improving by giving them information such as body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate etc. This can also be used to notify farmers if an animal is feeling abnormal stress so that quick action can be taken,” Prahlad explains.
The RFID tags can also help prevent insurance fraud within the cattle industry as, unlike ear tags, they cannot be removed from the cattle fraudulently for insurance claims.
“Verdant Impact's under-skin implants…allow for the storage of crucial information, such as prior disease history, on the chips. Insurers can then access this data, letting them make more informed decisions when assessing insurance claims,” he adds.
Prahlad also envisions creating a universal Animal Ancestry Animal Mark which allows farmers to trace their livestock's ancestors using DNA analysis and unique identification techniques to help farmers make informed breeding and trade decisions. For example, the farmers can ascertain whether a calf would be prone to Lumpy Skin Disease, which leaves permanent damage to the skin of a cow, lowering the commercial value of its hide.
“So, when farmers are selling a herd, the buyer can be sure of the quality of the animals if the herd is implanted with the RIFD sensors. These identification systems can aid farmers in accessing credit products for their animals. Bankers can easily determine the value of the cattle without expensive field visits,” he notes.
Verdant Impact operates on a B2B2C model and generates revenues from direct sales, commissions, and co-branding. It has more than 25,000 monthly active users and 18,000 paying customers, mostly from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The startup conducts over 200 telemedical consultancy calls per day. The company has also partnered with various district governments, enabling local cattle welfare offices to utilise Verdant Impact’s telemedicine facilities and receives 100+ daily calls from those centres.
For each call, the company charges Rs 95, regardless of the call's duration. If the situation necessitates a field visit, it charges Rs 200. Initially, the company conducted its business through WhatsApp before Shastri developed an Android app.
Verdant Impact is targeting $12 million in gross revenue by FY25 and $50 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) within three years.
Verdant Impact has largely been funded through grants. It recently received a Rs 4 lakh grant from the engineering college, BITS Pilani. It has also received grants from NABARD’s climate change fund and NITI Ayog.
The company looks at raising $4 million in the short term to expand operations across India, invest in marketing to ward off competition from recently launched free government services for farmers and improve existing tech.
However, Prahlad suspects that despite a significant total addressable market, investors may shy away from investing in his company due to his farming background, limited proficiency in English, and lack of technical expertise.
“I am from a very small village and don't have any fancy degrees. Honesty is all I have. To get recognition at this scale was a heart-rending experience. I am thankful that we managed to get a good reception from the panel [at Tech Sparks 2023 Pitch Fest],” he recalls.
Edited by Kanishk Singh