Four serial entrepreneurs come together to ensure India gets its nutrition right
Food startup Truefarm Foods focuses on selling organic food based on the science of nutrition, by helping farmers, globally, to adopt sustainable agriculture practices.
Keeping profits in mind, food is not grown the way it used to be, with widespread use of chemicals and fertilizers liberally dousing our vegetables, grains and fruits. Consumption of food grown through inorganic means has led to increase in cancer rates world over.
In India too, there has been a rising concern over quality of food products, and a slow but increasing demand for chemical-free and organic food. The organic food market is estimated at Rs 1,500 crore and is expected to double to Rs 3,000 crore in the next three years.
Addressing this concern and to serve health-conscious citizens, Truefarm Foods came into being. An organic food startup, it focuses on selling organic food based on the science of nutrition. The firm does thorough research on superfoods and does science-based mixing of ingredients keeping nutrition a priority.
For instance, their protein plus flour was created after conducting research with nearly 28 grains. This product delivers 24.37 percent protein, and Ravi Jakhar, Co-founder of Truefarm Foods, says that it cooks better than ordinary wheat flour for both Indian breads as well as pizza base.
"We live in times where water, air and food are all contaminated. We use purifiers for water and air, but there is no way to remove harmful pesticide residues from our food. It is therefore important to consume 100-percent organic food. Further, each individual has unique nutrition requirements and we saw this need for developing food that delivers the right organic nutrition,” says Ravi.
As a part of its vision to make India healthy, Truefarm offers a wide range of products such as pulses, superfoods, spices and nuts, breakfast cereals, flours and sweeteners with the aim to replace most of the food items in one’s daily diet with healthier, chemical-free, nutritious and organic alternatives.
Started in 2016, Truefarm was co-founded by Ravi, a serial entrepreneur and investor who, over the past decade, is associated with various technology, sports, fitness and food startups. The other co-founders include Manish Bhandari, director at Tanisha Mercantile, Ian Marber, a renowned nutritionist and fitness enthusiast, and Rupendra Narendra Soni, who has 16 years experience in FMCG, paints and media industries.
“There have been various challenges including procurement of best quality material from certified organic farms, development of products that taste good and delivering right nutrition,” Ravi shares.
With 100-percent organic products that include red quinoa, chia seeds and teff flour, breakfast cereals such as oats and muesli, multigrain nutrition flours, spices, pulses, and rice, the organisation engages with farming communities across the globe. Their aim is to help farmers adopt sustainable agriculture that not only enriches the soil but also helps them get better commercial value for their crop.
The biggest problem faced by farmers today is the lack of adequate compensation for their work. Ravi says, “The Minimum Support Prices are calculated without accounting for farmers’ real estate or time value. Also, a lot of trading happens below MSP. The government must bring a bill making it illegal to sell produce at local mandi markets below MSP.”
Through innovation to make value-added products and with the introduction of new crops like teff, Truefarm hopes to share greater profit with farmers and empower them financially.
The startup works with farmers, farmer organisations and certification agencies to source raw ingredients, mainly from farms of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Need for technology disruption
The Truefarm food team is of the view that each player in the chain must add value.
“Farmers put in hard labour and their unique skills to grow the best crops. We put science and processes to make great food. Our channel partners provide consumers an opportunity to explore all products and make informed purchase decisions,” Ravi explains.
For better yield and to keep the farm more fertile and protected, Truefarm hopes to implement farm-level technologies, the simplest being drip irrigation and GPS-enabled systems with remote monitoring and automation options for irrigation.
India is still significantly behind on the global scale in the adoption of technology. A majority of farmers are mostly poor and marginalised without land. Most of them have small land holdings and the cost of labour remains low. Further, with low digital connectivity and internet penetration the infrastructure required for robust technology intervention continued to be in the fringes. However, Ravi says that things are changing now.
“With the current government’s push, India already has an enabling environment with lot of subsidies and policies for adoption of technology. An engineer sitting in Bengaluru today can manage his farm remotely located in interior of Uttar Pradesh. Technology can help such people join hands with farm labour and farmers in villages to revolutionise agriculture in coming years,” he adds.
Recently, in March, Truefarm launched its products on Amazon India, within a price range of Rs 45 to Rs 850.
Truefarm Foods is available in India through online, retail as well as direct consumer channels in select cities. They have also tied up with Reliance Fresh outlets.
India continues to be an agrarian economy, and hence Ravi believes that the growth in the agriculture sector is the way forward.
“Our vision for India is to be the leading producer of food products in the world, with a 100 percent organic cover and focus on significant value addition to improve the economy and the lives of our farmers,” Ravi adds.
Currently, the organisation is working on an innovation-driven product development model to launch new products that will cater to an international consumer’s palate.
Further, it is keen to expand its business to Europe and North America as well as the Middle East. Presently funded by the founding partners, Truefarm Foods is looking to raise around Rs 100 crore in the next two years from private equity investors to finance its expansion plans.