The rise of the agripreneur: Agritech startups trying to fix some major issues faced by agriculture sector

By | February 20, 2021

The rise of the agripreneur: Agritech startups attempting to repair some main points confronted by agriculture sector

From the use of new-age tech to innovative business models, these agripreneurs are trying to make agriculture lucrative and sustainableFrom using new-age tech to modern enterprise fashions, these agripreneurs are attempting to make agriculture profitable and sustainable

By Kunal Doley

Whereas there was quite a lot of controversy across the new farm legal guidelines—with talks between the Centre and the protesting farmers leading to a stalemate each time—a gaggle of younger entrepreneurs are engaged in fixing among the main points confronted by India’s agriculture sector. These ‘agripreneurs’ are additionally attempting to make agriculture area of interest and profitable by way of expertise and modern fashions of companies.

Previously few years, two main tailwinds—deeper penetration of smartphones in rural areas and falling information prices—have modified the way in which rural India went about doing enterprise and fixing the challenges confronted by the agriculture sector. Benefitting from all this are agritech startups which have mushroomed throughout the nation. As per a current research by Accel-Omnivore, funding within the agritech sector rose from $45.8 million in 2016 to $430.6 million in 2020—a 9.4x development throughout this era.

Whereas the onset of Covid-19 early final yr disrupted a number of industries, the agritech sector has proved to be surprisingly resilient. “Robust tailwinds fashioned by restricted motion, migration of labour, and elevated client consciousness of well being have helped escalate the adoption of expertise all through the farming ecosystem. Furthermore, the classification of agricultural merchandise as important commodities ensured enterprise continuity for many gamers throughout the lockdown,” the Accel-Omnivore research famous.
Right here we have a look at a couple of notable startups within the sector…

Aquaconnect
Based mostly in Chennai, it’s a one-stop resolution for aquaculture farmers
India exports about $5 billion value of farmed shrimps yearly, making the nation the most important exporter of frozen shrimps on this planet. But the shortage of expertise adoption pulls the expansion of the trade downwards.

In comes Aquaconnect. It was based in 2017 to pioneer the event of machine studying and satellite tv for pc distant sensing applied sciences for enhancing farm productiveness and market linkages in Indian fish and shrimp farms, or aquaculture. “In 2016, an informal dialog with a shrimp farmer on a prepare journey helped me perceive the farmer’s challenges in aquaculture farming. Coming from the high-tech sector, I envisioned a expertise resolution that might enhance farm effectivity, market linkages and finally enhance the farmer’s revenue. Thus was born Aquaconnect,” says founder-CEO Rajamanohar S. From stocking to reap, Chennai-based Aquaconnect affords end-to-end companies for fish and shrimp farmers. “We offer on-ground farm advisory, promote farm inputs, present formal credit, insurance coverage and supply market linkages for farmers to promote their harvest produce. Our farm advisory options are provided as a freemium service. For others, we acquire service price from transactions, relying on the service,” provides Rajamanohar.

Aquaconnect works with 26,000 shrimp and fish farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and has grown 18x when it comes to person adoption and sign-ups since March 2020. In 2019, the startup acquired $1.1 million seed capital from Omnivore and Hatch Norway. In line with Rajamanohar, the brand new farm legal guidelines have little to do with animal husbandry and fisheries, therefore, the influence might not be related there.

AgNext
The startup, based mostly in Chandigarh, is attempting to resolve belief points between the customer and the vendor Chandigarh-based AgNext is fixing the largest concern in Indian agriculture—the shortage of belief in key transactions beginning on the procurement stage. Huge quantities of farm produce are assessed by merchants or middlemen by what they see and really feel with their eyes and arms, based mostly on which costs are decided. Over time, this mode of evaluation has grow to be a instrument with which merchants and middlemen have exploited farmers.

So AgNext has innovated expertise that makes use of instruments like pc imaginative and prescient, spectral analytics, web of issues (IoT) and synthetic intelligence (AI) to analyse produce high quality in about 30 seconds, fixing the belief concern between the customer and the vendor throughout the agriculture provide chain and likewise accelerating transactions. “The advantages are immense as a result of there isn’t a human involvement. It’s completely digitised and customers can entry essential information. With the correct expertise in place, farmers can get hold of correct costs for his or her produce and larger incentive to enhance their farm practices for better-quality crops. For companies, this expertise helps lower your expenses and improve profitability as a result of now they know what they’re paying for,” says Taranjeet Singh Bhamra, founder-CEO of AgNext.

“Lastly, for customers, we guarantee high quality by precisely ascertaining whether or not there are adulterants or not. So we’re digitising meals to speed up transactions and construct sustainability at its core,” provides Bhamra, an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta, who based AgNext in 2016.
AgNext’s income mannequin consists of SaaS-based subscription of its options, the place {hardware} and software program are supplied as a service to firms.

Aside from analysing the bodily parameters, AgNext’s instruments may take a look at the chemical composition of a crop immediately. This subscription-based service is deployed each on an annual foundation as nicely rental foundation of per 30 days or per season subscription. “Our audience consists of all agribusinesses concerned in meals processing, warehousing, buying and selling and likewise having meals assortment centres in sectors like tea, milk, grains, spices and animal feed,” says Bhamra.

AgNext has additionally grow to be India’s first digital assaying firm for the federal government. “In grains, we’re working throughout seven states, impacting 1.5 million tonnes of procurement by our system. We partnered with the Tea Analysis Affiliation of India to develop a tea leaf high quality evaluation system, which right this moment sits in factories like Goodricke, Rossell Tea, Bokahola Tea and estates of the Tea Board of India, which procure tea leaves straight from the plantation,” he provides.

GramCover
The startup, based mostly in Noida, is making a retail marketplace for insurance coverage merchandise in rural India
Jatin Singh, the founding father of GramCover, says he received into entrepreneurship by probability. First, he began Skymet, an agri climate danger administration and information firm. The 43-year-old Delhi native’s second stint as an entrepreneur was once more by probability after he received acquainted with crop insurance coverage. Singh noticed a ache level there as he discovered that there was very restricted penetration of insurance coverage within the rural heartland. “I noticed enterprise alternative,” says Singh, a Boston College alumnus. In 2017, GramCover was born.

Basically, the startup makes commissions on premiums distributed. “We provide diversified merchandise like private accident cowl, hospicash, two-wheeler, livestock insurance coverage, and so on, on our platform with ticket sizes starting from Rs 35 to Rs 2,000. For the entry created for rural prospects by our tech platform and point-of-sale companion community, we’re paid brokerage by insurance coverage firms, which ranges from 10-16.5% of the premiums distributed,” explains Singh.

GramCover’s audience is clearly the agricultural Indian. “As everyone knows, massive components of rural India are dependent, instantly or not directly, on agriculture. In that sense, small-holder farmers with land holding of lower than 2 hectares kind a key shopper phase. This might additionally embody landless cultivators who take land on a tenancy foundation and pursue agriculture. These farmers are probably the most susceptible and have the least entry to formal finance in addition to insurance coverage,” he provides.

Over the previous three years, the startup has been rising by greater than 100% y-o-y. “This yr, we’re surpassing `100 crore in gross premium,” Singh says. Over 1.7 million farmers within the nation have bought insurance coverage by GramCover since its inception. Previously few years, GramCover has labored in seven states, 28 districts and three,000-plus villages.

Commenting on the brand new farm legal guidelines, Singh says they want extra definition in session. “Some components are okay, however after they have been pushed by Parliament, I foresaw that they might see great quantity of resistance. I believe the federal government must peddle again on at the least two of these three legal guidelines. I’m neither for or towards them. I believe the entire construction or the intent was good, however the communications in addition to the nuance are lacking,” he provides.

Clover Ventures
Based mostly in Bengaluru, this greenhouse agri startup delivers recent produce by tech
Clover Ventures was began by childhood mates Avinash BR, Gururaj Rao, Arvind Murali and Santosh Narasipura—all aged 40 years right this moment. The thought germinated after they used to spend occasional weekends at a espresso property owned by co-founder Narasipura in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur.

Avinash was part of early-stage VC agency Aavishkaar and was acquainted with greenhouse farming the place crops are grown in managed microenvironments. Whereas pooling in several concepts on the desk, the thought of hydroponics—a sort of horticulture the place crops develop with out soil, through the use of mineral nutrient options in a water solvent—enthused all of the founders. “We did analysis and determined to arrange a greenhouse on an acre of land and thus started the journey of Clover in 2017,” provides Avinash.

The founders began by establishing their very own greenhouse farm on the outskirts of Bengaluru and rising recent produce. They offered it to B2B clientele equivalent to web kitchens and fine-dining retailers. Following up on the early beneficial response on the excessive and clear high quality of the recent produce, they did a deep-dive in understanding the ecosystem for perishable recent produce—the place is it grown, how does it attain prospects, the challenges for stakeholders at both finish of the spectrum, and so on. “Growing demand from prospects for a wider product portfolio, coupled with us hitting peak manufacturing capability in our farm, meant we began reaching out to farmers with a greenhouse to complement the manufacturing capability. We realised that almost all of farmers who’ve greenhouses are unable to leverage the asset judiciously as they’re grappling with challenges of demand know-how, yield, productiveness and entry to markets. We then began with such farmers and provided them full-stack agronomy service and making certain yields and productiveness for them,” he says.

Presently, Clover is working with over 150 farmers throughout Bengaluru and greater than 70 farmers in Hyderabad. It grew at a CAGR of 40% from April to December 2020. “We additionally launched 40 new inventory conserving items (SKUs) in 2020 and expanded to Hyderabad in 2019. Income has grown 4x during the last six months,” says Avinash. Clover raised its seed-round of $1 million in December 2018.

Commenting on the controversial farm legal guidelines, Avinash says that as a participant within the ecosystem who’s attempting to construct an equitable steadiness between farmers and customers, the modifications meant within the Payments are in the correct course. “Nonetheless, we can’t count on in a single day sea modifications. Stakeholders must let the implementation play out whereas being aware to creating required changes down the course,” he provides.

Freshokartz
This startup, based mostly in Jaipur, connects farmers by tech
Freshokartz was born in 2016 when founder Rajendra Lora observed an enormous distinction in costs of greens offered within the cities and people in villages. “I used to be working as a software program developer in Mumbai. Sooner or later, whereas shopping for onions from a retail outlet, I noticed that they have been being offered for `20 per kg, however after I referred to as my father, I discovered that they have been out there for simply Rs 4-5 per kg in our village. That’s after I realised that there are a lot of layers of mediators they usually have been taking quantity of the margins,” says Lora, whose household grows onions at their farm in Nagour district in Rajasthan.

Lora’s startup Freshokartz supplies soil data-based crop and fertiliser suggestions to 1.2 lakh farmers by a community of 40 bodily centres and a cellular software. Based mostly on these suggestions, the Jaipur-headquartered startup delivers high quality seeds, pesticides and fertilisers to farmers at their doorstep instantly minus the middlemen. “We’ve round 100 B2B companions available in the market linkages half and greater than 50 agri enter firms like UPL and Sulphur Mills as companions,” says Lora. Freshokartz is at present current in 15 districts of Rajasthan and is quickly poised to increase to Haryana and Madhya Pradesh as nicely. “In FY 2019-20, we did a enterprise of Rs 5.16 crore. Within the subsequent two years, we will probably be doing a enterprise of Rs 15 crore and Rs 50 crore, respectively, with a community of over 10 lakh farmers,” provides Lora, whose spouse Chandrakanta is now the co-founder and COO.

Hydrogreens
The agri options supplier is working to unravel the nation’s fodder scarcity downside
The scarcity of feed and fodder stays a significant space of concern in India owing to the large hole between demand and provide. As per an estimate by the Nationwide Institute of Animal Diet and Physiology—affiliated to the Indian Council for Agricultural Analysis—the deficit within the requirement and availability of dry fodder, inexperienced fodder and concentrates in 2015 was 21%, 26%, and 34%, respectively. This will likely improve to 23%, 40% and 38%, respectively, by 2025, as per the report.

This, in flip, accounts for a significant motive why Indian livestock milk productiveness is 20-60% decrease than the worldwide common. Feed alone constitutes 60-70% of milk manufacturing prices. To handle this concern, 38-year-old Vasanth Madhav Kamath and 35-year-old Jeevan M began Bengaluru-based Hydrogreens in 2019, which sells vertical climate-controlled develop techniques named as ‘Kambala’ to farmers in dry and arid areas. Utilizing it, 20-30 kg of high-protein fodder may be harvested each day in restricted area—utilizing little or no water (optionally)—and run on solar energy even in excessive temperatures. “We’ve deployed about 100-plus techniques in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Meghalaya, and so on. We’re rising steadily at about 30% QoQ and have clocked about Rs 25 lakh in income,” says Kamath.

Welcoming the brand new farm Payments, Kamath hopes that they may have the identical or higher influence than the Milk and Milk Product Order (MMPO) 1992, which expanded the scope to organise dairy processing along with the co-operative motion. “With extra capital flowing into the sector, technological infrastructure like bulk milk chilling centres at 1000’s of places, coupled with processing centres at lots of of places, have occurred. This has helped customers get extra choices and extra worth, whereas the farmers additionally received extra value for his or her produce,” he says, including, “We hope that the Indian dairy system turns into an instance that evokes the trade, farmers and customers to be part of a good worth chain that’s finest for all and good for the local weather too.”

Kunal Doley is a freelancer

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