(October 6, 2022) With over 120 million farmers in the country, India depends heavily on agriculture as its primary source of income. While the use of technology has been very limited in the country’s agro sector, a few players are implementing digitisation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to not only boost the sector but also improve the lives of the farmers. These agro tech startups are filling the technological, financial, and logistical gaps in the supply chain system, ensuring that the consumers get high-quality products in their kitchen at a reasonable price, while the farmers also get their due.
As per a recent NASSCOM report, there are over 450 agro startups in the country, which are growing at an annual rate of 25 percent. In 2021, EY predicted that the Indian agro tech market has the potential to reach $24 billion by 2025. Global Indian puts the spotlight on a few agro tech companies which are proving to be game changers for the development of the agricultural sector.
When six Bengaluru-based IT professionals decided to start a company in 2015, there was hardly any other organisation working in the agro tech setup. It took months of discussion, brainstorming, and field research for Ashutosh Vikram, Kartheeswaran K K, Sharath Loganathan, Thiru Nagarajan, Thirukumaran Nagarajan, and Vasu Devan before they decided to start Ninajcart – a company aimed to ease the lives of several agri players, including farmers, wholesalers, and aggregators.
However, a year into the market, the founders realised that reaching only supply chain players wasn’t going to help them grow. So, they started their B2C model, which revolutionised the whole agro tech game in India. The founders eliminated the middleman, not just ensuring that the product reached the customers in time, but also making sure that the farmers involved with Ninjacart were not subject to any unfair practices. Today, Ninjacart employs nearly 2,000 farmers to sell more than 80 varieties of vegetables and fruits every day to around 1000 customers in Bengaluru. Valued at $194.2 million, Ninjacart is equipped to move over 1500 tons of perishable goods from farms to businesses, every day, in under 12 hours.
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One of India’s fastest-growing agricultural startup and food distribution companies, Waycool Foods & Products Pvt. Ltd, was established with a simple motive to ensure farm produces should reach the customer’s table without any compromise on quality. While there were other players in the field at the time, Sanjay Dasari, the founder of Waycool, noticed that the perishable goods supply chain in the country was disorganised and since aggregators were not storing the produces properly, they would pay the farmers way less than they deserved.
Over the last eight years, Waycool has positively impacted the lives of over 500,000 farmers, earning estimated annual revenue of $2 million. In 2021, the company managed to raise $64.9 million in funding and also started several high-quality private label products under the label SunnyBee.
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Farming has been a male-dominated field. And so, when a young IIT graduate, Anu Meena, decided to start an agro tech company, she did face a bit of resilience from her loved ones. However, her passion to build a sustainable supply chain for fruits and vegetables overcame all difficulties and she established Agrowave in 2017. With a farm-to-market business model, Agrowave has helped about 8,000 farmers from parts of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra sell their produce from their farm gates through mobile pickup stations.
The company created several pickup locations for the farmers so that they do not have to travel to the mandi to sell their produce. The delivery trucks pick up the produce from farmer gates and pick-up stations and allow hassle-free payments to the farmers. Valued at $2.6 million, the agro tech startup has managed to cut the middleman from the entire supply chain process.
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Backed by Mahindra, Pune-based MeraKisan has been able to grow exponentially in a very short period. One of the first agro tech companies in the country, MeraKisan focusses on the needs and demands of customers who want quality farm produces, and also works to create visibility for those farmers who are producing quality agricultural products.
Addressing the market linkage problems for farmers, the founder of the startup, Prashant Patil, started by helping farmers in his area switch to premium organic produce, for which there was heavy demand. While the organic crop was getting ready, Patil and his team worked on developing an infrastructure to procure and store the produce, and solve the supply inefficiencies at a macro level. They then marketed their produce online marketplaces, including Ninjacart, Jumbotail, CropIn, FreshWorld, Aker Foods, and AgroStar, to connect the organic farmers, producers, suppliers as well as customers. Currently, MeraKisan is valued at around $1 million.
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Founded in 2019, Bijak gives a premium business-to-business platform for agricultural commodity trading that helps buyers and sellers better prices, increased working capital, and optimised logistics. The idea is to focus on gaps in the supply chain, including data analysis, finances, technology, and unorganised workers, to help the farmers get a better value for their crop, without it being a burden for the traders.
The platform provides loans to traders and also a small working capital for the farmers. To ensure that there are no wastages or partial truckloads, the company also provides aggregated logistics services through its mobile application. Valued at $33.9 million, the company is working in over 27 cities across India, covering more than 100 agro produces on its platform.
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