Innovative Agripreneurs reinventing farming methods in Indi
Every year, the agriculture sector makes a notable contribution to the Indian economy. According to the Agricultural Statistics Wing, over 70% of the rural households depend on agriculture along with fisheries and forestry as their main source of income. Yet the agrarian set-up of the country is not reaping the fruits of harvesting in an efficient manner.
To take the agriculture sector on an upward growth trajectory, many social entrepreneurs have joined hands with the community, and are providing commercially viable agri-tech solutions to resolve the issues faced by the Agriculture sector.
We talked to three such start-ups making an impactful contribution:
1. Sai Gole, LeanAgri
Sai Gole co-founded LeanAgri to support marginal and small farmer communities in Pune & Raigad District of Maharashtra as well as Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh.
As a student at Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), Sai did her minor in Social Entrepreneurship and spent three years understanding the problems in rural India. After digging deep into the agriculture sector and witnessing the lack of technology, she decided to take up the challenge of designing tech-based solutions that would boost production and maximise output. What started as a research project is today a unique bottom-to-top approach to work with farmers through the crop cycles.
“60% of India’s land area is covered by agricultural cultivation but the productivity of majority crops in India is 1/3rd than the rest of the world. Farmers face different problems throughout the agri value chain which includes decisions of which crops and what varieties to grow, procurement of material, equipment management, labor management, season-long crop care activities, harvest, & post-harvest management etc. All these activities are dependent on multiple external parameters to which farmers generally do not have access to. For e.g. Agro-climatic conditions, soil composition etc.” highlights Sai.
LeanAgri is a technology company that develops solutions for farmers and agri-based enterprises for productivity enhancement, decision-making, and optimal activity planning. At LeanAgri, the aim is to provide end-to-end productivity enhancement and management solutions for farmers.
“Our team handholds the farmer to make them understand how automated systems are reliable. They are engaged through all possible mediums such as SMS, IVR Calls, Mobile App in their local language, and are also supported continuously through periodic calls by our team. If they face any problem during the crop season, they can freely call on our support numbers or drop a message anytime. We have developed our own model farms at two locations. These are the farms managed by us and act as demo farms. Farmers can come and visit these farms anytime. If they like how it functions, they simply reach out to us. This on-ground presence builds a lot of trust our model and technology while ensuring farmers have faith in our solution,” she informs.
Moving from a stable job to an uncertain domain of the start-up world, especially in the agriculture space where the beneficiaries have not seen or used technology, was a difficult task for Sai. She silently applauds the team that has helped her at step and backed her up at every stage to make this a successful venture.
LeanAgri’s association with UnLtd India has been truly an enriching and encouraging experience so far. “We have recently joined UnLtd India and there is a lot of encouragement coming from the mentors and it is very exciting to have mentorship from connoisseurs in the same industry. I am looking forward to deepen my understanding of this beneficiary segment and discovering new ways to tackle the issues in Indian agriculture,” says Sai.
She envisions that with the advent of technology and resource availability, there can be a paradigm shift in the agriculture sector of the country.
2. Reema Sathe, Happy Roots
Passionate about rural development and women empowerment, Reema Sathe is a believer in bringing positive social change through sustainable business models and that’s what led her to establish Happy Roots.
After working for two years with the farmers and women in the villages of Gujarat and Maharashtra, Reema discovered that local grains were a way of life and nutrition for rural families. “Taking inspiration from our ancient recipes and grains, Happy Roots developed a range of delicious healthy snack food that gave a modern twist to the taste of the rural heartland. We are a for-profit organisation that strives to bring profitable incomes and dignified lives for small farmers and rural women. These snacks are not only tasty but initiate a positive change in the lives of thousands of farmers,” smiles Reema.
They work towards protecting local crop biodiversity that is important for food security and environmental conservation as well as creating a sustainable food chain where farmers and the rural women have equal employment benefits.
Reema’s vision has transformed into a food supply chain that delivers transparency to all stakeholders – farmers and consumers. Their journey to become a socially conscious and successful business has just started, and even though they have come a long way, they are committed to keep pushing their limits to impact over a million farmers across India.
“My motivation on a difficult day is to look back and see how many lives Happy Roots has touched and changed. The satisfaction of our farmers, rural women and customers is what always keeps me going”.
3. Neelkanth Mishra, Jaljeevika
India is the world’s third largest producer of fish but surprisingly; most of its fishing resources are massively underused. In a country oriented towards farming and other agrarian activities, the fishing industry is at the precipice of a technological revolution. Who is facilitating this change? Social entrepreneurs who are dedicated to reinvesting in this sector.
Neelkanth Mishra is one such social entrepreneur who has founded Centre for Aquatic Livelihood-Jaljeevika, to bring together science and farming that promotes aquatic livelihood for farmers in India. Started five years ago, Neelkanth has made an impact on small fishery farmers and created a platform for knowledge sharing on both farming methods and technology.
Jaljeevika operates in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra to strengthen fishery cooperatives, fisheries-related farmer -producer organiatiosns, and women self-help groups. In the fishery sector, there is a major problem of institutions performing poorly with regards to water-body rights. Jaljeevika addresses this challenge by guiding the small groups to be more efficient in their processes of following water-body procedures.
Their efforts are directed towards four pillars: institution building, installation of low-cost technology, and facilitating market linkages. A venture that encapsulates all four of these pillars would be the Fish Seeds project. Typically, Indian farmers in remote areas are forced to acquire their fish seed supply from Bangladesh. Not only is this an expensive affair, but also the seed survival rate is also very low. Most of the seeds are rendered useless post transportation.
Jaljeevika traced this problem to the fundamental lack of knowledge and technology. Thus,they created a program that teaches fish farmers how to make their own water bodies in India and grow fish seeds in them! Today, Jaljeevika has helped create 600 fish seed nurseries. With four-five ponds in each nursery, this enterprise has directly aided over 3000 fishermen and women. These locally developed fish seeds have a much lower mortality rate and farmers save a lot in transportation costs.
“Fishery is a technical subject and the knowledge capacity for it is not yet there in farming communities. Jaljeevika’s long-term plans include developing open-knowledge platforms that any farmer can have access to. Bringing technology to this sector is a core driver of their ideology. With low-cost tech, more enterprises such as the fish seed ones are possible as India is rich in natural resources,” believes Neelkanth.
Another source that helped them take off was support from UnLtd India. They have pushed the growth trajectory of Jaljeevika to a new level. During the connection process, Neelkanth reflects that the kind of questions he was asked challenged him. “UnLtd. India has helped Jaljeevika to look beyond what is being done. The trajectory for fish farming in India is changing now with the user-friendliness of the IT sector. Growing and pushing change in that direction is where Jaljeevika’s future is,” states Neelkanth.
With such visionary social entrepreneurs, the agriculture sector of the country is witnessing a paradigm shift in the overall growth and development while paving the way towards a greener India.
If you are an early-stage social entrepreneur passionate to solve pressing problems in the country, you can apply for UnLtd India’s Incubation Programme to receive year-long personalized coaching along with access to mentors, experts, and peer learning.
Apply here: http://bit.ly/UnLtdForm