LeanCrop Technology Solution Pvt Ltd (BharatAgri), an agtech start-up incubatee with the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) of ICRISAT, has raised US$ 2 million in pre-Series A funding from 021 Capital and India Quotient.
“This round of funding will be used to further enhance product features and scale up operations to newer states in India. Our unique product offering has been well accepted by farmers on a large scale. We are among the few agri-tech companies in India that have been able to monetize advisory at scale, that too digitally, with over 43,000 farmers using our premium service package,” said Mr Siddharth Dialani, CEO and Co-Founder of BharatAgri.
Founded in 2017 by Ms Sai Gole and Mr Dialani, alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, BharatAgri offers farmers season-long plans that are customized to the crop and field conditions to improve farm yield and quality of produce. The plans include real-time actionable insights that cater to weather-related changes during the season, backed by data science and real-time monitoring using satellite imaging.
“It is heartening news when agtech start-ups win investor trust. Farmers and agriculture in the drylands need all the support they can get and organizations like BharatAgri have a critical role to play. Such developments attract youth to agriculture to solve problems, bridge gaps and create opportunities to increase incomes and improve livelihoods,” said Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.
BharatAgri has a user base of over 400,000 farmers in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It offers both free and premium paid services. Besides advisories, premium users get annual soil and water quality checks. The users can use BharatAgri to connect with the market and access other value chain essentials like inputs, machinery, insurance, etc. In terms of impact, farmers have seen over a 40% increase in yield and a significant reduction in costs, the organization claims.
“ABI-ICRISAT accepted us in 2017 into their program and we got very good support from their team in research work guidance, access to facilities for experiments, and our discussions on various issues and ideas ranging from revenue model to field trials that helped to grow the company,” Mr Dialani said. ABI-ICRISAT was also the incubation partner for BharatAgri when it was selected for the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) of Biotechnology Industrial Research & Action Council (BIRAC). Dr Harikishan Sudini was the scientist-mentor from ICRISAT for this project that involved the development of algorithms for pest and disease detection in groundnut.
The robustness of the start-up’s model was proven when the organization emerged from challenges in the initial weeks of COVID-19 lockdown with digital campaigns to help farmers with harvesting schedules and connect them to leading farm-to-market companies. Its 21 Jugaad (21 Smart Tips) to fight pests and nutrient deficiencies using home remedies and live Shetishalas (agri-school) on the BharatAgri app helped keep operations running while supporting farmers in preparing for Kharif 2020. The efforts resulted in an increase in premium subscriptions during the period.
“We are very happy for the BharatAgri team. It has been phenomenal to see their growth since inception. This is a testament to their business model and trust established with farmers. We will continue to support BharatAgri in their scaling-up journey to equip smallholder farmers with tools and knowledge to address various challenges in the sector and beyond,” said Dr Kiran K Sharma, Head of ABI-ICRISAT and Deputy Director General-Research, ICRISAT.
021 Capital is backed by noted entrepreneur Mr Binny Bansal. BharatAgri’s existing investors Better Capital and Mr Ajay Prabhu (COO, Quest Global) also participated in this funding round.
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