Protective farming is quickly catching up in India, with yearly growth doubling over the last 4-5 years, according to Saurabh Agarwal, Director, GROWiT Pvt India Ltd.
Plastic mulch film, shade nets, crop and fruit covers, sticky traps, pond liners, lay flat tubes, vermi beds, hole punching machines, and Agri wires are examples of protective farming goods and materials that can assist reduce pesticide use and increase per hectare productivity.
‘The concept is expanding at an exponential rate.’ For the previous 4-5 years, it has grown at a rate of 100% year on year. ‘It’s a great idea,’ says Mr Agarwal. Its prospects for growth in the country are promising, as it has only covered 1.5-2% of the total area under farming for diverse crops. ‘Its penetration in other countries is 60-70%,’ he remarked.
Concentrate on fruits and vegetables
To sell its protective farming goods, GROWiT, which already serves over 15,000 farmers, is focusing on vegetable and fruit crops. ‘We are also conducting experiments in grains, but it will take 3-4 months before we see any significant effects. We are doing trials on our demo farms,’ stated the director of the start-up.
The trials help to enhance output while decreasing costs. ‘These are continuing activities.’
Agarwal explained the notion of protective farming by stating that farmers often plant onions in two rows on a bed of dirt. GROWiT has developed a mulch film that will allow them to grow onions in ten rows on the same bed. ‘The farm’s productivity automatically increases fivefold,’ he claims.
On farms, the mulch layer also suppresses weed growth. Weeds growing on a cabbage plant, for example, devour all of the soil’s nutrients and water supply. As a result, the farmer must either employ labour to remove them or spray potentially toxic weedicides. The mulch sheet blocks light from reaching the earth, causing the weed to die. ‘This is cost-effective since it saves a lot of money on labour and weedicide,’ Agarwal said.
Some fruits and vegetables have black spots on them. This is because of ultra-violet radiation. Farmers use insecticides to function as a shield against radiation to safeguard their crops.
GROWiT has developed a crop cover that can help prevent black spots while also saving money on herbicides. The cover also helps to control temperature, which aids in uniform growth across the land. The crop cover also ensures that white roots, which require shade, grow properly.
‘By assuring darkness through crop cover, the white roots are able to absorb and transport water to the plant promptly. Because the transfer requires less work and energy, the plant grows well,’ Agarwal explained.
$50 billion world market
According to the company, its solutions help avoid soil erosion, reduce pesticide and water use, and enhance production by 40-200%. ‘We also help minimise soil salinity since increased pesticide use causes the salt content to rise, making the soil hard. We assist keep the soil moist, which breaks down the soil composition,’ he explained.
The global market for protective farming is valued at $50 billion, with India accounting for approximately $5 billion. ‘We’re aiming for a 10% market share,’ the company’s director stated.
GROWiT is now available in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka. In these four states, it has over 140 franchises. The startup intends to expand its farmer coverage to 30,000-40,000. ‘R&D is our USP since we continue to conduct research on our farms, and we are assisted by our franchises in every taluka in the four states where we are present.’ This is to ensure that the farmer does not have to drive more than 15-20 kilometres to come to our store,’ Agarwal explained.
GROWiT’s offering includes the purchase of plastic once the crop is harvested, as all of its goods are composed of plastic. ‘We do this to maintain carbon neutrality and recycling,’ he explained.
To make farmers aware of its products, the start-up has partnered with Krishi Vigyan Kendras and agricultural universities. It has collaborated with institutions on research and development. To increase its reach, the company created an app that is available in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, and Kannada.
‘The app will calculate the return on investment for farmers, so they can see what they stand to gain by investing ₹15,000 or ₹20,000.’ It’s linked to our YouTube account, so farmers can view all of the case studies,’ he explained.
GROWiT expects to boost its earnings to ₹40-50 crore this fiscal year, up from ₹19 crores last year. The company, which was founded in 2019-20, has already earned ₹7.5-8 crore in the first quarter. ‘If we get 18,000 farmers on board, we can generate ₹40 million in revenue.’ The average farmer’s ticket is ₹25,000. As a result, farmers do not need to spend a lot of money on our products,’ Agarwal explained.
It intends to expand its franchise network to 450-500 this year and to 2,000 by 2025. According to the company’s director, the company is focusing on these four states because they are among the top ten horticulture producers, accounting for 40-50% of overall production in the country.
Agri-services begins in August
Despite local rivalry, farmers in all four states where the start-up operates have embraced its products. In the future, the company plans to rent out agricultural machinery while also addressing banks and non-banking financing firms about lending to farmers.
‘We are also in talks with a few firms about purchasing farmer produce. We are launching our agriculture services in August, when farmers may get economic and farming recommendations by dialling a phone number,’ he said.
GROWiT is developing a full-service platform through which farmers who are not interested in purchasing the company’s products can obtain products that they are interested in. According to the company’s director, the start-up is developing a subscription model service for this purpose.
(Inputs from News Agency)