Ag Tech Investment News

Ag Tech Investments in Farm Mechanisation Business

PUNE: For small farmers in India, startups focusing on innovations in farm mechanisation are seeking traction and funding. A sustainable agricultural inputs company VillFarm, is the latest to secure funding, in a round led by Unitus Seed Fund, Zurich-based Rianta Capital and other investors.

Sickle Innovations recently raised investment of about Rs 20 lakh from Mahindra Finance through IIMA's Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) and another Rs 20 lakh through the Indian Institute of Science.

Also venture capital firms such as Omidiyar and Omniore are looking to invest heavily in startups in this sector and Rabo Equity India Agri Business Fund 2 is targeting a total corpus of $200 million by October this year to focus on food and agriculture business companies.

Sickle Innovations, launched last year by Nitin Gupta along with Vinay Reddy after Gupta quit from the Indian Space Research Organisation, has launched a handheld cotton harvesting machine and a fruit plucker for mangoes. Now it is partnering with a leading dairy equipment manufacturer to develop milking machines for small milk farmers.

Nashik-based startup Mitra, which raised Rs 12 crore of investment from Omnivore Capital last year, is helping in farm mechanisation in the horticulture sector, while to reduce human labour, Kinetic Machines is working towards bio mimicking of farm machines.

Devneet Bajaj, CEO of Mitra said "Access to good quality farm machinery customised for Indian farming is lacking in India. Farm machinery imported from the West is made for large farms typically found in western countries. Hence, there is a huge potential for innovation in this sector," Devneet Bajaj which has built an automated spraying machine for fruits and has now moved to develop equipment for vegetable crops and plantation crops such as sugarcane and cotton.

The company is now aiming at revenue of Rs 100 crore by March 2017. Bajaj said "We will be going in for the next round of investment soon and targeting raising about Rs 60 crore. We are present in Maharashtra currently and are expanding into Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh."

To establish India's first Agtech Accelerator, IIMA's CIIE has partnered with a-IDEA, the business incubator at Indian Council of Agricultural Research's National Academy of Agricultural Research Management. The accelerator, which has selected eight food and agri technology startups for its programme, will pick two final startups in October for investment.

Salim Vali, vice president at CIIE said "We will also help all the startup companies connect with investors. The aim of this accelerator is to facilitate innovation aimed at small farmers, which will help farmers raise their productivity and income."

Kinetic Machines is one of the participants with the accelerator, who has developed a 'universal tilling machine', which does ploughing, weeding and tilling all at once, therefore it saving cost of farming.

Ashwant MP, who co-founded the company with Jerish John said "We developed the prototype of the multipurpose agri machine at the Kerala Agri University. We have also received grants from Cochin University and Department of Science and Technology (part of the science and technology ministry)."

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