From corporates to crops, a techies foray into the fields

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 24 2013, 10:29am hrs
When Krishna Kumar, an engineer by profession and a former employee of General Electric (GE), announced his plan to launch a technology start-up for farmers, even the most ardent well-wishers in his office, including senior colleagues, were surprised. The concern was apparent as Kumar had an illustrious and lucrative career at the American multinational conglomerate he was even selected for GEs prized global leadership programme during his five-year stint.

Nonetheless, Kumar managed to convince a few of his friends to part with their hard-earned money (he generated about R7 lakh for his start-up), but not without a rider. I told them that if my venture goes down, their investment would go down too, Kumar told FE ,while elaborating on his companys formative years.

That was in November 2010.

Three years down the line, Kumars company Cropin Technology Solutions (CTS), which has developed a cloud-based technology integrated with mobile phones (apps) to capture real-time data from farms provides instant solutions to about 15,000 farmers across 25,000 acres of farmland. Starting with Karnataka, CTS has now set up operations in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Though it has just about 15 employees at present, his shareholders (mostly former colleagues) are his pillars of support and growth.

Kumar launched the initiative after interacting with farmers for over six months. Our platform captures crop planning, crop stage monitoring, farm auditing, harvesting, yield forecasting and real-time farm pest resolution, along with traceability, he said.

Every stage of the crop cycle is captured at the site on a real-time basis and instant support is provided to farmers for crop protection and increasing the yield. We provide the enterprise resource planning solution, which connects farmers to the companies sourcing their produce, Kumar said.

Initially, the corporates engaged in the agribusiness were sceptical about the viability of the technology platform.

However, after much engagement, Safal, the fruits and vegetables wing of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), asked Kumar and his team to do a pilot project with tomato farmers in Chikballapur Karnataka.

Through our IT connect with agricultural scientists, we provided inputs on agronomics to farmers, which resulted in an increase in production (by more than 20%, in case of the tomato farmers), Kumar said.

With the successful completion of the NDDB pilot project, several major players from the agribusiness sector approached Kumars team. FieldFresh (a Bharti Enterprise), PepsiCo, Technico (a division of ITC), Tatas Rallis, Omnikan (a division of Kankor Group), M&M, McCain, Nuziveedu Seeds, Mapro, Pradan and Garden Valley are some names that have taken help from CTS.

The IT platform offers a range of solutions, including farmer registration with geo-tagging of land for traceability, land area survey for correct acreage measurement, agri-input distribution tracking-delivery time and quantity, crop-stage monitoring with complete health status, pest and disease resolution and real-time tracking of harvest and consignment for reducing supply chain losses.

The platform also connects farmers to financial institutions such as HDFC Bank, which has started providing unsecured loans to farmers. We help the bank to reach farmers faster, collect required information in real-time using our IT-based platform, Kumar said.

The company, whose revenue touched the R1-crore mark last fiscal, is targeting banks, hybrid seed producers, contract farming companies, food processors and exporters for expanding its business.