By Jyotsna Bhatnagar
A five-year-old startup, Bengaluru-based CityGreens, is creating ripples in the agritech space. The brainchild of Gaurav Narang, an alumnus of IIM Kolkata, the company has earned the sobriquet of India’s most awarded hydroponics startup, and has also won grant awards of Rs 4.5 mn from the government. A specialist in turnkey establishment of high-quality automated hydroponics, aeroponics and indoor farms in which clients can grow exotic and off-season crops, the company also runs the largest online hydroponics store with more than 300 food-grade products on offer.
But what prompted the 40-year-old Narang with a professional history of steering health startups like Medybiz Pharma, a speciality pharmaceutical distributor which was later acquired by home healthcare brand Portea, to venture into agritech? Says the founder CEO of CityGreens, “Our health is inextricably linked to the food we eat. As the father of a small child, I decided to shift my focus to health since the kind of food we consume is not healthy at all. Our food contains over 60 pesticides which are legally permitted for use. Even the so-called organic foods are not free from organic pesticides.”
With this in mind, Narang decided to start CityGreens in 2017 with his wife, Shweta Narang, a Goldman Sachs Fellow from IIM Bangalore. “We put in a seed capital of `60 lakh and set up the company along with two interns,” he says. Though the initial model conceptualised by Narang was a trading one for which research was done on technology for growing healthy food, along the lines of models being followed in the US, Middle East and Singapore, “the idea was aborted in view of the high costs involved.”
It was at around this time that Narang sent an entry to iCreate, the Ahmedabad-based government-owned incubator for technology startups for their Startup India Grand Agriculture Challenge. “Though we didn’t win the challenge, our model was appreciated by iCreate CEO Anupam Jalote, who asked me to set up a research farm on their premises. To this day, iCreate is hand-holding our venture, making it the longest association between it and a startup,” he says. Established in 2017, CityGreens research farm is probably the largest in the country dedicated solely to advancing research in the domain of Controlled Environment Agriculture.
That was then! Today, CityGreens is a name to reckon with. It has already invested `2.5 crore in expanding its business. “We have set up high-quality, automated farms and simultaneously developed low-cost hydroponic solutions for farmers who are on a budget and would like to grow seasonal and local crops, while at the same time enjoying higher yields and improved profits as compared to traditional farming,” he says.
Among the startup’s best known clients are the Ahmedabad-based Gabbar Farms, one of the city’s most successful hydroponic farms; Fyllo Fresh, Ahmedabad’s largest commercial hydroponics farm; Super Greens at Vadodara; India Greens at Coimbatore; and the Sona group with 25 farms. In addition, CityGreens is all geared up to enter cannabis production for medicinal purposes.
With the company’s automation suite offering to automate routine tasks like climate control, nutrient balancing, irrigation control, electrical and machinery automation, water level monitoring, operation of shade and protection curtains, CityGreens is setting its sights on being every farmer’s friend indeed!