Maharashtra start-up helps women farmers prevent food wastage

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Published: December 11, 2019 3:04:04 AM

The start-up wants to raise funding by March 2020 to expand its farm supply chain from 1,200 farmers to over 10,000 and increase the production capacity to 70,000 tonne per year.

Maharashtra, start up, women farmer, prevent food wastage, food wastage, farming,S4S buys dehydrated vegetables such as carrots, onion, beetroot powder from the farmers and the produce goes through various quality checks before it reaches the end-user.

As prices of vegetables and onion keep on fluctuating or sky-rocketing, an Aurangabad start-up has promised to change things for the better.

According to UN estimates, around 40% of food produced in India is either lost or wasted due to their perishable nature. As a young child hailing from a rural family at Ambejogai in Beed district of Maharashtra, Vaibhav Tudke has seen this several times.

Following a PhD in Sustainable Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Vaibhav wanted to use his knowledge and expertise for the benefit of farmers. As part of his PhD in 2011, he invented a solar dryer, which increases the shelf life of spices, vegetables, fruit and meat to about six months without using preservatives.

Sensing an opportunity, 32-year-old Tidke, along with friends Ganesh Bhere, Tushar Gaware, Shital Somani, Ashwin Pawade, Nidhi Pant and Swapnil Kokate, started a food start-up in Aurangabad called S4S Technologies in 2014 to sell dried produce such as vegetables, fruit and meat to food companies. Since sun-drying has traditonally been used by women, they decided to make women farmers their target audience.

Tidke and his team spent a couple of years on the design of the machine to make it easy for use for women farmers. Since the dryers work on a renewable source of energy, they are well suited for farmers who have to deal with erratic electricity supply. The company decided on a rental model.

The farmers, who have installed the machine at their place, initially pay10% in the beginning and then the income generated by the farmers is used to make the bank instalments.

“The solar dehydration set-up costs Rs 80,000 and S4S agriprenuers buy these machines with bank’s help and then, S4S pays the farmer for processing and to pay back the bank EMI. We pay farmers separately for raw material per kg and on top of that, we pay them processing fees (for dehydrating the products) ranging between Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000 a month,” Tidke explained. The invention has brought several accolades for the team such as UN Leadership Award in the year 2012.

Currently, the start-up procures produce from 1,100 farmers and there are 200 farmers-cum-micro-entrepreneurs from 13 villages in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, who are processing dehydrated food for S4S. The dried fruits and vegetables procured from the farmers are finally collected at S4S’ factory in Aurangabad for further processes and distributions.

Marico Innovation Foundation and Nestlé help the start-up to keep up with the quality checks. S4S has the capacity of producing 5,000 tonne of products per year.

S4S buys dehydrated vegetables such as carrots, onion, beetroot powder from the farmers and the produce goes through various quality checks before it reaches the end-user. The start-up sells dried food to more than 250 B2B customers, including Marico, the Indian Railways, Sodexo, etc. S4S recently forayed into the B2C segment and now also sells snacks such as beetroot chips under the DesiVidesi brand on various e-commerce platforms.

Today, over 200,000 meals are made using S4S onion in India for railways, flights, hotels, corporates and households. The start-up received an undisclosed amount of seed capital last December from US-based angel investors FactorE Ventures, USA, and funding support by Shell Foundation, Gates Foundation, BIRAC. S4S has operations in Maharashtra and Odisha, and plans to establish presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The start-up wants to raise funding by March 2020 to expand its farm supply chain from 1,200 farmers to over 10,000 and increase the production capacity to 70,000 tonne per year.

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