Once neglected, agritech startups are starting to have a moment in India.
On Tuesday, DeHaat, an online platform that offers comprehensive agricultural services to farmers, said it had raised $ 30 million in a new round of funding as the Indian company sought to maintain its accelerated growth despite the pandemic.
Prosus Ventures, formerly Naspers Ventures, led the Series C funding round for the Patna and Gurgaon-based startup. RTP Global and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, FMO, Omnivore and AgFunder also participated, bringing the startup’s fundraising to over $ 46 million. (Dexter Capital was the advisor for this round of funding.)
One of the biggest challenges Indian farmers face is securing agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers and then finding buyers after producing the yields.
DeHaat, which means village in Hindi, solves this problem by bringing together brands, institutional funders and buyers on one platform, accessible through a hotline and an app in local languages.
Only about a third of Indian farmers’ yields reach major markets, according to industry estimates. It has traditionally proved immensely difficult for farmers to find buyers for their products.
Once the season is over, DeHaat helps farmers sell their yields to wholesale buyers such as Udaan Business-to-Business Market, Reliance Fresh, and food delivery company Zomato.
The 10-year-old start-up has also developed a crop testing database and uses artificial intelligence to provide farmers with free personalized advice on what to plant in a season. DeHaat also helps farmers obtain working capital through partnership with hundreds of institutional businesses.
We wrote about DeHaat last year when it raised a $ 12 million fundraising round. The past nine months have been the story of its accelerated growth despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused lockdowns across the country for several months.
The startup, which today has a presence in eastern India – states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal – serves nearly 400,000 farmers, up from around 210,000 in April of last year, Shashank Kumar, co-founder and CEO of the startup, told TechCrunch in an interview.
Equally impressive is the way the startup approaches these challenges. It works with nearly 1,400 micro-entrepreneurs, up from around 400 last year, in rural areas who distribute more than 4,000 types of agro-input products to farmers from their regional hubs, then bring production back to the same hub. . “They are the ones who are responsible for the last mile delivery and aggregation,” he said.
DeHaat has grown on all fronts, including its revenue, which is up 3-3.5 times from last year, he said.
“At the end of March, our daily output volume was approximately 200 metric tonnes. Now it’s over 600 metric tons. Every day, we aggregate this quantity from farmers and supply it to mass market players and modern retailers. Likewise, on the agricultural input side – seeds, fertilizers and pesticides – we process nearly 10,000 orders per day, up from around 2,600 in March last year, ”he said.
“Prosus Ventures invests in industries around the world where innovation can significantly meet the great needs of society,” Ashutosh Sharma, India investment manager at Prosus Ventures, said in a statement.
“DeHaat serves a massive market in India with the agricultural sector worth over $ 350 billion to the country’s economy and made up of approximately 140 million farmers. Through its end-to-end agricultural service offerings, DeHaat will have a major societal impact in India, improving the income potential of Indian farmers and the overall performance of the sector while empowering microentrepreneurs across the country, including in rural areas. rural areas where there are often fewer income opportunities, ”he added.
The start-up plans to roll out the new capital to expand to more states in India, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and eventually serve 10 million farmers.
And another area he intends to focus on is recruiting top tech talent. The startup has doubled its workforce since last year, with many high-level hires at large companies. The startup, which recently made its second acquisition, is also open to exploring other M&A opportunities, DeHaat’s Kumar said.
Once ignored, dozens of agritech startups have popped up in India in recent years – and many older startups are starting to receive large checks from investors.
Further reading: Omnivore and Accel recently co-authored a report on India’s agro-tech landscape.