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Transforming farmers into agripreneurs

Transforming farmers into agripreneursTransforming farmers into agripreneurs
Highlights

Even decades after independence, Indian farmers are largely unable to realise better prices for their produce because of involvement of middlemen at multiple levels. Due to lack of awareness and hand-holding,enterprising farmers have been unable to venture into processing sector and set up facilities for want of timely and adequate financial assistance.

Hyderabad: Even decades after independence, Indian farmers are largely unable to realise better prices for their produce because of involvement of middlemen at multiple levels. Due to lack of awareness and hand-holding,enterprising farmers have been unable to venture into processing sector and set up facilities for want of timely and adequate financial assistance.

After studying the distress of Indian farmers raising various crops, Our Food, a technology-driven farmer franchising platform, has taken upon itself to help farmers add value to farm produce by facilitating their entry into processed foods sector. The objective is to effect better price realisation by way of establishment of new age low-cost micro-processing units with buoyant market linkages. The platform helps farmers take up processing to add better value to their produce locally and also seeks to reduce transportation, operating and labour costs. The output is directly sold on the tech platform to bulk buyers like restaurants, caterers, educational institutions, etc.

Our Food founder Bala Reddy, sharing his successful story, says: "We are democratising the food processing industry, by directly connecting farmers to consumers, thus eradicating many layers which deny farmers right price for their yield. Our company helps farmers setup low-cost processing units, which are affordable by them and makes them sell directly to bulk users."

"Being a farmer's son, I have always had a very close connection with farm and agricultural life. I used to go into the fields to help my father and since then I have watched closely his struggle and all problems he had to face. That's when I decided to do something for the agricultural sector by bringing entrepreneurship within their reach.

After completing my B Tech, I joined a software company and there I started introspecting on what exactly I wanted in my life. I understood that my passion had been agriculture right from my childhood. To get better insights into agriculture entrepreneurship, I went on to pursue agri business set upcourse from IIM-Ahmedabad. It honed my skills and I subsequently ventured out on my own to do my bit to help the farming community," he relates his journey from a techie into farm entrepreneurship enabler.

A feasible idea materialised in January 2016 and Bala Reddy started working full-time to achieve his set goals a couple of months later in June 2016. Impressed by the idea, the two other two co-founders Raghu Prasad Mulukoju and Shashikanth Menchu came on board in September that year.

The trio first zeroed in on the districts which are near Hyderabad market, like Medak, Ranga Reddy and Mahbubnagar. They initially started connecting farmers and millers and bulk buyers, using a technological application. But it didn't work out as they assumed there could be storage mills in every village or nearby them but that was not the case. After doing some research, Bala Reddy said, they learnt there could be smalls mills to take up farm grade processing.

He contacted agriuniversity and enlisted its support to make designs and got them fabricated with the help of university-approved fabricators. Thus, came into being an agribusiness center which can be in district headquarters. It will have a warehouse in which the agri-business model will be demonstrated to the farmers. The whole system has been designed such as to convince the farmers to start their own processing mills. Soon, the idea gained traction and farmers are now impelled to own processing plants in their own farms.

Our Food improved upon the agri-business model and started helping farmers set up franchise plants. So far, as many as 95 farmer franchise plants have been located across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Our Food says its mission is to establish around 500 farmer franchises by 2020 in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

Each farmer franchise plant takes 3 months to come up and costs around 5 lakh. With Rs 1 lakh initial investment, farmer gets Rs 4lakh loan. Rs 2.5 lakh is given to set up machinery, Rs 1lakh towards working capital, and Rs 50,000 for procuring shed material.

The farmer can repay the amount within 4 years. The company has been getting farmers into franchise model since March 2018. At present, it claims to be processing around 800 applications for setting up franchise plants. The company is selecting small and marginal farmers instead of rich farmers with 10 to 20 acres of land. Unemployed individuals in the age group of 25-35 years, small and marginal farmerswith 2 to 5 acres land holding are preferred.

RECOGNITIONS GALORE

  1. Star Innovator of the Year Award from Telangana government & T-Hub at the Road to GES
  2. NASSCOM 10,000 warehouse incubated start-up
  3. 'Finalist at the Slush Global Impact Accelerator' in 2016 & 2017
  4. 'Business Excellency Awards' for agriculture and food processing from HMTV & FTAPCCI
  5. "Winner at ICT 4D Data Jam"- a hackathon for ICT in agriculture
  6. 'Runners-up at Get in the Ring,'at Impact Start-up Fest, The Hague, Netherlands
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