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How 14 India-Agri Businesses Built an Ecosystem to Drive Scale and Impact

Over 10 weeks, 14 early stage social enterprises developed the confidence and business skills to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across India.

November 15, 2021

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For enterprises working at the complex intersection of farming, climate, and food security, finding the right place to cultivate your ideas and refine your business model is crucial for driving scale and impact. A solid combination of business tools, thoughtful community, and leadership skills are essential for making a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers, their families, and the ecosystem at large. 

Acumen Academy in collaboration with Acumen India launched its first Climate Resilient Agriculture Accelerator program to support 14 agri-enterprises who are increasing the climate resiliency of smallholder farmers in India. The cohort included a range of companies — from businesses developing markets for regenerative practices, to agtech companies working to empower small farmers through data and tech. 

Over the 10 week program, participants refined key aspects of their business models and unlocked paths to scale while keeping social and environmental impact at the center. They formed deep connections with their cohort of peers and mentors who altogether focused on solving climate resilience solutions for smallholder farmers. They leveraged the experience of Acumen's investment work at the intersection of poverty and climate change, and harnessed our pioneering leadership practices to build a better world.

The curriculum included industry specific case studies, video tutorials, and practical readings and assignments with support from our Accelerator and Portfolio teams. The participants also worked with impact evaluation firm 60 Decibels to develop an actionable roadmap that improves the climate impact of their solutions. Together, the cohort completed a far-reaching curriculum designed to help them build the character and competence necessary to scale their solutions and transform the system.

Congratulations to the participating teams! Here’s a look at their inspiring next steps and greatest takeaways:

A COHORT AND MENTORSHIP FOCUSED ON CLIMATE RESILIENCE 

The Climate Resilient Agriculture Accelerator activates an ecosystem of agri enterprises with a shared focus: to increase farmers’ climate resilience and create more opportunities for regenerative practices. Participating social enterprises took the following lessons from their ambitious group of peers and mentors, and put into action their key takeaways from the program curriculum. 

NEERX

Through IoT and Satellite data, NEERX Co-Founders Harsh Agrawal and Nikita Tiwari are providing access to real-time and forecasted actionable insights for farmers to manage their crop water, nutrition, and spraying needs.

“This accelerator has a special focus on social enterprises, which is great for building and learning about new business models that are deeply rooted within the Indian economy. A lot of insights we got will be incorporated moving along, especially customer insights,” said Harsh.

SAI Sustainable Agro

SAI Sustainable Agro transforms degraded land through agroforestry technology. During the accelerator, Co-Founder and CEO Jitendra Sinha and Chief Strategy Officer Deepshikha Dalchand leveraged support from their mentor to find new ways to multiply farmer incomes. 

"Beforehand, we weren’t looking at [carbon credits] very seriously because we thought the costs were too high. Now, our mentor has provided us with a different approach that is accessible to us as a small social venture,” explained Deepshikha.

Temperate Technologies

At Temperate Technologies, accelerator participants Vishal Singhal and Bharani Beemanapally are leveraging decentralized storage solutions to help farmers realize better prices. As the CEO and Project Manager, the pair joined our Climate Resilient Agriculture Accelerator to grow their solar-powered cold storage room business.

“The program helped us narrow down a business model through customer discovery experiments. Our mentor, Kaushik Kappagantulu, helped us better understand our customers, run experiments, and validate assumptions," said Vishal. "As a result, we’ve stopped a few non-core projects that were not solving any real problems for our customers."

Krishi Janani PBC

Usha Devi Venkatachala created the offline and online marketplace Krishi Janani PBC to help bridge farmers practicing regenerative agriculture and consumers seeking verified organic products. One of her biggest takeaways from the accelerator is the importance of building a network and fostering collaboration.

“The cohort is a big part of this accelerator. [Climate resilient agriculture] is a huge crisis that is unfolding and it’s this network that’s going to help us move the needle. So the lesson I’m taking is to build the ecosystem and build the network so that in collaboration we can all take a bite-sized chunk of the crisis,” reflected Usha.

BUILDING STRATEGIES WITH FARMERS AT THE CENTER

Impagro Farming Solutions Private Limited

Growing up on the family farm, Akbar Sher Khan combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his interest in technology to create Impagro Farming Solutions. Along with his Co-Founder Suhrid Patel, they help Indian farmers increase produce quality and income and reduce food loss through a franchise model.  

“By running customer experiments we learned more about our value proposition to farmers and realized our farmers are primarily concerned with risk minimization," explained Suhrid. "The climate resilient module made us think about how we can go beyond monetary gains and improve the resiliency and livelihoods of our farmers.”

Bioprime AgriSolutions Private Limited

Bioprome offers an innovative solution to help farmers reduce crop losses and get assured yields by strengthening the climate resilience of their crops using targeted physiology modulating biomolecules. Following the accelerator, CEO Renuka Karandikar and Business Development Manager Mayur Umap are seeking collaborations to improve farmer resiliency.

“To deepen the impact for farmers, we would like to add a complete solution approach toward an offering. We would like to add offerings in collaboration with other startups such as soil testing, crop insurances for farmers, and market linkages. This will help our farmers become resilient against income fluctuations," said Renuka.

Frugal Labs

Frugal Labs focuses on sensor solutions and IoT, working with communities to implement easy and affordable technology that increases productivity and income, and conserves natural resources. Co-Founders Sreowshi Sinha and Anirban Chowdhury say they have new ideas to implement across the business following their participation in the accelerator.

“The program was designed elaborately and was very detailed. It gave us ideas — all from our value proposition, targeting the right customer, selecting the right kind of partnerships, to even designing revenue and finances,” reflected both Sreowshi and Anirban.

REFINING BUSINESS MODELS FOR SCALE AND IMPACT 

Farmology

Farmology is an all-in-one app where farmers can access free crop advice, purchase sustainable inputs, and sell their produce at higher prices. The team’s participants, Anup Ganguly and Vikas Goyal, gained better clarity through the accelerator to build partnerships and scale their social enterprise. 

“Instead of investing more into manufacturing our own input products, we'll be partnering with more small input manufacturers. We believe this strategy will help us reach 10,000 farmers through our app and achieve our revenue target over the next six months,” said Anup.

myHarvest Farms

myHarvest Farms is a farm-to-home platform connecting natural farmers growing fruits and vegetables directly with families looking for safe, healthy food. Founders Archana Pandian and Stalin Kalidoss have found value in the program’s climate modules and are thinking intentionally about how to measure their impact.

“The 60 Decibels session [on measuring climate resilience] was very useful. Every case study was a positive shot of energy, opening our eyes to new perspectives — be it hiring, marketing, or scaling," explained Archana.

Rukart Technologies

Rukart Technologies creates cold storage solutions that are zero-energy, zero-carbon and individually accessible for small and marginal farmers across India. Rishav Satyam, their Head of Strategy, and Co-Founder Gunavant Nehete have ambitious impact plans following their participation in the accelerator.

“[The accelerator has] contributed to our next steps, which include measurement of impact metrics and refinement of target users. We hope to increase revenue by 3x, expand into 2 more states, and implement detailed tracking of impact-related metrics,” said Rishav

AceWorx

AceWorx promotes responsible value chains through supply chain services and multi-stakeholder partnerships that enhance value for smallholder farmers and conscious businesses. Inspired by the accelerator, CEO Triveni Sati and Fractional CTO Mithilesh Kandalkar have expanded their plans.

“Using tools from the accelerator, our plans over the next six months include achieving more inclusiveness of climate resilient practices in our work,” said Mithilesh.

Urdhvam Environmental Technologies Private Limited

Urdhvam Environmental Technologies leverages IT, IoT, robotics and technology to develop innovative, affordable and scalable products to solve groundwater quantity, quality, and sustainability issues. Accelerator participants Rahul Bakare and Vinit Phadnis are looking towards new offerings and strategies.

“Following the structured approach of the Business Model Canvas we learned during the accelerator, we plan to develop new products and refine the strategies behind our existing products and services,” explained Rahul.

VALUES OF MORAL LEADERSHIP WORTH CULTIVATING

BharatRohan Airborne Innovations Private Limited

BharatRohan Airborne Innovations aims to transform the Indian agriculture system by enabling farmers to grow profitably using timely data from drone and Hyperspectral Imaging technology for a sustainable and safe food supply chain. After the accelerator, participants Amandeep Pawar and Rishab Choudhary walked away with a heightened sense of moral imagination.

“We will now try to cultivate moral imagination across different team members wherein we will strive to imagine ourselves in the shoes of those in need. We will partner with humility and audacity while taking our business to multiple states and countries," stated Amandeep. "We have already started onboarding multiple NGOs and are in conversation with Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Canadian governments to scale our model abroad.”

Spudnik Farms

Spudnik Farms is an agtech company that supports regenerative practices among its farmer network and opens market access for smallholder farmers through a demand-driven subscription model.

“I’ve learned about moral imagination and how to reimagine the world as it could be: better for the people I work with," said Sumeet. "When I put myself in their shoes, I’m able to understand their perspective and design better solutions for them, and for the planet.”

LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE

A special congratulations to BharatRohan and Krishi Janani — their engagement throughout the program and our assessment of their business models have granted them this year’s equity investment opportunity!

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