Despite agriculture being the prime occupation for 58% of Indians, around one-fifth of farmers hold less than 0.01 hectares of land. Crops grown in this minute land are the only thing that will help the farmer and his family to financially survive. This pushes the farmers to heavily invest in agri-inputs - that are seeds and fertilisers (to cultivate crops) and pesticides (to protect those crops). A 2016 study found that low literacy levels amongst farmers impacted their purchase of agri-inputs.
To help equip farmers with the right knowledge and give them access to high-quality agri-inputs, brothers Shardul Sheth and Sitanshu Sheth launched AgroStar. The brothers realise the pain point was a lack of knowledge within the community. AgroStar is a one-stop solution for all the farmer’s needs right from high yield variety seeds to agronomy tools. They also help farmers by providing knowledge and helping them cut cultivation costs.
The startup had provided doorstep delivery of agri-inputs even during the pandemic. AgroStar’s mobile app witnessed 5 million + downloads and the venture is experiencing a 5x year-on-year growth since its start in 2013. The omnichannel platform has served 5 million farmers in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. It operates in 7500 pins pan-India.
The Pune-based startup started with an initial investment of Rs 10 lakh, AgroStar has so far raised $112.4 million in 7 rounds of funding. Their last round of funding was in 2021, where they raised $70 million from CDC Group, Evolvence India Fund, Hero Enterprise, and Schroders Capital. Some of its other investors include Accel, InnoVen Capital, Bertelsmann India Investments, Chiratae Ventures and Aavishkaar Venture Capital.
Last month, AgroStar acquired a 100% stake in Mumbai-based INI Farms. Started by Pankaj and Purnima Khandelwal in 2009, INI Farms served 50,000 tons of fruits globally. They had a ‘Fruit Route’ that helped users track their fruit from farm to fork. This Mumbai-based startup exported pomegranates and bananas to over 35 countries. Acquiring INI Farms helps AgroStar enter the $300 billion-plus agriculture output market.
Agriculture is one such sector of India where innovation happens the least. Will startups such as AgroStar help India’s farmer to grow their wealth along with the crops?