More than 80% of the about 14 crore families in India which depend on agriculture for their sustenance have a landholding of less than five acres, while more than half of India’s cultivable land is irrigated by monsoon rains. Smallholder farmers often face challenges in accessing information on weather and agronomic practices to be followed and other agricultural inputs. AgroStar, a Pune-based digital farmer network and agri-inputs platform, was launched in 2013 to bridge this deficit.
The company has three verticals – an app which provides farmers with agricultural and agronomic inputs and information on weather; retail outlets through which farmers get inputs on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, etc; and an export division that’s into fruits and vegetables.
“We have created one of India’s largest digital networks of farmers, helping them by offering great content, real-time advisories and quality agricultural inputs,” Shardul Sheth, co-founder, and CEO, AgroStar, said. The company has built a multilingual content-led commerce platform, with the AgroStar app witnessing five million downloads so far, of which one million constitute active users. “Farmers use the app to read and watch agronomic content, post their crop problems to get advice and share and comment on fellow farmers’ posts, search for agri products, and transact on the platform.”
AgroStar currently operates in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh where farmers avail its agri solutions for the entire crop cycle with a call to the company’s agri-advisory centre, through the AgroStar Agri Doctor app or by visiting its around 3,000 retail stores.
“We have around 500 micro entrepreneurs delivering agricultural products sourced from various companies to farmers across these states,” Sheth said. With more than 500 advisors, who are domain experts, servicing the farmers, the company says it runs Asia’s largest agronomy contact centre.
In March, 2022, AgroStar acquired Mumbai-based INI Farms, one of the largest exporters of bananas and pomegranates in India. INI Farms’ ‘Kimaye’ brand of products are available across retail chains in 35 countries. “Through this acquisition we have given our farmers a global reach, as ‘Kimaye’ is now a global consumer brand,” Sheth said.
AgroStar had raised $70 mn from Evolvence, global asset manager Schroders Capital, Hero Enterprise, and UK’s development finance institution CDC in a funding round last year. Its other investors include Aavishkaar Capital, Accel, Bertelsmann, Chiratae Ventures, and Rabo Frontier Ventures. The company, which reported sales of Rs 500 crore in 2021-22, is aiming to touch Rs 1,000 crore in sales in the current fiscal, he said.