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INTERVIEW

“Our target for this year is to make over Rs 40-50 crore”
Monday, 22 August, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
GROWiT India Pvt. Ltd., is a state-of-the-art manufacturer and distributor of advanced protective farming inputs. It is India's first Direct-to-Farmer (D2F), protective farming agritech company. The company specialises in creating high-quality and cost-effective protective farming materials and manufacturing products.

Founder Saurabh Agarwal, shares his thoughts about protective farming, agriculture, lowering carbon footprint, and more, in an email interview with Manjushree Naik. Excerpts:

Tell us about the funding raised recently by GROWiT.
Our goal is to double farmers’ income by the year 2030. We recently raised more than Rs 3 crore in seed funding to achieve this goal. Coppermint, Gaurav Singhvi (co-founder, WFC), Rajeev Goel (Sagar Life Sciences), Sunay Shah (Mahati Electrics), Rohan Desai (CEO, Triumph Capital), and Mukul Goyal (Tapi Capital LLP) are some of the investors who participated in this round. In FY 2021-2022, we generated about Rs 18 crore in revenue, and our target for this year is to make over Rs 40-50 crore.

This way, we will be in a better position to educate farmers about sustainable farming methods and how to effectively use our protective farming products. To further help farmers increase their crop yields, we have allocated a part of the fund for research and development. The core focus of it will be to produce standard-quality yet cost-effective farming equipment. We will also use a part of the funding to improve our GROWiT mobile app. It will allow us to digitise most of our services and help reach as many marginal farmers as possible.

What is protective farming?
Farmers face a wide range of challenges, which make their output and revenue unpredictable and inconsistent. These risks are often linked to climate change and insect infestations. Small-scale farmers are therefore reluctant to spend money on high-value commodities and technology that could help them increase their revenue.

Agricultural production is suffering greatly as a result. However, small and marginal farmers, in particular, can rely on digital technology and data to power their farming operations.

Protective farming is a technique in which crops are grown in a controlled setting. Based on the crop's growth requirements, this agricultural method controls crucial environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and light. It's an effective strategy for ensuring a high crop yield even in the face of unpredictability in the climate. Moreover, protective farming also allows farmers to grow crops year-round. With consistent production and fewer chances of failure, farmers can also generate a steady income flow.

All of the horticultural crops are part of GROWiT's overall goal of increasing agricultural output in the country. Mulch film is the first thing we recommend to farmers. People may start using other products once they notice the advantages.

Tell us about your app.
We built the GROWiT app to help educate farmers about protective farming and how to get maximum yields from their crops with the help of our products. Using the GROWiT app, farmers can learn more about the various GROWiT products, including crop cover, shade net, mulch film, and solarization film, to name just a few. On top of all that, we provide the most up-to-date climate data.

In addition, we are always working to improve the quality of our products as well as the efficiency of our farming operations. It also helps us decrease the negative effects that unpredictable weather has on our agriculture system. GROWiT India makes every effort to cater to the ever-evolving requirements of the farmers in our country.

Likewise, we have made it our mission to provide our customers with the highest quality of service and support. We also put in a lot of effort to come up with the most effective solutions to meet the requirements based on farmers' crops, climate, and terrain.

How do you educate farmers about protective farming and other profitable farming practices?
GROWiT is the first company to introduce the concept of protective farming to Indian farmers. We have long believed in sustainability, economic prosperity for farmers, and access to a hitherto untapped market. We want to make communities more resilient by bringing together the whole agriculture ecosystem, making the agriculture value chain easier to understand and stronger.

Farmers can also learn more about our products using the GROWiT app, and how to best utilise them based on their crops, terrain, and climate conditions. Over the next few months, we intend to add more features to the platform.

We are focusing on raising awareness about protective farming techniques in order to sustainably boost productivity. To do this, we have established a unique franchising model and demonstration farms (Grow Kshetras) around the country. This way, we will be in a better position to educate and train local farmers on sustainable agriculture practices. Furthermore, we have a buyback strategy in place where we collect used products such as films and crop covers from farmers for recycling. As a result, we could further lower our carbon footprint.

Give us details about your 117 franchise stores.
We have established a network consisting of over 117 franchisees at more than 100 taluka (Sub-District) levels in several districts throughout the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, amongst other states, with over 15,000 satisfied farmers. This network is spread out across several different districts. What differentiates us from other businesses is not just the innovative franchise model that our company provides but also the hub-and-spoke distribution network that it operates.

In addition, the company has set up over 50 Grow Kshetras, which are also known as Demo Farms, in each and every taluka in order to educate farmers on various protective farming practices that are sustainable and profitable. Additionally, by the year 2025, we expect to have 5,000 franchise locations and will have served about one million farmers with our services.

What are the farming materials and products that you offer?
Our company has pioneered a wide range of protective farming techniques and products to boost farm production and quality, thus increasing farmers’ income. The first product we urge farmers, to begin with, is Mulch Film, and once they see the benefits, they may start using other products. We are working to develop modest SKUs of Rs 500 to 700 so that farmers will be more willing to sample the products. And once they do, they will undoubtedly return for more. We feel that protective farming is no longer a luxury for farmers, but rather a necessity.

All of our products are food grade, fully recyclable and made of polyethylene. Subsidies from the government help our agricultural products be more affordable. We adhere to global standards in all of our goods and manufacturing operations. We use rigorous and accurate standards and processes at GROWiT, and we are completely transparent with all of our stakeholders. GROWiT is always a reliable partner that will give farmers high-quality products and great customer service.

How do you ensure optimum quality and a high yield for Indian agriculture?
Agri-tech products such as mulching paper aid in crop quality and enhance crop production by up to 60%. The primary functions of the coating are to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth. They also regulate soil temperature, protect crops from pests, and reduce water loss through evaporation.

Protective farming reduces weed growth by 80-90%, increases white root growth by 40-50%, and boosts crop yield by 40-100%, depending on the crop. It also deters insect, bird, and animal attacks and reduces soil salinity.

We provide a wide range of colours, including White Black, Silver Black, Red Black, Yellow Black, and many more. The colours in the film improve the texture of the crop, which helps farmers get higher prices at the market.

The Crop Cover, another of our core products, protects crops from UV radiation and reduces plant stress. As a result, farmers are able to produce more high-quality fruit and vegetable crops than they would otherwise be able to.

Our high-quality Agri Wire is an excellent alternative to galvanised wires for trellis and netting support. Since we follow the highest standards, our wire doesn't rust and lasts longer than other wires.

How do you lower the carbon footprint of Indian agriculture?
Agriculture and livestock can contribute to about 18% or more of India's annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, we may be able to realise a reduction equal to one-half of the total potential at a cheap cost if more efficient use of fertilisers, zero-tillage practices, and water management are implemented. Recycling previously used agricultural goods is another way to help cut down on emissions of carbon dioxide.

Following the completion of the crop cycle by the farmer, our company has a "Buy Back" policy for all of our products, according to which the company will purchase used goods for the purpose of recycling them. In the event that any of our products are found to have manufacturing defects, the company offers the customer a guarantee that entitles them to a full refund or replacement. You may always visit our website or mobile app if you want to learn more about our products and how Growiterians can benefit from using them.

Tell us about your plans to have 500 franchise stores by the end of this fiscal year and 2000-5000 franchise stores from FY 2025-2030
With over 500 franchise locations across these four states, we plan to have over 30,000 Growiterians by the end of 2022. We also plan to collaborate with a variety of agritech projects to expand our company's reach. There are also plans to open 500 franchise stores by the end of this fiscal year and over 2,000 by the end of 2025. Our seed funding helps us to expand our national and global reach.

To that end, we recently hosted a series of franchise meets across various locations in India. The purpose of this gathering is to educate franchisees about agricultural products and the science behind them. This will enable franchisees to better communicate our operating model to farmers while also learning more about the product development process.

Aside from that, we also provide franchisees with information on the current product line, upcoming launches, features, and so on. This will not only help the company strengthen its relationship with them but also hasten the overall growth of all parties. In fact, we have announced multiple rewards for franchisers in order to increase their involvement and boost sales. It will also encourage more retailers to participate in our community.
 
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