Does organic produce actually qualify as ‘organic or even ‘organic’? Although India is the top country in Asia in the production of organic food on 23 lakh hectares of land the term “organic” cannot be protected within the country, leading to widespread, and often unsubstantiated usage.
The idea of doubt erupted in the thoughts of Sanket Mehtaand Ganesh Nikam. The duo had known each other since 2012-13 and built a strong rapport when Ganesh met Sanket, who was working as a credit manager at the Central Bank of India in Pune, for a few agri-financing-related proposals.
They discovered the method of soilless cultivation that is used in hydroponic farming. Hydroponics is an Latin word that means ” working water,” produces produce by exposing their roots to a highly nutrient-rich water solution. This method permits the plant to absorb all the nutrients needed directly out of the water.
“It is more controlled, precise, and traceable,” notes Sanket in a chat via Economic pitch
In the year 2019 the duo met to form the an agritech company Nutrifresh with the goal of providing safe free of pesticides and residues food products to the masses of consumers. The company is based in Pune and employs hydroponic methods (soilless cultivation) to cultivate produce.
The founders of the company bootstrapped it by investing an initial sum of Rs 15,000 from savings of their own.
How do they work?
Nutrifresh’s hydroponic gardens utilize an environment that is controlled by using insect nets and polyhouses. The air is provided in controlled ways, water is RO-purified, and the nutrients are water-soluble.
The entire production process is managed, right to the purchase of top-quality seed from US and Israel nursery, germination harvesting, packing, and finally, the delivery of the products to the consumer. The company states that the complete production process from farm to fork takes less than 24hrs, and requires virtually any human involvement.
According to Sanket the controlled conditions and precision farming have dramatically decreased the dependence of the farms on monsoon.
Nutrifresh employs the use of fertigation–supplying dissolved fertilisers to crops through a drip irrigation system. When used in conjunction with an effective water system for irrigation, the nutrients and water can be controlled to maximize the output of marketable products from a certain amount of the inputs.
The initial start-up was 4 acres of land it has since grown by 28 acres to Pune. Hydroponic farming is in operation on 20 acres and the remaining land is expected to be ready in December of this year. It produces and sells 42 SKUs of fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, butterhead lettuce zucchini, arugula, European cucumbers, Italian basil, Hass avocado, blueberries and avocados, as well as many others.
The land is managed by the 200-member Nutrifresh team.
“All post-harvest practices are done by the Nutrifresh team, and they are not outsourced. For these reasons, Nutrifresh has been able to achieve superior quality and freshness,” he says.
NutriFresh is compatible with the both B2B as well as B2C models.
The company supplies food to more than 100 aggregators including trade aggregators with new age technology and delivery partners such as Nature’s Basket, Bigbasket, Swiggy Instamart, Vista Foods (McDonald’s), Supr Daily, Kissan Konnect, and Zomato Hyperpure among others.
It is used by around 15,000 people and boasts a weekly number of active users of around 1,000 users. It claims to get approximately 100 orders each day.
Customers can make orders through the app, website, or unsurprisingly, Google Forms.
“We started the B2C business during the lockdown and we never thought that we would get a great response, so we used Google Forms. To date, the maximum number of orders that we’ve received are from Google Forms,” Sanket says.
Nutrifresh has signed agreements together with Nutrifresh has partnered with Dunzo as well as Uber to deliver its products, and it also has five Tempos. Nutrifresh offers a delivery charge of 50 Rs for orders that are less than 250 rupees and waives the fee for larger transactions. The company also states that the price of the goods is in average, 1.5 times higher than the market price.
To reduce the costs for logistics B2C shipping only takes only on Wednesday and on Saturday.
The B2B business generates 85percent of the startup’s income and the remaining 15 percent of the revenue being B2C.
Nutrifresh produced Rs 8.74 crore through the operations (sales) for FY21 and 27.72 crore in FY22.
In a localized P2P marketing program, the company has joined forces with ‘Tigress Moms’, which is a community comprised of 10,000 women from Mumbai and Pune in order to encourage healthy lifestyles and healthy foods. NutriFresh gives a commission of 10-15% per order to women.
“We have formed a mom-centric distribution network to encourage women entrepreneurship and advocate for a healthy lifestyle for moms of today,” He says.
Thus far, Nutrifresh works with around 150 farmers. Women make up over 90% of the employees. Nutrifresh aims to train farmers in the latest methods and assist them in achieving full self-sufficiency.
The company is accredited by multiple organizations which include ISO (International Organization of Standardisation), HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and APEDA (Agricultural Processing and Food products Export Development Authority). The company also adheres to Global GAP, which is the internationally recognized guidelines for the production of farm products.
Competition and market
Based on IMARC The Indian agriculture sector was valued at Rs 71,220 billion by 2021. It is projected to be worth the figure of Rs 1,42,280 in 2027. This is expected to grow at CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.3 percent between 2022 and 2027.
The size of the global hydroponic market was $2.1 billion in 2020 and is predicted to expand at a rate of 20.7 percent between 2021 and 2028 according to Grand View Research. Although still in its early stages however, the Indian hydroponics industry is predicted to expand at a rate of 13.53 percent from 2020 to 2027 in accordance with DataM intelligence.
The company was founded in May of 2022. Nutrifresh has raised $5m in its pre-Series A round by investors around the world. The goal was to expand farm operations, provide total traceability and transparency for products used for marketing and develop an integrated platform for farmtech.
The startup is currently in talks with investors about raising a second round of capital by the end of the end of January 2023. It will be competing against Simply Fresh..
Nutrifresh intends to grow its business by adding 20 acres in Pune under an DOCO (dealer-owned company-operated) model where 40% of earnings of the products will be distributed to people who are the owner of land. Nutrifresh is currently at the stage of registering two dealers with 7 and 8 acres of land each.