Agri Business

Pune-based consultancy to launch India’s first agri-collective

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on August 03, 2021

DCF Ventures’ Lighthouse Accelerator Program will provide start-ups access to retail outlets, corporates

Pune-based boutique consultancy firm DCF Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Germany-headquartered AP Globale, is launching the country’s largest agri-collective in alliance with private firms Agrowon Agrotech and Artis Agro under an initiative called Lighthouse Accelerator Program (LAP).

“The LAP will provide start-ups access to over 500 retail distribution points, 125 corporates as programme partners, besides a sales team of over 200 persons through its anchor partners,” said Lakshmi Potluri, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), DCF Ventures.

Through this initiative, start-ups will get access to farmlands for real-time testing and opportunities to develop products. It will also help them to connect and learn from a range of mentors and domain experts.

Reaching 25 lakh farmers

“The Lighthouse initiative can help the start-ups reach over 25 lakh farmers through Agrowon Mart retail stores,” Potluri told BusinessLine.

Agri-tech start-ups, in particular, will get market access, mentorship and capital that can help them grow, she said.

“Thane Global Impact Hub, a 35,000 sq ft facility launched a Lighhouse programme last year. But it could not be executed to completion due to Covid,” she said. DCF Ventures is working closely with Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Odisha governments to set up incubators now.

“We want to work with only 7-10 start-ups. They will be given experts matching their field and advisors who would give them specific inputs and also market access,” said Nikhil Srinivas, Corporate Innovation Lead, DCF Ventures.

The LAP will get going fully in the next four months and the start-ups could access every Agrowon marts in the rural areas. “In each area, these start-ups can access 4-5 farming communities,” he said.

FOCO model

Agrowon Agrotech, which has 515 marts in Maharashtra, will act as the centre not only to collect agri produce but also help growers buy inputs. The LAP will function as a Franchisee-owned company-operated (FOCO) model in these marts.

“At least 120 such marts have gone alive and the rest will be covered by November in Maharashtra,” Srinivas said.

One of the objectives with Agrowon involvement is to make farmers globally competitive, as it equips them with the latest information and technology in agriculture.

Artis Agro, on the other hand, is engaged in the business of crop nutrition, especially micronutrients and plant bio-stimulant. The company specialises in water-soluble and crop nutrition adhering to high-quality standards.

Corporates such as United Phosphorus Ltd, Coromandel Fertilisers and Deepak Fertilisers are part of LAP, the DCF Ventures Corporate Innovation Lead said.

The Lighthouse programme will also help the start-ups to get funds from investors such as Omnivore Capital and venture catalyst, and others.

“Corporates and venture capitals will be the go to partners for the start-ups and will be the gateway to the agri communities,” Potluri said, adding that DCF Ventures wanted to bring people who want to work with these communities on board.

This will be a learning curve for DCF Ventures itself as it plans to coordinate veterinary healthcare next. “We also plan to look into automation such as drone technology and embrace the digital evolution,” she said.

The farmer will also stand to benefit from the seamless blending of technology with physical infrastructure to offer farm inputs at a greater price certainty. Precision farming can help improve yield by 30 per cent and realisation can improve through quality management and traceability.

“Inefficiencies such as high wastage of farm produce can be eliminated and effective supply chain tech and output market linkages will prove to be an advantage to the farmer,” the DCF Ventures CEO said.

Challenge for start-ups

Agri-tech firms will bring in innovation in the agricultural ecosystem with tools such as digitisation, data platforms, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things and software as service models, she said.

A Bengaluru start-up that come up with a solar-powered solution which can keep pests away from the crops is one of the applicants for the LAP project, the DCF Ventures CEO pointed out.

“The challenge for the start-ups is to innovate, take innovations to farmers and make them adopt them. DCF Ventures helps these start-ups to get access to farming communities, which they would be lacking,” Potluri said.

DCF is closely working in sectors such as agriculture, dairy inputs, agri-financing, agri-equipment, market linkages, e-commerce, animal health, logistics and cold storage.

Published on August 02, 2021

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