In the latest episode of the businessline podcast, host Jayapriyanka delves into the transformative trend of off-season corporate farming. This approach involves start-ups and MSMEs partnering with farmers through various contracts to produce agricultural products for consumers.

Archana, the Founder of My Harvest Farms, highlights how this business model is empowering farmers to increase their income during non-season periods. Additionally, it offers employment and expertise to farmers who would otherwise be unemployed, says Shan Kadavil, CEO & Co-founder, FreshToHome.

While concerns about farmer exploitation exist in corporate farming, companies with strong marketing knowledge are often able to secure better prices for farmers’ produce. Rahul Singh, Co-Founder of EcoSoul Home, shares insights from his unit’s processing of palm leaves.

This not only provides farmers with a steady income but also gives start-ups access to expert labour and the agricultural sector. Kadavil emphasises how start-ups can offer better prices to farmers while keeping products affordable for buyers.

Furthermore, these partnerships go beyond monetary benefits; some companies offer farmers vacations and social security benefits such as ESI and PF schemes, demonstrating a commitment to improving farmers’ lives.

Rituraj Sharma, founder, Zetta Farms, explains how aggregating farmers’ efforts and providing social security benefits is mutually beneficial. This model also includes landless agricultural labourers, addressing the issue of seasonal unemployment.

Start-ups not only market farm products but also educate farmers, helping them become entrepreneurs and produce value-added products, says Archana.

These innovations are making technology more accessible to farmers, attracting young people to agriculture as a career. The goal is to create more rural employment and tackle seasonal unemployment, which remains a significant challenge.

However, there are obstacles to bringing farmers into the organized sector, says Singh. Nonetheless, Sukhpal Singh, Professor, IIM-Ahmedabad believes this shift is crucial for making Indian agriculture export-oriented.

Building trust between farmers and corporates is another challenge. Some companies partner with government institutions to gain trust, but trust-building remains an ongoing issue, says Sharma.

Many of these new farming ventures focus on organic farming, recognising the market value of organic products. However, the lack of incentives for natural farming poses a hindrance, says Archana.

Despite the challenges, scaling up operations could offer solutions to sector-wide issues, according to Archana. Lastly, Singh emphasises the importance of striking a balance between the benefits and potential drawbacks of this approach.

Listen in!