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How Eeki Foods Is Revolutionising Farming With Its IoT-Powered Growing Chambers

SUMMARY

Eeki Foods specialises in growing high-quality, nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits with the help of its patented IoT-powered growing chambers or polyhouse

Eeki Foods' business model has attracted significant investor interest, and since its inception, the startup has raised a total of INR 70 Cr

The agritech startup, which claims to have clocked in revenues to the tune of INR 29 Cr in FY23, is ambitiously targeting INR 65 Cr in revenue for FY24, up 124% year-on-year (YoY).

The Indian startup ecosystem is abuzz with the stories of individuals who have quit their high-paying jobs and embraced entrepreneurship to pursue their passions. Among these inspiring stories is that of Abhay Singh and Amit Kumar, cofounders of Eeki Foods, an agritech startup, which sprouted its roots towards the end of 2018.

Today, the startup specialises in growing high-quality, nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits with the help of its patented IoT-powered growing chambers or polyhouse. However, there is a lot underneath the creation of the startup that uses Internet of Things (IoT) to address the pain points of the Indian agri industry.

Before we dive into the story of Eeki Foods, it is essential to note that building an agritech startup was never part of Singh and Kumar’s plan when they met at IIT Bombay.

After graduating from one of the country’s premier institutes, Kumar entered the world of product design and IoT, while Singh pursued business development with startups.

Even though the duo was involved in different job roles, the only thing that kept them together was their vision, in pursuance of which they zeroed in on solving a global challenge — the scarcity of high-quality agricultural produce.

Then came the day when Singh and Kumar finally bid adieu to their jobs and made it their mission to support sustainable agriculture and combat malnutrition by producing fresh, healthy, and affordable fruits and vegetables. 

Refraining from the urge to rush into establishing a startup, Kumar and Singh first built a rooftop polyhouse in Kota in March 2018. Their aim was to make a hi-tech chamber that was capable of reducing human efforts that go into maintaining farmlands and could boost the production of quality farm yield. 

After months of research and development, the duo created an IoT-powered growing chamber from polymer composites. The chamber was capable of enhancing nutrient absorption in plants, which, in turn, promised optimal farm growth.

While polymer composites helped them create a higher-quality sustainable chamber, their IoT tech stack made the production cost-effective. The cofounders claim that they found a natural alternative to insecticides and pesticides, which was mint plants, helping them further deter the cost of their produce.

Now that Kumar and Singh were fully equipped, they incorporated Eeki Foods in December 2018. Today, Eeki Foods specialises in growing high-quality, nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits using their patented IoT-powered growing chambers. 

The startup collaborates with landowners, including the ones that hold barren tracts, to set up their state-of-the-art growing chambers. This partnership not only enables landlords to earn tax-free agricultural income but also facilitates year-round farming, effectively transforming their lands into long-term fixed assets.

Eeki Foods’ business model has attracted significant investor interest, and since its inception, the startup has raised a total of INR 70 Cr from investors such as General Catalyst, Avaana Capital, iStart, GSF Accelerator and Better Capital.

The agritech startup, which claims to have cloaked revenues to the tune of INR 29 Cr in FY23, is ambitiously targeting INR 65 Cr in revenue for FY24, up 124% year-on-year (YoY). Currently, the cofounders of the agritech startup have partnered with 18 farms to revolutionise the Indian farm landscape.

Eeki Foods

Eeki Foods’ Initial Hits And Misses

Before setting up their rooftop polyhouse in Kota, the duo embarked on extensive grassroots research. They travelled across India to understand various farming techniques while gaining insights into how the Indian climate impacts crop production.

Their research revealed that many of the conventional farming practices in the country were unsustainable and financially burdensome. They also discovered that Indian consumers had a strong preference for locally grown produce over exotic varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies and more. However, there was a glaring absence of high-quality Indian agricultural products. 

This realisation changed the mindset of the cofounders, who initially aspired to cultivate exotic vegetables for the metro markets in India.

As they progressed, the cofounders experimented with various farming methods, including the use of coco-peat (a coconut derivative used to grow crops) and aquaponics (using fish to grow crops). While these methods showed promising results, the only lacuna was the cost associated with them. However, in the backdrop, the duo did not stop burning the midnight oil to come up with their solutions to produce high-quality farm yields cheaply, which they eventually did.

“As we moved ahead, we realised that we needed to create awareness around the kind of low-quality farm produce people are being served on their plates and how we can introduce them to high-quality affordable fruits and vegetables,” Singh said. 

For this, the cofounders joined hands with retail distributors to connect with a wider range of consumers. This move also helped them spread nutritional awareness and counter the consequences of consuming low-quality vegetables.

Their dedication and perseverance bore fruit when, in June 2019, Eeki Foods received its first funding from a local investor. The fund infusion helped the cofounders take initial first steps towards advancing their technology, and by January 2020, they ended up establishing their first R&D farm spanning 10,000 sq ft in Rangpur to assess the scalability of their technology. 

Progressing further, in March 2021, the duo set foot in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, by setting up a farm on a half-acre piece of land, making their first commercial move. 

Close on the heels, GSF Accelerator provided seed funding in May 2021 and became the first venture capital firm to believe in its vision. 

By December 2021, with substantial funding and investor trust, Eeki Foods constructed four more commercial farms, which are today selling fresh high-quality farm produce across Rajasthan. 

Observing the potential of the cofounders, Avaana Capital infused $2 Mn in a Pre-Series A funding round in February 2022, further bolstering the startup’s growth trajectory. As of November 2022, Eeki Foods had more than 40 acres of IoT-enabled farms under development across India.

“We also received a significant boost from the Rajasthan government’s iStart initiative, which infused INR 20 Lakh in our startup. They have also opened doors to valuable networking opportunities that are helpful in building connections with potential key stakeholders,” the cofounders said.

Today, Eeki Foods has five acres of land in Panipat (Haryana) and over 15 acres of land in Rajasthan. By the end of 2023, the startup plans to collaborate with landowners in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

What’s The Business Model?

Eeki Foods employs a multifaceted approach. As mentioned above, to expand its reach and empower the agriculture sector the startup partners with landowners that have unused pieces of land. 

These landowners provide land and the necessary capital for establishing the farm. This allows Eeki Foods to leverage otherwise idle lands into productive use by establishing their IoT-enabled growing chambers. Meanwhile, landowners receive tax-free profits from the produce, which is sold in the metro markets via vegetable distributors.

Companies like Country Delight, Barton Breeze and Fit Farms have also partnered with Eeki Foods to offer fresh quality indigenous vegetables directly to consumers.  

What’s At The Heart Of Eeki Foods’ Tech Stack

Eeki Foods harnesses the power of IoT technology to create suitable conditions for crops inside its specialised growing chambers. This technology facilitates remote monitoring of critical factors like temperature and humidity, enabling farmers to oversee conditions from a distance.

As stated earlier, these growing chambers are made from a special polymer composite material, which provides the ideal environment for plant roots, ensuring superior quality vegetable production year-round at all Eeki Foods’ farms. 

Additionally, these chambers not only aid in effective nutrient absorption by the plants but also enable farmers to directly observe the roots, making it easier to spot and address any issues quickly.

Not just this, the tech automates adjustments to maintain suitable growing conditions and sends alerts if problems arise. This ensures consistent and ideal conditions and contributes to greater energy efficiency.

The Road Ahead  

Eeki Foods is committed to advancing its cost-effective farming technology and aims to develop its growing chambers to reduce farming costs by 30%. 

Additionally, it plans to leverage machine learning to enable predictive disease analysis and proactively address nutritional deficiencies in crops and pest attacks. 

Eeki Foods has also developed specialised recipes for providing the right nutrients to specific crops, such as cucumbers and various types of tomatoes. 

“The integration of IoT and data analytics empowers farmers with valuable insights to enhance crop yields. Sustainability and eco-friendly practices are gaining momentum, contributing to reduced carbon emissions and the fight against climate change,” cofounders said. 

The cofounders believe that with active support from the government through various schemes, agritech is poised to play a pivotal role in reshaping India’s agriculture sector.

Eeki Foods competes with the likes of Unnati Agri, Leads Connect, DeHaat, VEGROW, BharatAgri and Ergos in the Indian agritech space. Notably, each of these startups employs distinct business models and offers diverse tech solutions to address unique agricultural challenges.

Per an Ernst & Young report, the Indian agritech industry is expected to grow to a size of $24.1 Bn by 2025. As of now, agritech startups like Eeki seem to be sitting on a massive market opportunity with their innovative solutions devised to help farmers multiply their income and farm yield. 

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