A Bengaluru company is revolutionising the fruit and vegetable supply chain by getting rid of middlemen and empowering small farmers.
Unpredictable monsoons, soaring temperatures, rising prices, and poor harvests… these are just some of the countless things that farmers in our country have to worry about. Three people have set out to address the one avoidable problem that all farmers face – an ineffectual supply chain managed by unscrupulous middlemen.
Rohan Patnaik, Raghunandan B and Amol Patil are co-founders of GreenAgtech, a Bengaluru based B2B tech company that is looking at revolutionising the fruit and vegetable supply chain. Their end goal? To empower small farmers.
Image for representation only. Source: Flickr
Their story starts with the conception of a food delivery app. “It was in sourcing the vegetables for our kitchens that we realised the system, the supply chain just does not work,” says Rohan Patnaik. Describing the system as extremely ineffectual, Rohan explains that the supply chain is filled chock-a-block with distributors and middlemen.
Discussions with farmers at sabzi mandis at 4 in the morning led to a better understanding of the true extent of the problem: the intermediaries between the producer, the farmer and the consumer take 50% of the total value paid. Most times, these intermediaries add little value and limit their involvement to transport and negotiations; yet of every Re.1 the farmer makes, 50 paise goes straight into the pockets of middlemen. “It’s ridiculously high!” exclaims Rohan.
Speaking to farmers in Karnataka further strengthened their resolve: “They told us they just wanted to come out from under the clout of middlemen because they were being fleeced,” says Rohan. Convinced that there was a problem of far greater significance at hand, they decided to shift focus to building a system that would address this issue while delivering lasting social impact.
“We are building a platform that will function as a market place, and the supply chain for this market place will be run by us,” explains Rohan.
Customers from the HORECA channel (that is, hotels, restaurants, and cafe segment) can place orders for the fruits and vegetables they require. These orders will be filled by GreenAgtech, who will procure fresh produce directly from the farmers, thereby eliminating issues with the supply chain.
“On the customer side, we are solving a problem and giving them two significant value adds. One, we are delivering the full basket to them and two, we are committing to them that the vegetables are the freshest they can get because we are procuring them from farmers directly and not from the supply chain,” says Rohan. “But touching the lives of farmers deeply, that is what excites us.”
“We are going to work very deeply with farmers and connect them to customers through a very lean supply chain. A farmer’s biggest tension is whether his produce will sell, and if it does, will he make enough to recover the amount that went into making the produce. If someone can tell the farmer ‘Don’t worry, whatever you are producing, I will buy it from you at a price that we can agree on right now,’ that means a lot to him. Because you’re addressing his biggest pain point,” explains Rohan. And that’s exactly what GreenAgtech aims to do.
GreenAgtech completely does away with intermediaries and also pays the farmers upfront, ensuring that their incomes are not linked to payments from the end customers.
Their initiative has been well-received. In the first three months alone, they were able to trade 40 tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables through more than a thousand transactions with more than a 100 customers, some of whom include Freshmenu, California Burritos, Happy Brew, and Mochaholic.
“The farmers are extremely happy too. We renegotiated a better price for them and paid them up front,” says Rohan.
Their dedication to the betterment of farmers is evident in the fact that two of the co-founders are planning to live with a farmer for a couple of weeks: “Living in cities, we are so distant from farmers… we can’t possible appreciate their struggles and their pain-points. This experience will give us that perspective. It will help us understand how a farmer lives and works every day and will give us insights into how they run their families.”
Future plans for GreenAgtech include sourcing better technology for farmers, offering support to make farms more efficient, and providing farmers with resources that enable them to make smarter choices.