I met Ashmeet Kapoor a year ago, on a one-of-its-kind train journey called the Jagriti Yatra. It was an 18-day long journey of entrepreneurship that took young, bright potential leaders of India across the length and breadth of this nation to discover grassroots enterprises in a whole new way. Back then, who knew that this US returned 26-year old will go on to work in the villages of India. With a Masters in Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship from Brown University, and Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from University of British Columbia, Ashmeet’s educational background culminated into a stronger desire to make life better for India’s rural population. What better way to do this than to start with the heart of our nation – the farmers?
With the support of Jagriti Yatra organising team and a few fellow yatris, he founded Jagriti Agrotech in May 2011 with the vision of making farming profitable for small farmers, and to do so by using enterprise as an agent of change, as opposed to charity. What is the idea behind his initiative? “The precursor to rural development is financial stability; agriculture presents enormous opportunities to achieve that. Jagriti Agro Tech is working towards supplying the best quality organic produce directly to consumers, while ensuring higher profits for small farmers by means of propagating high-output, low-budget organic agriculture techniques and creating direct market linkages. This also enables us to supply affordable organic produce to consumers without the high premiums other organic companies charge,” says Kapoor.
Jagriti Agro Tech recognized that there are many organizations that are tackling bits and pieces of the agriculture crises, but a comprehensive model is yet to be figured out. Their solution is a combination of best practices developed by grassroots organizations and organic farming experts, along with IT tools to make farm monitoring, production and supply chain management efficient. What is the impact? “Using this model, we can create a constant supply of organic vegetables at affordable prices. It enables us to pay the farmers a premium of 25% over mandi prices,” adds Kapoor.
Genesis of Jagriti Agro Tech
The birthplace of the idea was in Deoria, a district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Ashmeet spent some time to assess what a typical rural area requires to expedite development. It became evident that not much progress can be made without strengthening the rural agri-economy. The team then spent 6 months living in the village and developing a 2-acre demo organic farm to get a sort of crash course on agriculture, and also to get familiar with the issues farmers face first-hand. The demo farm was also required to break the misconceptions farmers had about organic farming (such as high infestation and low profits). “With our first harvest, we have been able to at least get farmers thinking about trying! We’ve got 5 farmers allied with our mission, and are currently experimenting on 7 acres of farmland. That’s a small number but it’s a start and we’re aiming high! By the time farmers in Deoria are convinced that working with us will be profitable, we will have set up our marketing and sales channels, and will then organize these farmers into groups to work with us,” writes Ashmeet in the enterprise’s first newsletter.
The way ahead
So what’s next for Ashmeet and his team at Jagriti Agro Tech? Plenty, in fact. “We have partnered with farmer groups in Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand that have been practicing organic for the past 5-10 years. Their fields have been prepared based on the demand forecasts we have provided. We will begin sales in March 2012 in order to bring healthy chemical free produce to consumers in New Delhi.”
Buy organic fruits and veggies now!
Jagriti Agro Tech will be delivering fresh certified Organic vegetables and fruits directly to the end consumers’ doorstep, and will also make them available at select neighbourhood stores in Delhi. With no use of pesticides or fertilizers and competitive prices, the produce is sure to make a mark. If you are interested in being one of our initial customers, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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