According to a estimate, 70 percent of rural households in India still depend on agriculture. Most farmers tend to practice traditional farming, relying only on their limited knowledge of crops and agronomy regarding which crops to grow, how much fertilizer to use, when to irrigate, and what farming practices to follow. This lack of knowledge, coupled with poor decision making, leads to low crop productivity and low income for farmers.
Founded in 2019 by Dheeresh Kumar, Paras Jain and Nishan Chauhan To solve this problem with the help of technology, Delhi-settled downprovides a data-driven crop improvement application called NT-Kisan. It facilitates decision making and helps farmers to farm efficiently and abundantly.
The application monitors several variables that impact the quantity and quality of the product. Taking these input factors (soil type, weather forecast, soil health, and nutrients) into account, NT-Kisan analyzes and predicts short- and long-term impacts on product quality and quantity.
“The path begins from the moment of sowing. Based on the weather forecast and soil parameters, the farmer is recommended the five best crops he can grow. Each recommendation is unique to the parameters of the farm,” Dhiresh Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Neem Tree Agro Solutions, tells YourStory.
Once the crop has been planted, the application, currently available for Android users, they will continuously share updates on climate, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide use, as well as offer suggestions on the systematic implementation of scientific techniques and provide critical information.
“In the event of an attack by a pest or diseased crop, the crop can be irreparably damaged if the appropriate measures are not taken within the stipulated time. In such cases, a simple image of a damaged crop can be uploaded to the app which can detect pest attack/diseased crops and suggest the most appropriate and efficient treatment. This is done using an image recognition model that is part of the application,” he adds.
Neem Tree’s image recognition model is trained on thousands of images (and counting) and is hosted on Google Cloud for seamless performance. The startup claims that the app can predict and recognize the pest/sick plant with greater than 95 percent accuracy.
The app is based on data from various sources (including climate, production and soil), segregated by district, aggregated and correlated. This is integrated with agronomy knowledge to give the best possible results.
The agritech startup also conducts weekly or monthly field visits to meet farmers and familiarize themselves with issues.
Neem Tree aims to become a one-stop destination for farmers for all knowledge related to agriculture, from what crop to plant, how to grow it and where to sell. The startup has also focused on developing a positive relationship between the organization and target customers. This has been achieved by organizing weekly and monthly meetings in the field with the farmers and also with the target clients.
“We are one of the few end-to-end agtech players and we have the end-to-end relationship with the farmer. From the selection and delivery of inputs to crop management, we take advantage of the data in these stages to also offer services to create value throughout the chain. We are a complete solution for farmers unlike the rest of the companies in this field that offer similar solutions but in parts”, says Dhiresh.
“A farmer in India wants to supply all his needs from a single store, which is currently the input retailer. We reproduce the same on our digital platform with our physical presence, that is, Kisan Suvidha Kendra, kirana stores that order agricultural inputs on behalf of farmers,” he adds.
Neem Tree Agro aims to benefit farmers in three ways: reduction in the cost of cultivation by purchasing inputs; improvement in farm productivity through timely and personalized advice; and best price at farm gate.
“As a result, farmers can experience an increase of more than 50 percent in their net income,” says Dhiresh.
Dhiresh, Nishant and Paras are friends from school. Touring Tier II and III cities as college students in the summer of 2018, they understood the issues farmers face and decided to create something that would meet the needs of the farming community.
“Being a group of two engineers and one with a background in agriculture, we used to think and brainstorm how we can solve this interesting problem with the help of technology, and that’s how the idea for Neem Tree Agro Solutions came about,” he says. Dhiresh.
An engineer by profession and an entrepreneur by passion, Dhiresh studied BTech at the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology and gained experience in management, business development, social entrepreneurship, and business leadership. He also has experience in brand building, brand architecture, and corporate communications.
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Paras is proficient in the fields of web, application and software development. Currently an engineering student at the Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Engineering, Paras has a background in graphic design, ethical hacking, AI/ML, and cloud computing.
CFO and R&D Director, Nishant studied organic agriculture and food business at Amity University and also has five years of management experience. An advocate of social rights, he started an initiative called ‘Massomyiat’ against the sexual abuse of children which received much praise from the likes of Doordarshan.
The team consists of the founders together with a full-time employee.
Financing and monetization
It started with an investment of just 3,000 rupees, Neem Tree Agro previously raised a grant from Rs 7 lakhs from IIT, Delhi, and a grant from Rs 5 lakhs of the NASSCOM Foundation to implement his idea.
“We are in early talks with investors for Pre-Series A funds,” says Dhiresh.
Neem Tree works on a B2C model where it acts as an intermediary between manufacturers and farmers.
“Our solution is going to be absolutely free, and at the same time, the transactions (on agricultural inputs including but not limited to seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides) made by each farmer after partnering with Neem Tree for two or three seasons can reach approximately Rs 45,000 a year. Neem Tree technology is based on a highly profitable and sustainable model. We share the agricultural input margins with Kisan Suvidha Kendra,” he adds.
Kisan Suvidha Kendra also acts as an agent for Neem Tree Agro for app downloads, drop-off points, authorized stores to return/replace products, place orders on behalf of farmers, etc.
“We do not build physical stores/stores for the sale of agricultural inputs, as it implies a very high cash burn with slower returns on investments. Our model is fully active, which makes it the most scalable of all models on the market today. Thanks to Kisan Suvidha Kendra, our customer acquisitions are completed by these nodes instead of sales agents, keeping our customer acquisition costs in the double digits,” says Dhiresh.
the way to follow
India’s agritech sector witnessed an unprecedented boom in 2020-21 with the pandemic catalyzing technology adoption. 2022 is already expected to be much bigger than 2021 for the sector in terms of investments, innovation, growth and impact.
According to the latest Bain & Co report, the agritech sector is poised to grow into a $30-35 billion market by 2025.
“We serve nearly 80 percent of the farmers in the Delhi-NCR Trans-Yamuna Belt. Although the farmers are not tech-savvy, they easily adopted the technology approach,” says Dhiresh.
“As we go through time, we also plan to add other services relevant to farmers, such as credit, insurance and farm equipment. Neem Tree Agro plans to expand in Haryana by the end of 2022 with a potential customer base of 12,000 farmers and annual revenue of Rs 8 crore,” he adds.
It has incorporated 25 nodes and has over 700 acres of land under its management. It also has more than 500 member farmers and has a 60 percent retention rate.
Compete with the likes of, IFFCO Kisan and PlanTix, among others.