India: Agri-tech startup EM3 raises $10m from London-based non-profit fund

Photo by Cezanne Ali on Unsplash

EM3 Agri Services, which offers farm services and machinery on rent, has raised $10 million from London-based non-profit Global Innovation Fund, top executives at the agricultural technology start-up said in an interview on Tuesday.

The series B investment will power its expansion in Rajasthan.

EM3 Agri operates under the brand name Samadhan in Madhya Pradesh and parts of Gujarat. The company offers farm equipment such as ground-levelling machines, deep-ploughing equipment and power harrows for making seed beds to farmers on rent.

The company last month signed an agreement with the government of Rajasthan to expand its services in the state. “We are excited about the agreement because this gives us an opportunity to scale up faster than planned, and that has actually accelerated our fund-raise as well,” said Adwitiya Mal, chief executive and co-founder of EM3 Agri.

The company was founded in 2013 by Adwitiya Mal and his father Rohtash Mal, a former CEO of Bharti Airtel and most recently at the helm of heavy machinery maker Escorts Ltd.

EM3 Agri said it will expand into Rajasthan in phases, beginning with districts in the south. Over the next 12-18 months the company will set up operational outposts called Samadhan Kendras—which maintain the equipment and double up as customer-facing stores—across the state.

Rohtash Mal said most of India’s small farmers rely on manual labour as they cannot afford capital equipment such as advanced farm implements, tractors and harvesters. EM3 Agri is pioneering a model it calls Farming-as-a-Service, where equipment and services are rented out and charged as pay-per-use (typically based on hours or area of the farm).

“We cover the entire harvesting cycle for the farmer,” said Rohtash Mal. “Whatever operations the farmer needs to carry out, we do it with machines that are owned by us, and operators that are on our payroll. Services go all the way from soil preparation, seeding, planting, crop protection to harvesting. Whatever the farmer needs across the crop cycle, we provide.”

The firm hires and trains workers who manage the equipment and carry out the services on the farm. The bulk of the back-end, which is taken care of by its engineering and support team in Noida, is engaged in mapping out usage patterns and optimizes costs of equipment and personnel.

Noida-based EM3 has regional offices in Indore and Jaipur with about 160 people on the rolls, including call centre staff.

Rohtash Mal said EM3 Agri was clocking average monthly sales of Rs1 crore and is transitioning to a marketplace model by partnering with local farmers willing to contribute their machines to the platform.

“We were impressed by the potential of EM3’s pioneering approach towards solving one of Indian agriculture’s most fundamental challenges. As they embark on their next phase of growth, we look forward to EM3 continuing to be a market leader in a rapidly growing market in a sector critical to India and its millions of small hold farmers,” Alix Peterson Zwane, CEO of Global Innovation Fund, said in a statement.

“The company’s proprietary access to farm level data through its operations places it in a unique position to become a canonical leader in the sector,” said Kartik Srivatsa, managing partner at Aspada, a follow-on investor.

GIF is a global innovation fund backed by the governments of US, UK, Sweden and Australia, while Bengaluru-based Aspada, anchored by Soros Economic Development Fund, is an investor in supply chains, logistics, education, and healthcare.

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This article was first published on LiveMint.com