Nutrifresh’s founders Sanket Mehta and Ganesh Nikam started off their entrepreneurial journey in agriculture with water-guzzling crop sugar cane, then ventured into floriculture and now are growing veggies in Pune region using hydroponics system (reduces water usage).
The duo initially invested Rs 10 lakh in three acres of sugarcane cultivation in 2015. In 2021, the group’s turnover is above Rs 35 crore. Today, Nutrifresh has a land for floriculture and invested in 10 acres of land for hydroponics. The complete 10 -acre set up of hydroponic is based on internet of things (IOT), and automated.
But what worked for the duo…
These agripreneurs have clearly divided their work based on their learning and expertises. While Nikam hails from a family that is not new to farming, Mehta understands the details of financing in agriculture very well. Both are from finance backgrounds, which made it easy for these agripreneurs to raise funds for their growth needs. With clear distinction in their work profiles, the duo have managed to get the business rolling.
Mehta was born in Mumbai, but worked in Pune in a bank for three years. “During that time, I always used to get (loan) proposals for the agro sector. I used to see a lot of gap between urban and rural Maharashtra. On one hand, there was a shortage of fruits and vegetables in cities; on the other side, in villages, there was a problem of plenty.”
The lack of robust supply chain was hampering agriculture which was seen as an opportunity by the duo.
Today COVID has disrupted the supply chain and making it easy to move beyond intermediaries. Nutrifresh has partnerships with many retailers like Reliance Retail, Big Basket, Star Bazaar and others, few months before the pandemic. But due to COVID many retailers avoid working with new suppliers and vendors, prefer working with their old associates, explained Mehta. “This opened new doors for us.” Nutrifresh connected with communities offered them their farm produce free of cost initially and now are supplying to 5, 000 homes in the last one year in Mumbai and Pune. The company tied-up with a mothers’ community called Tigressmoms to ensure delivery of their produce.
Mehta claims the company is looking at adding many more homes in Mumbai and Pune as many families today look for organic food. Mehta added, “Nutrifresh is the only hydroponic unit in India which grows and sells 42 plus different SKUs (stock-keeping units) to satisfy needs to various customers and is the biggest Hydroponic Project in India and has patronised production, marketing and distribution by women.”
Nutrifresh’s model is such that it wants to keep the middleman out of the system. However, Mehta feels that smaller and marginal farmers will need these middlemen and mandis to survive. “APMC markets are good, I wouldn't say they're bad, because they have to be controlled or regulated.The law on paper is good but lacks appropriate implementation.”
Commenting on the economics, Mehta added that the cost per acre for his company had reduced drastically due to efficiencies of their farms.
At present, the company does not have any strategic investors. But Mehta and Nikam are open about having strategic investors if need arises. The growing amount of traction the company has received in recent times, has caught the eye of many investors, Mehta stated.
The company sees more opportunities to grow in Mumbai and Pune. Only when those opportunities have been exhausted, the company will move to markets like Baroda, Ahmedabad and nearby areas. “We want to become market leaders in the area we are present in before expanding.”
The entire capacity of Nutrifresh Farm has ability to serve 30,000 plus customers in Mumbai and Pune. Currently, Nutrifresh is running in 3 Mode of Sales – B2C (Farm to Direct Consumers), B2B (Farm to other Small Farm Growers or Aggregators) and Modern Trade.