Want to eat fresh? This AI company can make the farm-to-fork route more efficient

Fresh fruits have arrived from Malla Reddy Varakantham’s farm, which is located around 50-60 kms away from Hyderabad. He is happy that he is able to sell the agriculture product at a better margin.

Farmer Malla Reddy Varakantham
Farmer Malla Reddy Varakantham

Vyshnavi Sunka is buying from him. She is happy that she is supporting her community by finding a fresh fruit farmer and helping the farmer gain access to the market. Connecting this seller and buyer was Ruchit Garg’s Harvesting Farmer Network (HFN).

Fresh fruits from farmer Narasimha Reddy’s farm in Sadashivpet, Telangana
Fresh fruits from farmer Narasimha Reddy’s farm in Sadashivpet, Telangana

Speaking to The Free Press Journal, a freelance HR and graphic designer, Sunka said, “I saw HFN put out numbers of several farmers on their Twitter handle. I connected with the one that was based near Telangana. He came and delivered around 2 tonnes of watermelon and other fruits to around 10-15 gated communities (having around 3,000 families).” Sunka cannot stop praising the richness and freshness of the fruit.

Picture from an interview taken by Good Global Summit, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland
Picture from an interview taken by Good Global Summit, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland
Good Global Summit, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland.

Like Sunka and Varakantham, several buyers and sellers have founded each other with the help of HFN. It is a platform that is developed by Garg to help farmers to share the details of their produce and find a potential buyer. HFN will function as an arm of Harvesting — a five-year-old agrifin company. Garg, founder and CEO of Harvesting, said, “HFN was developed to help farmers find a platform to sell their products during this lockdown. In the last 16 days, our platform was used (directly or indirectly) to sell around 200 tonnes of agricultural produce as against 600 tonnes of produce that was posted in our platform.” While the company — Harvesting — works with 10 lakh farmers from 22 states, only about 250 farmers that have used HFN’s service even though Garg and his team is offering the service for free. “There is a fear among farmers and buyers about losing this produce and money respectively when they try using something new for the first time. So, it took time to get them on board but now it is becoming smooth.”

Meanwhile, Sunka is just helping the cause like many other bulk buyers, but she is optimistic that she wants to continue consuming products directly from farmers. “Usually, farmers do not use chemicals to ripen the crops. It is mostly the middlemen who do that. I wish to have a healthy lifestyle for my community and myself. So, I would like to continue buying directly from the farmer. In addition to this, the farmers sell the produce at lower rates which is a bonus,” Sunka exclaimed.

Post lockdown strategy

Prior to Harvesting, Garg founded 9Slides, an online learning company for growing businesses. When it comes to new businesses and diversification in existing businesses, he understands it much better. Thus, he has grabbed the opportunity that COVID-19 has bought by diversifying with HFN.

His company, Harvesting, enables financial inclusion for farmers in the emerging world, and uses artificial intelligence to forecast crop yield. “We process around 6 billion data points every three-four days.”

At this time, Garg and his team are leveraging the network of farmers they build.

Garg hopes to develop HFN into a platform that will help farmers sell their produce online, help with customer discovery, payment collection, transportation etc. “So, that the farmers can concentrate on growing crops and rest of the activity we will take care of,” he added.

To monetise the model, he plans to ask the end buyer to pay a nominal fee. “We do not intend to charge a farmer any fee. We hope to create a structure where a buyer pays us.” The plan is to make this platform evolve even after the pandemic and its subsequent lockdown.

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