In a one-of-a-kind collaboration that brings together several key players in the social and agri startup ecosystem in India – Villgro and Rianta Capital’s Artha Initiative join hands with NAARM’stechnology business incubator, a-IDEA, and IIM-Ahmedabad’s CIIE and CIBA to invest in Flybird Farm Innovations, an incubatee of Villgro’s. This investment collaboration marks a step forward in the ecosystem that will benefit social enterprise startups and help them access more resources in the long run.

Founded by Satish.KS, Bengaluru-based FlyBird Farm Innovations is developing an affordable smart irrigation controller that helps farmers irrigate their crops more accurately, increasing yield and improving quality, thereby improving livelihoods. The controller offers a variety of options for control including time, volume and moisture sensors, at a much lower cost than competitive offerings, and can easily integrate into existing systems.

There are over 3.87 million hectares of land in India where micro-irrigation is employed, and this number is increasing year-on-year. There are over 1 million farmers (a majority of them are being small farmers), who use micro irrigation systems. FlyBird’s product is agnostic to the type of crop, landholding size or the method of irrigation, and will immediately benefit farmers with land size in the range of one hectare or more.

Villgro has been working with Flybird Farm Innovations for two years now, providing seed funding, mentoring and close guidance to help the entrepreneur build his business.

“Water management in farms is a necessity as irrigation wateris a precious and scarce commodity. With drinking water already commoditised, we see an emerging trend of irrigation water also being commoditised. Farmers, having realised this, are on the lookout for technologies that help in precise irrigation not only to save water, but also to improve productivity. Flybird’s product fits the bill,” said AB Chakravarthy, Senior Investment Manager, Villgro.

“We have, for a number of years, been keen to support enterprise-led interventions in agriculture that would essentially serve the farmer on multiple levels, and the team we have found at Flybird achieves this objective with great success. They’ve developed a solid product, built a compelling service offering around it and found an exciting path to market, so we are very pleased to join in their journey,” said Audrey Selian, Director of the Artha Initiative at Rianta Capital.

“Applying uniform irrigation is actually overwatering parts of a field while under-
watering other parts. FlyBird Farm Innovations's low-cost smart controller optimises and automates this process so farmers can grow more while using less water and also improve crop quality and yield,” said Vipul Patel, AVP Agri Investments, CIIE.

Together, the five organizations are investing over Rs 1 crore in equity and grant funding.

“We are happy to see the collaborative investment in FlyBird. We have planned to utilise the funds for low-cost product R&D focusing on small farmers needs and expand the sales, marketing and distribution channels in selected geographies,” saidSatishK.S, founder, FlyBird Farm Innovations.

“Water has become a scarce resource globally and majority of water usage in done in agriculture, so it is a high time to use the irrigationwater smartly. Flybird Farm Innovations’ smart irrigation controller is one such solution for India as well as global problems,” said Vijay Nadiminti, Chief Operating Officer, a-IDEA.

“India needs innovation in agriculture and the smart move by FlyBird to target water and fertilizer usage will definitely help the farmer to save on water and fertilizer thus playing a role in improving the condition of the smart agri-entrepreneur,” said D.S. Prashant, General Manager, CIBA.

Villgro is India’s oldest and foremost social enterprise incubators, supporting innovators and social entrepreneurs during their early stages of growth. Since 2001, Villgro has incubated 119 such enterprises, who have generated around 4000 jobs, secured Rs 1195 million in follow-on funding, and touched over 6.8 million lives.

Image Source: ShutterStock

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