Fertiliser major IFFCO has partnered with Singapore-based technology firm iMandi to launch an e-commerce app for farmers to buy and sell products. IFFCO-iMandi, as the app is called, will allow farmers to buy IFFCO products like fertilisers, agrochemicals and seeds at discounted prices and also avail of free delivery. The app also serves as a platform where farmers can buy and sell their own products.

“It is a ‘One Stop Shop’ for agri-inputs & produce, FMCG, electronics, loans and insurance,” said Dr. US Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO at the launch. The joint initiative aims to reach GMV of $5 billion by 2020, and grow its user base to 55 million farmers.

IFFCO’s subsidiary IFFCO eBazar Ltd now owns 26% stake in iMandi Pte Ltd. The remaining 74% is held by I-tech Holdings and others. V K Agarwal, the founder of iMandi Pte, said about $12 million has been invested to launch this app and portal while another $18 million will be infused to add more features, including the facility for farmers to sell their produce.

According to IFFCO, the platform will start by utilizing access IFFCO’s more than 55,000 Point of Sales, 36,000 Cooperative Societies, more than 30,000 warehouses, and having access to 250 million rural consumers at 16,000 pin codes. Currently, IFFCO, which posted a turnover of Rs 20,787 crore, has 35,000 members. In the last financial year, the platform claimed to produce around 80 lakh tonnes and sold 103 crore tonnes of fertilizers.

Online initiatives in agriculture

  • AgroStar: It is an e-commerce marketplace for buying farming goods and resources. In 2017, it raised $10 million from Accel India with participation from other investors like IDG Ventures and Aavishkaar to expand their services to more states. The platform lets farmers buy resources and products like seeds, pesticides, crop nutrition, and other agri-hardware products by giving a missed call to a number or through a mobile app.
  • National Agricultural Market: The Indian government in 2016 launched an online trading platform for farmers, allowing them to sell their produce to wholesale agricultural markets and buyers. The platform also received Rs 200 crore investment from the government in 2015.
  • AGMARKNET Scheme: The AGMARKNET initiative directed by the Ministry of Agriculture provides daily mandi rates through its online website. It also has two mobile apps—Kisan Suvidha AgriMarket, which helps farmers procure information on crop insurance and prices of agricultural commodities.
  • e-Choupal by ITCe-Choupal is a platform for sourcing raw materials and selling FMCG products online, which was set up in rural locations by ITC, in partnership with local entrepreneurs. Outlets set up under the project offer farmers services such as crop advisories, advance weather forecasts, output price discovery, direct communication tools, etc.

Sourcing locally: farm-to-table

Food startups are now inching towards the concept of farm-to-table which means working directly with producers, like farms or food producers. In July, Zomato hinted that after restaurant reviews and food delivery platform, the company was now looking at the farm-to-table space. According to a Business Standard report on the development, Zomato will help restaurants to source food products directly from the farmers, and restaurants doing so will show a certified tag from Zomato.

In 2017, Japanese startup incubator Mistletoe along with Rajesh Sawhney’s tech accelerator GSF and Indo-Japan business consultancy firm Infobridge, set up an agriculture tech and food-tech accelerator called Gastrotope in India. Gastrotope said that it will focus on ‘farm to fork’ value chain. It also added that it aims to invest in startups that can add value in various parts of the value chain, starting with farmers and moving to food transportation, processing and delivery to and consumption by customers. The founders also hinted at partnering with state governments to work in the farm sector.