For many years, farmers in India have been caught in a vicious cycle of the fragmented, monopolized agricultural market setup. With no access to the end consumers, farmers have been at the mercy of the middlemen with little freedom in choosing markets and ensuring a fair price for their produce. It was in 2020 that the co-founders of Farmsnation realized the challenges faced by Indian farmers and decided to empower farmers with the use of technology.
This led them to start Farmsnation, an online marketplace for farmers to sell their farm-fresh produce directly to the customers in their area and beyond. The platform opened the door for farmers to attract thousands of customers, looking for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, herbs, and more. The founders have maintained a simple technology system, easy to use for farmers where they can reach new customers through e-commerce features of adding products, farm pictures, receiving payments, and managing orders. The app also verifies farmers and suppliers to ensure good farming practices, thereby maintaining a quality check and complete transparency for its consumers. What is unique about the platform is its emphasis on helping consumers get an insight into the source of the food they are buying. The app allows customers to know the name of the farmer they are buying from, his values, and how he produces the food.
Understanding the challenges in the traditional mandi format
Co-founder, Varun was unaware of the world of farmers and their challenges, working in a comfortable banking role at HSBC when the idea to open a dairy farm came to his mind. He quit his job in 2018 to pursue the dairy business with his brother, Tarun. The duo passionately grew the farm to 60 cattle until the pandemic hit the world in 2020. As the unprecedented coronavirus-led lockdown was imposed, he saw several farmers left with no option but to sell their produce to the middlemen at dirt cheap prices. He was surprised to see the disparity in prices of what the customers were actually paying and what the farmers were earning. These middlemen were taking advantage of the farmers’ limited sales education and lack of market access, earning margins at every stage of the distribution chain, leaving little to no profits for the farmers.
Given the low prices offered by middlemen, farmers were also compromising on the quality of their products, ultimately leaving consumers to settle with low-quality supplies. “We spoke to many farmers, about their farming practices, to understand what makes them throw harmful chemicals in their fields, give hormone injections to their cattle, and treat animals inhumanely. We even met farmers who harvest vegetables and fruits separately for their families and customers. What they sell is NOT what they eat. It wasn’t that the farmers did not want to grow high-quality fruits and vegetables. But even if they did, they were not getting a fair price or the right customers for it.” said Tarun Rastogi.
Bridging the gap for farm-fresh produce
In 2020, the pandemic also led to another consumer trend- the rise of health consciousness. Consumers changed their food habits, wanting to switch to fresh and local foods. But there was a huge gap in the market. Realizing the growing need for farm-fresh produce, the co-founders set out to build an agritech startup that allowed customers to discover and buy directly from farmers, thereby helping farmers maximize their profits. At Farmsnation, the prices are also quite reasonable for consumers because while farmers are free to set their own prices, farmers compete with each other for getting orders. This helps maintain fair pricing, a win-win situation for both consumers and farmers.
With an online marketplace, Farmsnation has been able to bring efficiency and transparency to an otherwise unorganized process. Co-founder Shorya Rastogi spoke about his vision for the platform- “When we set out, it was a simple question- Is the traditional mandi system really benefiting the farmers or the end consumers? We wanted to solve the challenge of quality and pricing, empowering both farmers and consumers. We have brought to our users their local farmer’s market at their fingertips and created meaningful and long-term benefits for farmers by providing them sales education and e-commerce tools. We are happy to see our farmers now accessing the Farmsnation technology to generate a steady and profitable income for themselves. From a consumer perspective, we believe every family deserves to eat fresh and have information on how their food is being sourced. With Farmsnation, we ensure that anything less than pure and hygienic will not be sold to our customers.”
Farmsnation is currently available as a website, iOS, and android app. At present, 14,000+ customers are successfully using the platform, with 10,000+ app downloads on the Google play store. According to Farmsnation, almost 5000 farmers have successfully registered on the app, and the numbers are growing daily. With their seed funding from PV Venture, a US-based VC firm, Farmsnation has built a strong presence in many cities- Delhi, NCR, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, and more.