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UrbanKisaan is betting on vertical farming to bring pesticide-free vegetables to consumers and fight India’s water crisis – TechCrunch

Extreme droughts have drained rivers and reservoirs throughout elements of India, and greater than half a billion individuals on the earth’s second-most populous nation are estimated to expire of ingesting water by 2030.

Indicators of this are obvious in farms, which eat the overwhelming majority of complete water provides. Farmers have been struggling in India to develop crops, as they’re nonetheless closely reliant on rainwater. These with means have shifted to develop crops comparable to pearl millet, cow peas, bottle gourd and corn — primarily something however rice — that use a fraction of the water. However most don’t have this luxurious.

If that wasn’t sufficient, Indian cities are going through one other problem: The extent of dangerous chemical compounds utilized in greens has gone up considerably over time.

A Hyderabad-headquartered startup, which is competing within the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield this week, thinks it has discovered a approach to handle each of those challenges.

Throughout a lot of its centres in Hyderabad and Bangalore that appear to be spaceships from the within, UrbanKisaan is rising crops, stacked one on high of one other.

Vertical farming, an idea that has gained momentum in some Western markets, remains to be very new in India.

The mannequin brings with it a variety of advantages. Vihari Kanukollu, the co-founder and chief govt of UrbanKisaan, advised TechCrunch in an interview that the startup doesn’t use any soil or dangerous chemical compounds to develop crops and makes use of 95% much less water in comparison with conventional farms.

“We’ve got constructed a hydroponic system that permits water to maintain flowing and get recycled repeatedly,” he stated. Regardless of utilizing much less water, UrbanKisaan says it produces 30% extra crops. “We develop to not less than 30-40 toes of peak. And it has an infinite loop there,” he stated.

Kanukollu, 26, stated that not like different vertical farming fashions, which solely develop lettuce and basil, UrbanKisaan has devised expertise to develop over 50 forms of greens.

The larger problem for UrbanKisaan was simply convincing companies like restaurant chains to purchase from it. “Regardless of us providing a lot more healthy greens, companies nonetheless want to go along with historically grown crops and save a couple of bucks,” he stated.

So to counter it, UrbanKisaan sells on to shoppers. Guests can verify in to centres of UrbanKisaan in Hyderabad and Bangalore and purchase a variety of greens.

The startup, backed by Y Combinator and just lately by standard South Indian actress Samantha Akkineni, additionally sells kits for about $200 that anybody should purchase and develop greens in their very own residence.

Kanukollu, who has a background in commerce, began to discover the thought about UrbanKisaan in 2018 after being pissed off with not having the ability to purchase recent, pesticide-free greens for his mom, he stated.

Fortunately for him, he discovered Sairam Palicherla, a scientist who has spent greater than 20 years learning farming. The duo spent the primary yr in analysis and fascinating with farmers.

At this time, UrbanKisaan has greater than 30 farms. All of those farms turned worthwhile of their first month, stated Kanukollu.

“We’re at present rising at 110% common month on month in gross sales and our common invoice worth has gone up by 10 occasions within the final 6 months,” he stated.

The startup can be engaged on reaching a degree throughout the subsequent three months to attain $150,000 in month-to-month recurring income.

The startup has spent the previous few quarters additional enhancing its expertise stack. Kanukollu stated they’ve lower down on energy consumption from the LED lights by 50% and diminished the price of manufacturing by 60% per tube.

Kanukollu stated the startup works with 5 farmers at present and is understanding methods to discover a viable mannequin to carry it to each farmer.

Additionally it is creating a centralized intelligence atop convolutional neural networks to attain real-time detection to seek out extra harvestable produce, and detect deficiencies within the farm.

UrbanKisaan, which has raised about $1.5 million thus far, plans to broaden to extra metro cities within the nation within the coming quarters.

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Manish Singh

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