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Exclusive: Caspian Debt backs five agritech startups in pandemic year

Exclusive: Caspian Debt backs five agritech startups in pandemic year
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
28 Jul, 2021

Caspian Debt, the lending arm of India-focussed impact investment firm Caspian Impact Investment Adviser, has backed five early-stage agricultural technology startups this year.

The Hyderabad-based investor has provided financial assistance to Niruthi, Balwaan Agri, Payagri, Krishiyog, and Eggoz between March and June this year. The loans were in the range of Rs 50 lakhs and Rs 1.5 crore, Avishek Gupta, investment director at Caspian Debt told TechCircle. 
 
Caspian Debt has a diverse food and agri-business portfolio from organic cotton producing FPOs to brick-and-mortar collateral management services, weather information services companies and cold chain technology firms. Its ticket sizes range between Rs 50 lakhs and Rs 15 crore depending on the size of companies.

Till date, the company has provided about Rs 460 crores in debt funding to 30 agritech startups and agri-business companies including Ecozen Solutions, Stellapps Technologies, Sresta (24 Mantra).

Caspian inked a partnership with Rabobank Group to launch an early stage agritech focussed fund last year to back next generation.

The fund provided financial assistance to eight companies during the pandemic.

It has also partnered with the Michael Susan Dell Foundation to provide funding to retail NBFCs lending to MSMEs. Caspian has made a commitment of investing at least 33% of the funds it raised through the USDFC into women impact businesses.

“As a debt platform for social enterprises and startups across various sectors, we are building similar partnerships to enable investors and lenders having interest in specific sectors like financial inclusion or healthcare or cleantech or investment themes like women impact businesses or sustainability to deploy capital in high quality and high impact businesses in India” Gupta said. 

Overall, Caspian has provided more than Rs 2,000 crore in funding to over 160 companies across a variety of high impact sectors like food and agri, clean technologies, healthcare, education and financial inclusion.

A quick look at the five investee firms: 
 
Niruthi: Founded by Cristina Milesi and Mallikarjun Kukunuri, Niruthi offers  solutions for monitoring, modelling and forecasting crop conditions through location-specific weather, crop health and crop yields data.

The startup deploys an array of tools and technologies derived from the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS, developed at NASA) to capture and synchronize data from satellites, mobile phones, drones and automated weather stations. Data from Niruthi’s solution are utilised to predict crop yields required for insurance claims and to set minimum support price (MSP) for crops.  
 
payAgri: Founded by Rajeev Kaimal and Rajkumar KVM in 2017, payAgri is a farmer-centric startup that helps farmer producer companies (FPCs) and rural entrepreneurs connect with farmers. It works with over 100 FPCs and entrepreneurs and claims to have enabled access to one lakh farmers in Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

With a phygital farm-to-fork model, payAgri specialized in multiple value chains including paddy, maize, millets, pulses, chilly, turmeric, and pepper. Headquartered in Chennai, the company also provides input supplies and financial linkages to FPCs and aggregated farmers.

Krishiyog: Launched by IIT-Guwahati and UC Berkley alumnus Ashwin Mahavadi, Krishiyog aims to bridge the supply and demand gap for all grades of fruits for B2B clients through tech-enabled farm level integration, with the help of on-field agents. It offers integrated marketing, extension, input, and credit services to farmers. It works to standardize output, influence production practices and become a backend partner for businesses in the agri ecosystem.

Eggoz: Founded in 2017 by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur alumni Abhishek Negi, Aditya Singh, Uttam Kumar, and an engineering graduate from GB Pant University Pankaj Pandey, Eggoz operates a network of egg poultry farms. It is building the first nationwide brand of eggs with the promise of freshness and quality. It works directly with farmers and use nutritional engineering and technology to produce high quality and nutrition-rich eggs.  

In May last year, the company had raised Rs 2.5 crore as part of its seed funding round from market research firm Tracxn Labs, US based equity crowdfunding platform Angellist, Tri-Deep Capital and founders of Letstransport, Pushkar Singh, Sudarshan Ravi, and Ankit Parasher. 

Balwaan Agri: Based in Jaipur, Balwaan Agri is a mobile commerce platform that educates farmers and provides them affordable farm machinery. The company operates a farmer's advisory experience center which answers farmer queries. It also has a service reminder system and IoT-based machine usage monitoring meters to help small and medium farmers. It provides farming equipment in the range of Rs 2500 to Rs 1.5 lakh.