“We’ve Deployed Over 6,000 IoT Crop Maintenance Devices Across 13 states In India In Three Years”

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Fyllo, an agriculture-focused venture, addresses the challenges faced by farmers through IoT devices that collect real-time farm data. Co-founders Sudhanshu Rai and Sumit Sheoran told EFY’s Yashasvini Razdan about their devices, Kairo and Nero, that cater to a diverse range of crops and have also been deployed globally.

Q. Please tell us about the journey of Fyllo.

A. Sumit and I worked in Bangalore at a company called Edgeverve before starting our venture. We both realised that our in-depth knowledge of agriculture, and our strong grasp of technology and software, could address the challenges farmers faced with the unpredictability of their income. This could allow them to achieve consistent yields and quality produce each year while minimising costs. To accomplish this, real-time data was crucial, leading to the development of an IoT device to continuously capture farm data.

Analysing approximately 8 million queries through Kisan Centres across India, we found that farmers consistently sought advice on various aspects, from crop choices to fertiliser application and weather conditions. The initial setup involved government-established centres where farmers sought solutions to their queries. Analysing the queries, we noticed a considerable number coming from Nashik, Maharashtra. This became our starting point, and after presenting our solution to farmers and receiving positive feedback, we officially began in April 2019. Starting with grape crops in Nashik, Maharashtra, we expanded to different districts and states. Currently, we’ve deployed over 6,000 IoT crop maintenance devices across 13 states in India, for 22 crops, and work with over 7,000 farmers.

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Q. Which section of the agronomy is your target market? 

A. Currently, the adoption of this technology is not restricted to large-scale operations; it is accessible to farmers involved in mid to high-income crops such as apples, kinnow, chillies, grapes, guavas, bananas, pomegranates, sugarcane, and cotton, among others. We cater to a diverse range of crops, including mid-income options like cotton and sugarcane. Presently, we are working with a total of 22 crops. 

Q. Where  have  you  deployed  these  devices? 

A. We have deployed in Spain, France, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey, mainly as B2B partnerships with ongoing trials. If successful, the plan is to scale up. In France, we’ve partnered with Terraview, and in Turkey, we’ve joined forces with a company. There is a trial partnership with a company in South Africa, where we are providing services to a large network of growers from Gujarat. These collaborations represent our efforts in the agricultural sector, aligning with various companies and individuals involved in agribusiness activities.

Nero kit

Q. Can  you  tell  me  more  about  the electronics of this device ?

A. We have two types of devices dedicated to collecting data around the crops. One device, called Kairo (meaning ‘climate’ in Greek), collects climate data such as rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity, leaf thickness, and sunlight intensity, and soil data points like soil moisture at different root zones and soil temperature. Kairo sends this data every 20 minutes, providing near real-time information with three data points for all parameters every hour. The devices’ primary function is to collect frequent farm data and transmit it to our cloud server. Initially using 2G technology, we now utilise 4G across various mobile networks, including Airtel and Jio, depending on the location. The data is sent through the mobile network to our cloud server. The smaller device, Nero, features three sensors for soil moisture at different root zones and soil temperature. On the other hand, Kairo boasts eleven sensors, capturing data and facilitating the entire IoT process. The devices are IP65 rated and designed to operate in an open environment. We have a structure with clamps for mounting, and it remains open without any additional casing.

Q. Right now you are importing these sensors from somewhere?

A. We import some sensors, like soil moisture, and manufacture most sensors in our partner factory in Gurgaon, India. The factory produces sensors such as leaf wetness, air temperature, humidity, and soil temperature. Our partnership involves an electronics contract manufacturer, Napino Digital Solutions, based in Gurgaon, with additional facilities in Bangalore and other locations. The design and patent are ours, and the manufacturing is outsourced to them.

Q. Where  are  you  sourcing  your  solar  panels  from?

A. Circle Technology in Bangalore supplies us with our solar panels. Approximately 81 to 90 percent of our product components are domestically manufactured. Most of the sensors, the processor, the solar components, the casing, and other elements are produced in India. The remaining 10 to 15 percent involves importing some sensors from the United States.

Q. How  does  the  mobile  application  work? 

A. It’s easy to use in multiple languages, making it accessible for farmers everywhere. By visually interpreting the data, most farmers can understand it. The colour-coded system (red, green, and yellow) indicates disease probabilities over the next 14 days, considering the impact of climate conditions. For instance, excess rain and storms can lead to fruit cracking, prompting alerts on crop physiology, optimal sowing and pruning times, and the right harvesting time. We provide video guides in the app and address any issues through backend analytics. During the initial months, we offer support to farmers not using certain features regularly. Real-time machine learning analysis informs personalised video messages, ensuring farmers grasp the functionality. After three months, farmers typically show improved usage patterns.

Over the past four years, we have added numerous farmers, and those who purchased devices continue subscribing. Out of this group, 900 farmers have bought additional devices due to the observed value in a single plot. While most farmers have one or two plots, 90% of them have invested in a second device.

Q. What would be the total cost of ownership for these devices for a farmer?

A. The total cost of ownership, including maintenance, for Nero starts at 16000 rupees, while Kairo is priced at 45000 rupees. The annual subscription for services, which includes advisory, is 6000 rupees per year for Kairo and 2,000 rupees per year for Nero after the first year. For precise irrigation and fertilizer schedules on a specific plot, the cost is 2000 rupees per year. If you opt for the complete package, it amounts to 6000 rupees per year for Kairo and 2000 rupees per year for Nero, covering all services, including the mobile application.

Nero deployed in farms.

Q. How often do you have to replace them? 

A. It is self-installable—everything is wireless. You receive one installation guide for easy setup, taking 15 minutes for Kairo and 10 minutes for Nero. We offer a two-year warranty on all devices. Replacement is hassle-free during this period, and the sensor’s lifespan is five years. Due to natural degradation in soil over time, replacement is required every five years.

Q. How viable is it to purchase a product for 45000 rupees whereas the total monthly income of a farmer is very less in comparison to the amount they’re spending over here?

A. As mentioned earlier, this solution isn’t limited to affluent or large-scale farmers. Take a chili farmer in Seh, Gujarat, for example. On a per-acre basis, their earnings are around 300000 rupees, with expenditures ranging from 100000 to 150000 rupees. They invest in drip irrigation and water-soluble fertilisers, beneficial for sensitive crops like fruits, vegetables, cotton, and sugarcane. This approach yields a significant 25 to 30% increase in yield, reducing cultivation costs by 30%. Consequently, farmers recover their initial investment within the first year and enjoy the benefits for the subsequent four years. Sumit mentioned that for crops like frozen vegetables, the average spending for two acres is around four hundred thousand.

So, 80% of our produce is residue-free, meaning export quality. You can directly export to any country without residue or pesticides after following the advisories. All crops, including onions, exhibit consistent shape and size. Here are some products we discussed—Kairo and Nero. Both are wireless and easy to self-install. Kairo features a solar panel for additional power, ensuring continuous operation. The device includes sensors for soil moisture, temperature, humidity, and leaf thickness.

Q. What is the cost of incorporating a solar panel in this device?

A. On Kairo, we incorporate a 20-watt solar panel, while on Nero, we rely entirely on the rechargeable battery, which lasts for about 9 to 10 months. The cost of the solar panel is around 700 to 800 rupees per unit. We have a continuous bulk supply of solar panels, initially at 1000 rupees and now consistently at around 800 rupees.

Q. In the span of 2-3 years, how did you end up reaching 7000+ farmers?

A. Initially, we directly engaged with farmers due to the lack of channels willing to accept our new product. Over the past year and a half, with positive results and word of mouth, we’ve witnessed significant growth, adding over 5000 farmers. In the early days, we collaborated with exporters and contract farming, and in the last two years, we established regular retail and distributor channels. The government approached us for smart farming projects, offering support of Rs. 2.3 million to Rs. 2.5 million. We secured three rounds of funding, with the first round led by 100X.VC and subsequent rounds by IAN, Titan Capital, and others. We raised around 127 million in 2022 from the Ninja Cart, Triveni Trusts, and previous investors. Dr Sikhamani, our agronomy head, and a retired director of the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, provided valuable connections and validations. Our vast potential lies in addressing the needs of the 6 million farmers in India, representing a market with an estimated annual revenue of 4 billion dollars, given the current pricing. With climate change challenges, technology adoption is crucial for every farmer in this generation.

For us, the challenge in North India was a significant drop in cotton production by 50% due to a pink ballworm attack. This pest usually strikes when farmers apply sprays, but this time it attacked at an unprecedented time. Fifty of our farmers, following our practices, yielded around 900 kg, while the average production in the region was 450 kg to 500 kg. This example illustrates that any farmer growing any crop will require this kind of equipment in the future, not just for fruits and vegetables.

Q. Have you collaborated with the local governments, state governments to ensure that your device reaches more people?

A. We are in discussions with the central government regarding the horticulture cluster development program, but progress has been slow. However, we have established partnerships with major corporations for distribution. Our current partners include Dhanuka Agri Tech and Coromandel, and we are in discussions with multiple other large companies in India. These partners serve as our distribution channels, leveraging their extensive retail networks and a large number of employees. Additionally, we are in the process of building our own distributor network, currently consisting of 30+ distributors and over 400 retailers selling our products.

Q. What  is your  target  milestone? 

A. Our immediate focus is on reducing sensor costs to enhance adoption. Our primary goal is to bring costs down from the current 16000 to around 8000 to 9000, making adoption more accessible. Additionally, we are introducing new products within the same line, although we cannot disclose them immediately. We have deployed over 40 devices globally, and operations are running smoothly. Our strategy involves building partnerships and expanding services globally.

Q. What are your future milestones?

A. Our immediate focus is on addressing challenges related to income consistency and providing advisory services. While we strive to bring down costs and enhance income stability, we acknowledge certain factors beyond our control, such as health issues. To tackle income volatility, we plan to introduce crop insurance at the farm level, a novel initiative. In the upcoming months, our key objectives include cost reduction and the introduction of insurance and other products. Leveraging farm data, we aim to collaborate with insurance companies, enabling them to assess and refine their insurance methodologies. By utilising both farm data and real-time device data, we intend to partner with insurance companies to develop improved products tailored to farmers’ needs at the farm level.

Q. Are  you  planning to  use  this  data  anywhere  else? 

A. We utilise analytics in specific sectors, with banking and insurance as our primary focus. Our secondary target is input companies that require consistent weather, climate, and crop-level data for various locations. For instance, a plant protection company can benefit from intelligence about talukas severely affected by a disease for a particular crop. Our immediate priorities are banking and insurance, followed by input companies. Currently, we store data on mixed clouds, including major platforms like Microsoft Azure.


 

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