Interview – From salad leaves to healthy snacks, Simply Fresh preps for a new journey

farm-pci-4-1-scaled.jpeg

Hyderabad-based Simply Fresh, an agri-tech start-up, which is setting up the country’s biggest precision farm in Arjunpatla near the Telangana capital, is all set to launch its healthy snacks vertical before the year end as part of its expansion plans, the company’s chief executive said in an interview.

“We are setting up this 150-acre facility for precision farming at Arjunpatla, and within this expansive site, we have created a processing unit for our Simply Fresh healthy snacks line of products for consumer sales,” Sachin Darbarwar told indoasiancommodities.com in an interview.

He said the company had been working on the new line for some time and expected to launch its first products in the next couple of months.

“We will soon provide details of our plans for this vertical,” he added.       

Attracting a modest $25 million round B investment in 2018 from private equity investors, one of the largest single round equity funding to an agri-tech start-up, Simply Fresh is setting up India’s largest precision farm that will significantly improve its production scale in the core areas of nutraceuticals or medicinal plants and farm fresh produce.

Of the expansive site, 22 acres have become operational at the end of the first phase development and the company has another nine acre farm at Shamirpet from where it had started its production activities in 2013.

Sachin and Shweta Darbarwar

“On a cumulative basis, from our old farm and the partially opened unit at Arjunpatla, we are currently producing 500 metric tonnes monthly including all nutraceuticals and farm fresh produce. And by the end of the next year, there would be a major spurt in our production capacity when this precision farm becomes fully operational,” Darbarwar added.

Precision farming is considered to be the most scientific approach in modern agriculture, using state-of-the-art technology like artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), machine learning, etc on a very large land pocket running into several acres.

As against this, the hydroponics form of farming, which is growing popular in the country, can be executed even on a small land parcel of a couple of acres or even less.

“Managing such a farm entails maintaining precision in coordination between different technological inputs at a very large scale vis-à-vis hydroponics farms,” Darbarwar pointed out.

The company, which was formed in 2010 by Sachin and his wife Shweta Darbarwar, has the key element of operational digital control  provided by an AI Platform called ‘Farm in A Box’ (FiAB) taking care of production activities at its plants.

Other operational specialties include using less than 5-10 kW hours of electricity per hectare per day, using minimal water for cooling and harvesting rainwater to ensure a continuous supply of fresh clear water on a large scale.

Simply Fresh has emerged as one of the largest suppliers of salad leaves, exotic berries, salad veggies, and edible flowers to leading retail outlets and leading star hotels in Hyderabad and Bengaluru and has also begun reaching out to customers in Chennai and Mumbai.

“One of our major near run targets is to establish a supply base to the country’s seven leading cities. We were on course, but Covid-19 crisis has somewhat disrupted our efforts. That is an area which will get our immediate attention as the situation improves along with the full development of this precision farm at Arjunpatla,” Darbarwar informed. 

Ritwik Sinha is a Delhi-based business journalist and has covered key policy ministries and has been associated with various television platforms. He is also the founding editor of Logistics Times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *