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Hyderabad: Startup harnesses hi-tech for pesticide-free veggies

Startup harnesses hi-tech for pesticide-free veggies
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Startup harnesses hi-tech for pesticide-free veggies

Highlights

It deploys precision farming tech and hydroponics forms a small part of it

Shamirpet: A city-based techie who had returned from Australia after a span of 20 years, has recently set up an agri-startup that offers modern technology such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, hydroponics and others to produce fresh and leafy vegetables free from chemicals and pesticides.

"I was in Australia for 20 years and was working with a lot of technologies in the agricultural space. That is where all this started and then I decided that there is so much scope in India in the farming sector," said Sachin Darbarwar, founder of the startup 'Simply Fresh.' He said that technology is quite advanced in Europe, Australia and other countries as compared to India but at the same time there is a need for affordable fresh chemical and pesticide-free vegetable produce in India.

"With that thought process, we contemplated that why don't we give it a try? So that is how it all started," said Darbarwar.After setting up Simply Fresh in 2013 and before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Darbarwar was growing up to 150 varieties of vegetables, supplying them to a good number of supermarkets, hotels, corporates, live kitchens and others.

However, the pandemic threw a spanner in their operations, forcing them to take a break and wait for everything to settle down to resume with renewed focus on exports, along with nutraceuticals.The nutraceuticals focus is to cater to raw material requirements.

"Right now we are exporting to the UK and Middle East. In the coming months, once the international airfares come down, we will look at a few more companies like Germany and Singapore," he noted.He also said that there is no policy with the government currently to certify hydroponic produce to be called as organic and hopes that he could call Simply Fresh's produce as organic in a couple of months' time.

According to Darbarwar, his company employs a technology called precision farming and hydroponics forms a small part of it."We have been working with 40 different vendors and we imported equipment from seven different countries. We use a lot of AI, a lot of machine learning, a lot of automation is there in place and we have developed a technology called farm-in- the-box which controls the farm right from seed time," he said.

Working with botanists and professors, Simply Fresh uses technology to decode signals coming from the plants, which respond to environmental changes and the nutrients being fed to them.Darbarwar and his wife Shweta made use of a 10 acre plot of land to recreate and produce the inviting vegetables they enjoyed in Australia.

As many as 14 kinds of lettuce, 10 types of herbs, microgreens, peppers, capsicum and tomato are some of their produce.The startup raised nearly $20 million in funding and managed to shift to a larger parcel of land at Arjunpatla in Siddipet.

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