The agricultural revolution (defined as the moments in history when communities of hunter-gatherers in multiple geographies around the world started farming and then embraced all the lifestyle changes that came with it, eventually transforming into modern city states and nations led by bureaucrats and the military) has been dated by historians to be approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years old. As humanity tries its best to create, process, transport and consume food sources with as minimum wastage as possible, it is prudent to reason that we need to do a lot more.
Technology has been a disruptor and continues to be so; with its importance being felt in co-ordinating for every human need and wish. From energy and mobility to agriculture and consumer products, we’re seeing enterprises, both old and new led by start-ups, imagine ever more ways to make things better and efficient. We stand today amidst an age of transition where old ways of going about managing production and distribution are being reworked as we speak.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Nikhil Das, the founder of agritech start-up Agdhi; a venture that has started specifically with agricultural seeds, and has a broader vision of making an impact wherever possible and viable, in agriculture. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about your startup?
Agdhi Technologies Pvt Ltd is an agritech startup which aims to create the next revolution in agriculture. The startup on one hand is combining digital technology and human creativity to enable sustainable methods in agriculture’ on the other hand building alternative solutions for the problems prevalent in agriculture. Today, Agdhi is building new age products & solutions catering to the seed & farmers community.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
The traditional method of detecting seed defects typically relies on manual inspection, which is human centric and subjective and tests like germination test and Grow Out Tests and takes a lot of time. Therefore, an objective and automated seed screening method is required. Thus, Agdhi through AI (Artificial Intelligence) Vision technology, Photometry, Radiometry and Computer Vision offers efficient method for Seed Classification and Seed Quality Analysis. These quality results are very vital for analyzing hybrid purity, parental purity, germination percentage etc and the results are provided in seconds instead of longer duration.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Hailing from Kerala, I moved to Garden City of Bangalore for better opportunities back in 2005. Being an Engineer by profession, he started his career as Aerospace engineer with well-known brand Honeywell. He was part of a project called the secondary electrical power distribution system for aircraft. This particular unit was used in a biggest flight that time i.e. A-380. In this entire project, they were never exposed to end to end usage which was disappointing. At that time, he took a decision of working on project where he has the entire control.
Nikhil being an innovator & risk-taker, he decided to start his venture in 2008 when he established Promptec Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Ltd. It was the first LED lighting company in India, which grew into a largest LED lighting company in 2013. In 2015, the company was acquired by Havells and in the transition he continued to stay as CTO for the Havells group. It was his idea & initiative that he established for the first time Havells Solar (Enviro)& Havells IOT(Havells smart division). He left Havells in 2018 thus focusing on emerging start-ups.
He launched a few startups and acquired RevitsOne, Technology startup which built innovative products and platform for Intelligent and Connected Mobility. Nikhil also launched MotoNerdz,a hobby turned business venture. MotoNerdz specialises in superbikes, spares parts and services.
The idea of Agdhi came amidst personal observation & circumstances. It came during one of their adventure expeditions to an unexpected visit to an agriculture field. They realized that though technology has penetrated every domain, agriculture is still predominantly traditional. Upon further discussions with the seed industry and Agri researcher, the founders came up with the possibilities of digitalization in the Agri domain.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
The startup is based in Bangalore. Bangalore is the right place for a startup like us to grow, where we have the accessibility to technology, resources, information and all units to build the proper solution.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Constant innovation! Always. I am always on the watch of what better we can do as a firm. There are opportunities all around us. It’s about how we identify these opportunities and convert them into innovations. To get to the point where something that you built from scratch or your brain child becomes a stand out amongst other competing start-ups is not easy and then maintaining the stature is even more challenging. My eyes are always open to finding out what better can be done.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
We are the only Company in India working on a hardware-based Imaging solution for the Seed Phenotyping. Globally an Isralian company is the only player currently in market.
These days we see a lot of companies entering Agri-Tech, however the ones with inhouse hardware capabilities are very limited, Agdhi is a combination of expertise in Hardware, Photometry, Radiometry, AL/ML etc
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
It’s just a rhythm by which you become seasoned once you love and enjoy everything that you do. I enjoy everything I do. Be it the time I spend with my kids or finding better directions at work, I focus only on what I am doing at that point and give it my 100% focus. The more satisfied you feel while performing a particular role, the better the balance. So I make sure that I keep aside family time where I am dad one hundred percent. And one hundred percent Director when at work. The results also come out in the same manner.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise
Presently bootstrapped, Agdhi is planning to secure a Funding with ticket size of about a million USD during this year.
Bengaluru-based life science incubator Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) announced AGDHI as the winner of its fourth National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition (NBEC 2020 )in the AgriTech sector. Apart from this Agdhi secured 50 Lakh cash award from Big Grand for the most Innovative Agri Startup. KSAP (Karnataka Start-up) program also selected Agdhi as the best Agri Startup from Karnataka.
At present, the company has collaborated with seed companies and is working on newer technologies like Blockchain, Edge computing, IoT and microbiology in agriculture.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
That I am toughie. But people who know me know that I am an extremely fun loving guy. I may be a taskmaster when it comes to getting work done. But once that’s done, I am as cool as a cucumber.
What gets you excited about this company?
The people and the goal that they are working towards. I can see the future of what we are building through the eyes of my people. It gets me excited when I see the excitement with which they build every inch of the products that our company offers. I feel lucky to have got the perfect balance of people who compliment each other to get the company to the place we are all envisioning ourselves to reach.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I am an early bird. I start early. My day starts at 5.30 where I spend time for my kids’ training. My kids are national level athletes and so their training is very methodical. I spend some quality time with them for their training while making sure I’m doing my share of work out as well. After breakfast, I get into my morning meetings and catch ups which go until 11.30. Since I own multiple ventures, I manage my time such that all my ventures get enough quality time from me. My afternoons are usually packed with client meetings or engagements. I take a break around 4 again to spend some time with the kids. This is a good stress buster for me and a good break for them from their online school hours and homework. I catch up with friends and finish off on any pending work before I close the day at 9.30pm. I switch myself off completely after this. Then it’s me time for an hour before I go to bed at 10.30pm. My time is usually music, friends or movies – anything that keeps me happy.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Like I mentioned earlier, my team is a perfect balance of people who compliment each other and work hand in hand. I’ve been fortunate enough to get the right people for the right job which makes it easy to steer through. I have been lucky in more ways than one where I have people who have been working with me for more than a decade who are still with me helping me build my dream. This as far as I am concerned is a huge achievement in itself. I trust my network and suggestions that they put forward for positions that come up at my firm. And of course there are people whom we have cherry picked specifically for functions which we need expertise in.