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Using IoT to help India’s farmers get superior yields

Jagadeesh Reddy from Sarjapura, a small village in Karnataka has been a silk farmer for about 15 years. Till recently, he would get flaccid cocoons infected by diseases as he used to farm with no proper data. For instance, he did not have information about humidity, temperature, light and air quality. But all that changed, when recently ReshaMandi, a silk agri-tech start-up, installed a rearing shed for the cocoons. It is equipped with the Internet of Things—a technology where devices communicate with each other intelligently. He gets messages daily instructing the rearing shed’s temperature, humidity, air quality, and light.

“We have been following the instructions they provide. Earlier we used to get flaccid cocoons due to diseases. But now it is in control and the quality of cocoons has improved,” says Reddy. “And when compared with the rate others get, I always get Rs 5-10 more than them. Also, the cocoon quantity has also increased by 5 per cent-10 per cent.”

ReshaMandi’s innovation is important. The coronavirus-related restrictions have not only wreaked havoc on businesses but also caused a detrimental impact on the silk industry stakeholders and farmers in India.

Lack of technology and market linkages to procure and sell cocoons, silk yarn and fibres, results in the loss of income and defaulting on loans. And this is the problem that Bengaluru-based ReshaMandi is trying to address by digitising the nation’s untouched silk supply chain. The aim is to bring in standardisation in a highly unregulated market.

ReshaMandi was founded in April 2020 by National Institute of Fashion Technology gold medallist Mayank Tiwari, former Cisco techie Saurabh Agarwal, and tech entrepreneur Utkarsh Apoorva. The startup is a 360-degree solution for the stakeholders of the industry as it connects sericulture farmers, fabric weavers, silk reelers, and retailers. It is enabling them to get the best price for their products and reduce the time to travel to market. It makes sure that they are supplied with the best raw materials and testing kits.

“It is surprising that Karnataka being the silk hub of India and Bengaluru being the country’s tech capital and yet nobody had put technology in silk,” says ReshaMandi co-founder Utkarsh Apoorva. “The motivation for us (to start the firm) is that it is a large growing market and there is a huge scope for disruption in this space.”

India is the world’s second-largest producer of silk after China. The silk industry in the country is one of the largest generators of employment and foreign exchange for the country as sericulture activities spread across 52,360 villages.

ReshaMandi is digitising the silk supply chain with technology interventions from farmer to consumer. This includes the use of IoT devices for collecting data regarding the pH value, moisture content of soil and to monitor parameters like light, air quality, humidity, and temperature.

“If the parameters have not moved in the right direction, we would reach out to the farmer and provide them instructions,” said Apoorva, an alumnus of IIT-Delhi.

Apoorva said this kind of advice is leading to a significant increase in the cocoon quality grading. “It is also resulting in about 25-30 per cent increase in the income of the farmers as there would be less crop failure,” said Apoorva.

An AI-led technology helps to grade the quality of cocoons by using computer vision. Here the farmer only needs to scan his produce by hovering the mobile over it (like a google lens) to generate renditta (quantity of silk cocoons required to produce 1 Kg of raw silk) of cocoons.

The firm also offers a vernacular digital platform in the form of a mobile app for stakeholders to stay updated. This includes insights about the silk industry, macro advisories, community, and market linkages of both input procurement in form of the cocoon and selling output in form of yarns.

With the help of early disease detection and quality grading technology, ReshaMandi has helped farmers improve the quality of cocoons. It also helps farmers to overcome logistical costs by procuring and selling cocoons themselves, at a competitive price, thus improving their profitability. The platform has helped farmers sell over Rs 15 crore worth of cocoons (3 lakh Kgs), practically from their farms itself without the hassle of travelling to Mandis.

One such farmer who has benefitted from ReshaMandai’s technology is Munirathnappa from Sarjapura, a small village in Karnataka. He has been rearing silk for 20 years. Earlier he had to travel to Kolar to take the cocoons. But the problem was that the place was far. The negotiation with silk reelers was a hassle, and the produce rarely got a good price. “Our cocoons were going to waste and it was a loss to us,” says Munirathnappa. Few farmers from his village recommended him to sell the cocoon at ReshaMandi for the first time. “ “We got a good price for our cocoons,” says Munirathnappa.

ReshaMandi engages with the weaver communities in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Varanasi to address their root issues. These are related to timely procurement of quality-assured yarns, lack of working capital funds and quick turnover of their goods with the help of technological interventions and market linkages. By doing so, it is trying to improve the livelihood of the weavers badly affected by the pandemic. The firm has recently started operations in Telangana and Delhi as well.

ReshaMandi not only provides warehousing and distribution options but has also become a one-stop-shop for retailers. It enables them to buy a wide range of about 20-25 types of products coming from different parts of the country due to their vast network of weavers. It offers about 20-30 per cent lower pricing for superior-quality products.

The start-up raised $1.7 million this year as a part of its seed round funding led by Omnivore and Strive Ventures with participation from Axilor Ventures and Supply Chain Labs (Lumis). The firm has now engaged with over 10,000 farmers and is working closely with 7500 farmers, 560 reeling plants and 3840 weaving units.

The size of the silk market size was close to $21.45 billion by revenue at the end of 2021 and is estimated to rise at a current CAGR of about 9.5 per cent to reach a total of $28.71 billion by 2026, according to industry reports. Business Standard

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