Udaipur-based agritech startup EF Polymer was selected for a one-year residency incubation programme by the Japanese government at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST). The startup will also get a funding of 10 million Yen as part of the programme, as well as access to market, mentorship, clients, training, residency, and a connect with other investors.
Speaking on the incubation programme and the funding, Narayan Lal Gurjar, Co-founder of ePolymer said,
“We were selected from over 50,000 applications from across the globe. The entire process took over four months. We went through multiple screening and interview rounds before we were chosen. With this programme, we will be getting access to R&D Labs. Since this programme is in collaboration with the Japanese government and OSIT, they have taken no equity.”
The startup has also been part of the incubation centre at the College of Technology and Engineering in Udaipur. It was also incubated by iStart Rajasthan, the state government’s initiative to foster, support and promote startups.
With OSIT, the founders of EF Polymer will look to explore ways to build better natural polymers. “Since it is a global programme, the Japanese government will be working with us closely. And if they like what we do, they will even help us set up a team and process there,” said Narayan.
What is the product?
When Narayan built the polymer, he was only 17. Growing up in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, water scarcity was a way of life, and Narayan saw farmers would struggle for their crop.
The problem was particularly bad in 2013 and 2015 when there was a 30 percent drop in crop production due to water scarcity. Narayan wanted to do something to ensure crops could survive even in dry weather.
“As I belong to a village and family that depend mostly on agriculture, I tested it with my farms and the neighbouring farms. The farmers of my village were my first set of customers. It was not tough to make them agree to use this product in their fields. Also, I sold it at a reasonable price and was happy to receive positive feedback,” the 20-year-old says.
What does it do?
The Eco-Friendly Water Retention Polymer is a super absorbent polymer that helps the soil absorb and retain water for a long period of time to help crop growth. A completely natural product, the polymer also helps preserve the integrity of the soil.
“When we started, we had started making it with the bio-wastes of oranges and a few vegetables. Today, we have begun using all kinds of bio-waste and have also worked on improving water retention,” says Narayan, who had stated up in 2014.
The startup takes a month to process the raw material to make the final product. Though it is a long process, Narayan and his team has figured out a way to do it keeping costs low.
Revenue and future
“We charge an average of Rs 120 per kg for nurseries and other areas that need water management. This rate includes processing, transport, and taxes. For farmers, we will sell it at an average of Rs 100 per kg.”
The startup supplies the polymer to nurseries, farmers, vertical agriculturists and horticulturists near Udaipur and Rajsamand.
At the Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet (GRAM), held in Udaipur in 2017, the startup received 1,500 pre-booking enquiries for its product. According to Narayan, its current net profit is estimated to be between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 40 lakh.
Seeing value in the product, the Rajasthan government invested Rs 1 crore in the startup, which the company is using to set up machinery for mass production.
“We aim to gain as much experience and exposure. We want to expand to different parts of the globe and increase our reach. The problem is a global one and we believe working on it can change the lives of many farmers,” says Narayan.