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Real-life Farmville: Rent a farm, grow your own organic vegetables

Sudhir Chowdhary

Even when we buy fresh produce marketed to us as organic or natural, many of us are unable to trust whether it is really free of harmful chemicals. On the other hand, dwindling incomes along with production, distribution and financing inefficiencies have made it impossible for Indian farmers to earn living wages predictably.
An innovative startup called Farmizen is trying to make a difference here. An app-based service that provides a true farm-to-fork experience for its users, Farmizen was started in January 2017 by Sudaakeran Balasubramanian, Gitanjali Rajamani and Shameek Chakravarty with a two-fold goal in mind. Farmizen provides a win-win solution to consumers as well as farmers, says Shameek Chakravarty, CEO and co-founder, Farmizen. On one hand, users get access to fresh produce that is truly organic and on the other, it provides predictable, sustainable incomes to local farmers by removing all production, distribution and financing inefficiencies. In simple words, Farmizen is connecting these two ends of the value chain on one platform through their app.
How does Farmizen work?
Well, it is fairly straightforward. Users can rent 600-square feet of land in a real farm near them for a monthly fee of `2,500 through the app. The farmer takes care of all the crops chosen by the user. Users can control their farm through an app available on Android and iOS just like the online game Farmville. They can visit their farm anytime and harvest their chemical-free produce. If busy, Farmizen will home deliver the produce every week to the user.
How does it impact the food system? Chakravarty informs that when farmers are paid a fixed remuneration every month, they will have no incentive to adopt practices harmful to the soil. Farmers can focus on chemical-free production, while Farmizen takes care of distribution, marketing, inputs and know-how. He informs that there are adequate checks and balances against any violation with regular crowdsourced audits and remote supervision using drones, etc. All agro inputs are provided by Farmizen, to ensure no chemicals get used. When the vegetables are home delivered, the consumers know exactly when it was planted, when it flowered, what fertilisers were used, etc, says Chakravarty. Another benefit is that Farmizen follows a natural farming methodology, heavily relying on mulching, indigenous microbe solutions, activation of local earthworms and multi-cropping.

Spreading wings
Farmizen is currently present in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Surat. It has about 1,500 families as subscribers and 18 farms across three cities with about 30 acres under cultivation. It had raised a seed round of about $300,000 in September 2017. It is funded by venture capital firm Venture Highway, former Canaan Partners managing director and Indifi co-founder Alok Mittal, founders of gaming portal Mohit Agarwal and Anuj Gupta, and a few other angels.
After seeing a growing interest among urbanites to gain farming experience, Farmizen has recently introduced a workshare programme. From planting to harvesting, the customer can be involved in the whole process of farming. The customer will be entitled to earn one week s free subscription for 8 hours of work at the farm every week. They can redeem 1 work-share credit to add a week to their subscription.

Farmizen now plans to expand its operations to serve 100,000 families and generate over `300 crore in annual recurring revenue in the next two years.