The term Aibono stands for AI and Bono that means providing food for the people using new-age technology.
Aibono, founded in 2014 by alumni of IIT Madras Vivek Rajkumar, is India’s first AI powered food and farming platform that unites the two ends of the food chain. It aims towards improving farm yield income by using comprehensive data instruments, predictive analytics, and process systems.
It also shows the balance between the technology and human efforts closely related to its data and on-field services, which is essential for the sustainable growth of agriculture.
The start-up operates as an AI based fresh food aggregator and represents a $10 Bn segment within the $250 Bn fresh product market. It deals with highly perishable and short cycle crops such as carrots, broccoli, lettuce etc. thus, the shelf life is just three to four days.
How it all started?
Due to the short cycle of crops, not many market players have been able to enter into this segment but Aibono has managed to handle pretty well. It all started when Vivek took the proposal of his idea to IIT Madras and got appreciated by his faculty. He slowly began to hire people to create data sets that could improve the future of Indian agriculture.
He reached out to the farmers of Nilgiris hill and nearby farms outside Chennai and offered to test and measure the condition of soil and weather conditions and also built the imagery of the region which helped in assessing the stress of crop.
Later he realised that the platform he built is only suitable for short gestation crops like peas, potato, beetroots, cabbage, cauliflower; he met farmers who grew vegetables and propagated his idea to improve their yield. In a span of 2 months, the yield was 30 percent better.
The Tech Device
Aibono has developed a device that collects the data and synchronizes real time production with real time consumption. After that crop is assessed on different parameters like growth, stress level, diseases, deficiencies etc via drones and along with that experts on the field carry out advanced nutrition and soil testing.
Once all tests are done the data is compiled to provide implementable solutions to counter the problems to achieve better productivity.
The start-up has raised $2.5 Mn from Menterra Venture Advisors, Artha Ventures, Rebright Partners among other partners and now is looking to expand its reach to 2K farmers and 2K small retailers by the end of 2020.
The company is also working to bring a new feature that helps customers track the source of the vegetable or the farm where the vegetables or fruits have come from, this update can get live anytime soon.
Seed to Plate Vs Farm to Fork
India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China but the gap between per capita demand and supply due to the highly perishable nature of the produce and the relatively inferior transport infrastructure in most parts of the country especially in rural and semi-urban regions.
Most of the Indian agritech start-ups work in the farm to fork space like Fresh2Home, WayCool and others and offer the solutions to the supply chain management by adopting efficient practices in storage, packaging, handling, warehousing and also providing value added services to the end users.
However, Aibono operates in the seed to plate segment that emphasizes the on-demand side. The platforms are built in a way that it first talks to the customers and then goes closer to the source to remove the intermediary.
This approach is different from the former that engages with producers after the product is ready or after the harvest of the product but latter engages with the farmers before the harvest, right from the moment when the seeds are sown and stays in touch until the procurement.
Enough room for Agritech Synergies
Over the years, Aibono has reached the pinnacle in the sector of farming as a service company and improved the yield of the farmers and provided the value-added services at efficient cost.
The company has competition in some allied businesses like PETA, V Drone Agro, Earth Food among others but Rajkumar believes that to scale, it need not mean to tap many geographies, Nilgiris itself has production worth of 500-700 Mn. and company has managed well to have subsequent market penetration as India has over 600 million farmers and each of them has less than five guntha of land.
With the help of cloud farming and yield efficiency, the financial disparity between farmers can be reduced at great extent.
The start-up was awarded for the Best Social Enterprise in 2017 and it is continuously aiming towards bringing massive change in trade practices which is in turn producing an impact on farmers, moreover it is also in talks with partnering with an NGO who would together move forward as a community to build sustainable agriculture solutions.