The number of enquiries that Pune-based startup Krishigati receives every week has convinced the couple who founded it, Sonali and Tukaram Sonawane, that the country has a high demand for their product.
Krishigati has rolled out a machine called the Electric Bull that does what the bull has been doing for farmers — till the soil — but also what it could not, which is precision sowing, seeding, earthing up multiple lanes at a time and spraying to raise farm productivity.
The innovation has won the company several honours, including a runner-up prize in the Pune Chapter of the TiE Women’s global contest. Earlier this month, they emerged winners in the rural category at the National Conference on Social Innovation organised by Pune International Centre. In October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Krishigati’s stall at Agri Startup Conclave and Kisan Sammelan in Delhi.
Apart from 3,000 enquiries from farmers across India, a state government has approached Krishigati for 1,000 units of Electric Bull, which it needs to cater to just a single district. “We could deliver 200 because we are still scaling our manufacturing capacity. This is why we are focussing on raising investment at present,” says Sonali.
The couple had bootstrapped the company before winning grants from the government and various organisations. They have raised a total of Rs 82 lakh till now, of which they have received Rs 55 lakh, which went into setting up their manufacturing unit two months ago.
The demand for Electric Bull is connected to the changing dynamics of agriculture in India which might be invisible to outsiders. The Sonawanes are mechanical engineers who left their villages in Nasik years ago to settle in Pune. It was only during the second Covid lockdown that they could spend an extended period back home. They came to the surprising realisation that agricultural methods for small and medium-sized farmers had not changed though their socioeconomic realities had.
“Due to uncertain monsoons, it has become unfeasible for farmers to keep a bull as it is expensive and comes to use only at certain times of the year. People prefer to invest in cows which earn through milk and cow dung. Labour, too, is hard to come by because young people do not want to work like the farmers of an earlier generation. The youth is moving away from farming. The size of land has also shrunk due to divisions among successive branches of a family,” says Sonali. One of the results is that small farmers face a problem when it comes to tilling.
Electric Bull’s prototype was made with scrap before Krishigati was founded in 2021 and introduced their machine in August this year. Electric Bull costs Rs 2.75 lakh, which the company has calculated to be less compared to the expenses a farmer would incur in a year.
“It uses no diesel or petrol and charging takes two hours. Electric Bull will also be given to farmer producer organisations, who can rent it out to individuals,” says Sonali.
“Electric Bull is our lockdown baby. Now that we are receiving queries from nearby countries, we want to increase our manufacturing from 50 Electric Bulls at present,” she adds.