Global Innovation Fund leads $10 mn round in agri-tech startup EM3

Noida-based EM3 Agri Services Pvt. Ltd, which offers on-demand farming services and machinery, has raised $10 million (Rs 63.7 crore) in a Series B round led by London-based Global Innovation Fund, a company statement said.

Existing investor Aspada Investments also participated in the round. It had put in $3.3 million in the company's Series A round in June 2015.

EM3 will use the funds to scale up operations, the press note added.

“We now rapidly scale the farming-as-a-service (FaaS) model as well as our mobile platform for small-hold farmers to access services across the agriculture value chain,” Kartik Srivatsa, managing partner at Aspada, said in the statement.

Founded in 2014 by father-son duo Rohtash Mal and Adwitiya Mal, EM3 provides farm services for the entire cultivation cycle on a pay-per-use basis. Since many farmers rely on manual labour and cannot afford advanced equipment, EM3 offers services like harvesting, soil and land preparation, sowing and transplanting, crop management, and more. Farmers pay a service fee calculated on a per hour or per acre basis.

Farmers can reach out to the company’s farm service fulfilment centres, called Samadhan Kendra, either online or on phone. The company claims to have serviced more than 8,000 farmers, ploughing 25,000 acres.

It has expanded to Uttar Pradesh and signed an agreement with the government of Rajasthan to develop 124 farm service centres across the state, which will eventually go up to 300.

Rohtash, EM3 Agri's managing director, is an IIT Delhi and IIM-Calcutta alumnus. He was earlier executive director and chief executive of Escorts Limited. His prior stints include CEO of Bharti Airtel, chief general manager at Maruti Suzuki, and senior vice president at Ballarpur Industries Limited.

Adwitiya, an MBA from the University of Rochester, is the venture's co-founder and CEO.

London-headquartered Global Innovation Fund is a non-profit innovation fund supported by the Department of International Development in the UK, the United States Agency for International Development, the Omidyar Network, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia.

Bangalore-based early-stage investor Aspada Investments has made a few bets on firms in agricultural supply chain, logistics, financial services, education, and healthcare. Another agriculture startup it has invested in is Mumbai-based InI Farms, where it put in Rs 20 crore ($3.2 million) in March 2015.

Aspada has received significant commitment from US-based Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF). In 2014, SEDF invested an additional $15 million in the firm. Aspada also manages the portfolio of SONG, an early-stage venture capital fund backed by SEDF, Omidyar Network, and Google.

A couple of ventures in the agri-tech space have raised funding recently.

On Wednesday, Crofarm, which connects farmers with retailers, raised Rs 5 crore ($783,000) in a pre-Series A round led by US-based venture development firm Factor[e] Ventures. Google India’s Rajan Anandan and PayU India’s Jitendra Gupta also participated in the round.

In March, Indian Angel Network (IAN) made an undisclosed investment in Gurgaon-based FarMart, a renting platform for farm equipment.

In February, Delhi-based VDSS Agri Tech Pvt. Ltd, which owns and operates, raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from a clutch of angel investors.

In January, Mumbai-based RML AgTech Pvt. Ltd, which provides support services to farmers via mobile phones, raised $4 million (Rs 27.2 crore) from existing investor IvyCap Ventures.

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