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Impact investors Caspian, Hivos-Triodos Fund back agri-tech startup Ecozen
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Agriculture-technology startup Ecozen Solutions Pvt. Ltd has raised an undisclosed sum of money as part of its Series A funding round from impact investors Caspian and Hivos-Triodos Fund.

Early-stage agri-tech focused investment fund Omnivore Capital Management Advisors Pvt. Ltd, which had invested in Ecozen in 2015, also participated in the round, Ecozen said in a statement.

Ecozen makes products targeted at farmers so that they can grow their yields, store their produce for longer and realise higher prices.

Company co-founder and chief executive officer Devendra Gupta said the funding would be used for launching new cold chain products as well as entering new markets for irrigation sales and increase the growth of its market linkage platform for pre-cooled perishables.

“We plan to be back in the market soon, to raise our next round, as both our irrigation and cold chain businesses are scaling rapidly,” Gupta said.

Caspian investment director Ravi Narasimhan said the firm bet on Ecozen because of the startup’s focus on promoting sustainable agriculture and storage through using solar energy-based products that were reliable as well as affordable. Hivos-Triodos Fund manager Karel Nierop added that the impact investor was looking forward to partnering with the startup to “create a positive impact down the value chain”.

Founded in 2010 by Gupta, Vivek Pandey and Prateek Singhal, alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, Ecozen manufactures proprietary, solar-powered, micro cold-storage units and water pumping technologies (called Ecofrost and Ecotron) for farmers and rural communities.

In 2015, Omnivore invested $1 million in the Pune-based company. As part of the deal, the Mumbai-based venture capital firm also bought out the stake held by Chennai-based social enterprise incubator Villgro Innovations Foundation, which provided seed funding to the startup.

Investors

Caspian funds enterprises that are socially responsible and deliver both social and financial value. The firm has managed four funds till now: The Bellwether Microfinance Fund, the India Financial Inclusion Fund, Caspian Impact Investments Pvt. Ltd. and the Caspian SME Impact Fund.

It has backed firms such as the Chennai-based Equitas Holdings Ltd. and the Bengaluru-based Ujjivan Financial Services Ltd.

The Hivos-Triodos Fund is a joint venture between the Netherlands-based Triodos Bank and Dutch non-profit Hivos. It was established in 1994 and acts as an incubator, financing financial institutions as well as entities that increase access to renewable energy and the development of sustainable food. The fund is managed by Triodos Investment Management, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Triodos Bank NV.

Deals in the agri-tech space

The agri-tech segment has seen heightened investor activity in recent months, with startups and corporates seeking to address gaps in India’s agricultural sector and modernise the value chain across the ecosystem.

Earlier this month, business-to-business agricultural-commerce platform SuperZop raised Rs 8 crore in pre-Series A funding from investors including SIDBI Venture Capital Ltd’s MS Fund. Other investors in the round included CIIE Initiatives, the technology incubator of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, and angel investor Gurumurthy Raman.

In June, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd agreed to invest 4.3 million Swiss francs (around Rs 30 crore) in Swiss agricultural-technology company Gamaya SA. India’s biggest tractor maker said at the time that Gamaya would support the company’s farm equipment business by development technology solutions.

In May, Green AgRevolution Pvt. Ltd, which operates the DeHaat online marketplace for farm products and services, acqui-hired farm management services provider VezaMart. DeHaat said the transaction was in line with its target of reaching one million farmers by 2021.

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