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Omnivore, IFA Fund invest Series A money in agri-tech startup Ecozen
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Ecozen Solutions Pvt. Ltd, an agriculture-technology startup, has raised $6 million (Rs 42.4 crore at current exchange rate) in a Series A funding round from Sathguru Catalyser Advisors Pvt. Ltd, which is the asset management company of the Innovation in Food & Agriculture Fund (IFA Fund), and Omnivore.

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

In a statement, Pune-based Ecozen said the investment by IFA Fund comes on top of the investment it received in July this year from impact investors Caspian and Hivos-Triodos Fund.

Early-stage agri-tech-focused investment fund Omnivore, which had invested in Ecozen in 2015, also participated in this latest investment. Ecozen co-founder and chief executive officer Devendra Gupta said the funding will be used for expanding product range, production capacity and expansion to new geographies.

“Ecozen has focused on using technology as a differentiator and has pioneered innovative products addressing market imperfections and catering to underserved segments of agriculture & food value chain,” IFA Fund senior partner Vijayaraghavan Kannan said. He added that the company’s focus on livelihood was a good fit with the fund’s larger investment philosophy.

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.

Deals in the agri-tech space

The agriculture-technology space has seen growing interest from strategic players and investors, especially impact investors. Players in the space seek to address gaps in India’s existing agricultural processes, as well as provide fair economic incentives to farmers and other members of the ecosystem.

Earlier this week, the US retail giant Walmart Inc. and its Indian e-commerce arm Flipkart jointly invested in Ninjacart, a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for agricultural produce.

In November, logistics and supply-chain-focused Kamatan raised Rs 30 crore (around $4.18 million) in funding from Chennai-based Samunnati Agro Solutions, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of non-banking financial company Samunnati Financial Intermediation & Services Pvt. Ltd.

Earlier that month, B2B 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.

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