Saama Capital leads Series A funding in agri-tech startup Intello Labs
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Artificial intelligence-focussed agricultural technology startup Intello Labs Pvt. Ltd said on Wednesday it has raised Rs 45 crore ($5.9 million) in its Series A funding round led by new investor Saama Capital.

Singapore-based agri-tech accelerator GROW and US-based SVG Ventures THRIVE also came in as new investors, Intello Labs said in a statement. Existing investors Omnivore and Nexus Venture Partners also put in money.

Milan Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Intello Labs, said the startup will use the fresh capital to accelerate growth in international markets, particularly in the US and across Asia-Pacific.

Intello Labs was founded in May 2016 by IIT Bombay alumni Sharma, Nishant Mishra and Himani Shah, along with Devendra Chandani, an MBA graduate from Gurugram's Management Development Institute.  

The startup has developed a suite of digital products that leverage AI tools to ensure quality across fresh produce supply chains ranging from farmers, packers and aggregators to exporters, processors and retailers. Its major clients include Reliance Fresh, Dole, Ocean Spray, and online grocery companies in China and Southeast Asia, it said.

Kiranbir Nag, partner at Saama Capital, said Intello’s scalable and non-destructive AI-based digital suite of solutions is well placed to become an industry standard tool especially for large buyers of and traders in fresh produce.

Intello Labs had raised $2 million in seed round from Nexus and Omnivore in April last year.

Agri-tech startups

The agri-tech segment has recorded growing interest from strategic players and investors, as they seek to address gaps in India’s agricultural market and provide fair economic incentives to farmers and other stakeholders.

Last month, Bijak raised nearly $12 million in its Series A funding round led by Russian venture capital firm RTP Global while DeHaat scooped up $12 million in its Series A round led by Sequoia Capital India.

Clover Ventures Pvt. Ltd, which operates an agricultural-technology firm focussed on providing greenhouse-grown fresh produce, snagged $5.5 million in its Series A funding round from Omnivore in February. It also raised Rs 7 crore in venture debt from Alteria Capital this month.

In January, agriculture enterprise resource planning platform FarmERP raised Series A funding from software company TechnoGen IT Services India Pvt. Ltd.

Saama Capital

The early-stage firm began in 2006 as part of SVB Capital Partners. It was spun out as an independent firm in 2011 by Ash Lilani and Suresh Shanmugham. The VC firm’s maiden fund had a corpus of around $54 million.

In April 2018, it raised $100 million (around Rs 650 crore then) for its fourth fund – Saama Capital IV Ltd – from a set of 59 investors, including large family offices and endowments based outside of India.

At the time, Lilani said the fund would continue the firm’s focus on early-stage investments. Saama’s initial cheques to a portfolio firm are usually within the range of $1-3 million. It has previously funded companies such as SKS Microfinance, Veeba, Paytm and Bluestone.

Last month, Saama Capital invested in Cipla-backed Wellthy Therapeutics Pvt. Ltd, a digital therapeutic company specialises in chronic disease management.

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