Startup Spotlight: Prasanna Rao

Arya, an India-based agtech focused on post-harvest services for farmers, just raised a USD21m Series B from EMPEA members Quona Capital, Omnivore, and LGT Lightstone Aspada. We spoke with Co-Founder & Managing Director Prassana Rao about how Arya is driving post-harvest efficiencies and how it relates to Indian farmers during a moment of significant farmer protests.

EMPEA: How did you explain the problem of post-harvest losses to your investors? Is this specific to India, or a problem you see in other agribusiness markets? 

Prasanna Rao: We estimate that 15-40% of all food available worldwide is either lost or wasted. In developing nations, a majority of this happens before the grain reaches even the first stage of processing. In India, only about a third of the total grain production reaches the terminal formal agri-market centers. The rest is lost in the opacity of transactions in the near-farm primary and secondary agri-markets. Arya operates in these near-farm markets in an endeavour to formalize value chains and minimize these losses through a digitally enabled, integrated post-harvest services platform with embedded finance. 

In what ways does Arya operate like a fintech?

Each grain managed and stored by Arya on behalf of its customers is converted into an electronic balance. The customer may decide to avail of finance against this electronic grain balance through our embedded finance platform that processes the loan in minutes. 

We’ve noted the massive farmer protests this past week around new farming legislation. Agtech companies can drive efficiencies, but they can also disrupt the way of life for farmers. How does Arya approach this problem? How do you introduce efficiencies in farming without disempowering the producers of the food?

Arya’s efforts have been to improve efficiencies for farmers and significantly increase options for the smallholder farming community closer to the farm gate. Through an integrated offering, Arya brings together storage, financing, market linkages, and price risk mitigation. Arya embeds itself into the community as it offers its services by adding a layer of trust and assurance to the farmers’ produce. 

Arya operates through very strong relationships with farmer producer organisations (FPOs) across the country. We act as their service providers. Today, we have associations with about 450 FPOs with a smallholder membership base of over 350,000 farmers. We partner with various multilaterals and other development actors in building the capacities of farmers and their institutions to facilitate their effective integration into formal value chains.

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