One of the staple dishes in India is the traditional south indian dish, ‘Rasam’. An entree that you eat with rice, one of its key ingredients was a juicy type of tomato. For many months a year, the price (traditionally 24 rupees or ~$0.32 a kilo) would suddenly spike over 4x (to 105 rupees or ~$1.4 a kilo). For millions of families in India, it meant going without one of their most basic ingredients which supplied a lot of their nutrients.
As venture capital and entrepreneurship becomes not only socially accepted but desired in India, we are seeing founders starting to take on significant financial and career risk not just to create financial outcomes for themselves and their teams – but also to build things that are worthy of their lives. They see opportunities to raise the dignity of hard working people and improve quality of living for hundreds of millions of Indians (not just the most affluent 30 million). While many industries have already benefited from this energy and focus, some of the basic problems facing India have not yet gotten the level of attention they deserve. One such problem area is the food supply chain and food security.
Enter Eeki Foods. Co-founded by Abhay Singh and Amit Kumar, they have invented a purpose-built growing system for India that can farm tomatoes all year – even in extreme climate and farming conditions like Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Their solution is remarkable as well as sustainable; it is independent of whether the land is arable, requires no soil, uses 80% less water and zero pesticides. The growing system, plus a fully automated control center that monitors the farms is now operational in many acres of farms and generating ~$2M in annualized revenue today. Eeki is developing a patent portfolio for its growing chamber and IoT control mechanisms and the continued R&D it is conducting on plant science and disease management. The demand has been high – simply catering to the current farming partner wait list will deliver on their 2022 revenue goal.
They have also developed an asset-light model to work alongside farming partners and deliver predictable returns to them by growing tomatoes (and soon many other vegetables) on their otherwise mostly barren lands. As one can imagine, this is complex and involves many moving parts – from ensuring that the basic conditions of the land are met, to securing project financing and setting up the growing model to the automated monitoring system to track anomalies in each farm. Once the farm setup is complete , Eeki takes care of all the day to day operations including growing, harvesting and selling the produce to B2B clients and generating a predictable (and sustainable) income for the farming partner.
The produce marketplace in India is huge; the country consumes more than 142 billion kilos of essential produce every year. World Economic Forum estimates that Indians will spend $1.6 trillion on healthier foods by 2030. By bringing their technology to thousands of additional acres across India, Eeki Foods will make it much easier to grow essential produce all year long–at a lower cost to farmers and consumers–all while being kind to the earth. We expect this to benefit small farmers as well–providing a completely new income for their community through technology and (as the costs and time to deploy come down) make it easier to pay back loans and make these projects income generating.
Today, we are excited to announce that General Catalyst is leading the Eeki Foods Series A financing round. Angel investors Srinivas Narayanan, Subbu Palaniappan, and Irving Fain also joined this round. Fain is CEO and Founder of Bowery Farming, a GC portfolio company and global leader in agritech. These incredible technology and operational leaders will help Eeki with operational expertise and strategic guidance as the company grows. We are excited to work closely with early investors Avaana Capital, Better Capital and others in the ecosystem who have supported the company to date (4 of whom have become operationally involved in the business after starting out as investors).
We at GC are inspired by daring founders like the ones at Eeki – who are building important and innovative businesses with Responsible Innovation at the core, focused on both financial and societal return. Eeki’s business model, mission, and innovative solution exemplifies our aspiration to advance inclusive prosperity and make meaningful difference in the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers and farm owners. Hopefully, it also enriches the lives of millions of families in small towns in India who like to have tomatoes to use in their ‘Rasam’ all year long.