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Know how Weather Risk Management Services helps small farmers boost yield

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Weather Risk Management Services provides a range of tech-driven input advisory services to farmers. By doing so the startup helps farmers boost yield, backing it with guaranteed purchase of their produce.

With agriculture employing 54.6 percent of the workforce in India, many farmers rely on weather forecasts to make better agricultural decisions such as planting crops on time. Smallholder farmers, in particular, rely on precise weather information since unexpected downpour or other extreme weather conditions can lead to financial devastation. Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS), an agritech business established at IIT Kanpur, claims to be well-positioned to meet the demands of this market.

The Gurugram-based firm, founded in 2004 by Sonu Agrawal, Anuj Kumbhat, and Ashish Agarwal, has fine-tuned its solutions for the Indian agriculture sector over the previous 18 years. It began by supplying weather forecasting services to insurance firms, which used it to create crop insurance policies. Later, the company began delivering weather notifications to farmers.

The big boost for WRMS occurred in 2015-16, when smartphone usage rose and data plans became more affordable, allowing for more access to online information. However, it also realized that simply supplying meteorological information was insufficient for farmers.

Anuj Kumbhat, Co-founder and CEO of WRMS, says, “We saw that farmers required more actionable insights beyond meteorological services to boost agricultural productivity.”

The firm concentrated on developing its technological infrastructure, which included autonomous weather stations (AWS) to collect necessary data, as well as gathering other pertinent information from multiple sources. It now has over 10,000 AWS scattered around the country.

WRMS began direct engagement with farmers in 2019 by offering different input advising services under the brand name SecuFarm.

Using its experience in weather forecasting, the firm expanded its services to include soil moisture condition, insect treatment, and water management, among other things.

“We can now inform farmers when to sow their seeds and how frequently they need spray to keep pests at bay,” he says.

Farmers pay WRMS for these consulting services, which range between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 every season, depending on the crop and area of cultivation. It also promises to acquire their goods at market value if they adhere to its inputs.

The startup’s goal is to mitigate the dangers connected with farming.

“As long as farmers follow our recommendations, there is a guarantee of greater production outcomes in the region of 15-20%,” Anuj explains.

He also says that WRMS’ advising services assist farmers in lowering agricultural expenditures by optimizing irrigation and utilizing just the appropriate agri inputs.

“We only recommend inputs that are within our best packaging practices and do not believe in many possibilities,” he says.

The package includes timely interventions, irrigation needs, soil testing, nutrition management, and other services. Machine learning and artificial intelligence models underpin them.

WRMS has worked with approximately 130,000 farmers in 10 states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana, and has collaborated with state governments. It concentrates on agricultural regions that produce two to three crops per year and have irrigation systems. The majority of these farmers possess two to ten acres of land.

The business also collaborates with farmer-producer organizations, corporate agricultural corporations, agri-input firms, and other organizations. It gets money from a variety of sources, including advice fees, weather data service subscriptions, and charges from agri-input firms.

Bootstrapped business

WRMS has been mostly self-funded, but has received funds from organizations such as UPL, the ILO (International Labour Organization), the Ford Foundation, and, most recently, Insuresilience Solutions. The firm claimed $4.2 million in revenue for FY22 and claims to be profitable. Its income has increased by 60% in the previous two years.

However, the startup’s path was not without its difficulties. It took time for the firm to establish a rapport with farmers and win their trust.

Anuj gives the example of starting with 400 farmers in Haryana and increasing to 4,000 in three cropping seasons.

WRMS, which has a workforce of about 300 people, also had difficulties in establishing market links for the agricultural goods that it buys from farmers.

According to a Bain & Company report, the Indian agritech industry is expected to reach $35 billion by 2025, with several firms such as CropIn, Fasal, and DeHaat, to name a few. Anuj, on the other hand, feels that WRMS’s expertise, particularly in weather-related data, provides them a solid presence in the industry. He goes on to say that the startup’s services are result-oriented, particularly in terms of matching input and output links.

“We provide advice services that are backed by a guarantee,” Anuj says.

WRMS has reached out to farmers both indirectly and directly throughout the years, and the organization expects the connection to deepen in the future years. It has assembled its own team of professionals in fields such as metrology, agriculture, remote sensing, information technology, field management, and so on.

He concludes, “Over the next four years, we hope to reach out to over 1.6 million farmers and cover four million acres.”

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