Agrifood supply chain management platform KisanHub has raised £1.12 million ($1.49 million) in a round led by Low Carbon Innovation Fund II (LCIF2) with co-investment matching coming from the UK government’s Future Fund.
KisanHub co-founder and CEO Sachin Shende told AFN the funds will be used to expand its business in the UK and continental Europe, with an initial focus on fresh produce markets.
“Covid-19 did slow down the discussions,” Shende said of the fundraising process. “However, the Future Fund initiative has been put in place by the UK government to tackle this kind of uncertainty in the funding market, and this helped us to close the round quickly.”
The Cambridge, UK-based startup may be particularly deserving of this kind of assistance. Its solution targets what it calls “logistical bottlenecks” in the agrifood supply chain – many of which have been laid bare by Covid-19, with both domestic and cross-border food supplies facing massive disruption as a result of lockdown orders and border closures. The UN Food & Agriculture Organization has highlighted improved supply chain efficiency as a key objective in preparation for future pandemics.
“The food supply chains are complex and involve interactions between farmers, aggregators, processors, packers and retailers. Through a digital platform like KisanHub, the decision making is quicker as businesses have complete visibility of their supply chain,” Shende said.
“Businesses can identify the supply issues earlier in the season by looking at the quality and quantity aggregated across their all growers. Many of KisanHub’s clients have been using the platform for remote monitoring when the travel restrictions were in place.”
The startup’s cloud-based software platform allows participants in the agrifood supply chain to make sense of data collected from sources ranging from crops in the field, on-farm sensors, stores, shipments, and satellites. The aim is to help these stakeholders “meet contractual obligations on quality and quantity of […] produce,” according to a company statement, as well as to bring greater transparency to the exchange of information throughout the supply chain.
KisanHub describes its target market as “agricultural enterprises supplying retailers and processors that work with a network of contract farmers [or] own their own farmland.” Its platform is already being used by global beverages major AB InBev, as well as UK food suppliers including Burgess Farm Produce, Jupiter Group, Manor Fresh, and Spearhead.
While there are a fair few startups out there claiming to connect farm-to-factory supply chains more efficiently, Shende thinks that KisanHub’s model sets it apart.
“[We’ve] taken a ‘platform’ approach to managing the journey of the produce from planting until it arrives at the packhouse or the factory gate. There are a number of startups who are ‘point solutions’ in the supply chain and capture only certain datasets needed for the decision making on the farm or [elsewhere] in the supply chain,” he explained.
KisanHub’s approach allows it to “bring together multiple datasets in one place providing in-field visibility of crops, improving management decisions, and ensuring that on-spec produce gets to the right customer at the right time whilst reducing waste and costs,” he added.
Sistema VC, which led KisanHub’s £3.4 million ($4.52 million) Series A round in July last year, said it backed the company for its ability to “make the supply chain more reliable and the procurement process more predictable.”
“Supply chain is one of the most complex and least efficient components in the business of delivering goods from farmers to consumers,” Sistema VC managing partner Dmitry Filatov told AFN.
“It is always at seasonal risk, which machine learning helps to reduce. Optimization of such a complicated process appears to be in high demand in agriculture, especially in these times of a pandemic, when food safety is crucially important.”
Filatov said that KisanHub fits neatly into Sistema VC’s broader portfolio with its focus on using artificial intelligence to disrupt conservative traditional industries. The firm — an offshoot of Russian conglomerate AFK Sistema, which itself manages over 1.38 million acres of farmland via its agribusiness interests — has also invested in the Netherlands’ AI-driven dairy farm management platform Connecterra. [Disclosure: Connecterra is also a portfolio company of AgFunder, which is AFN‘s parent company.]
“KisanHub helps keep everyone in the supply chain aware of the state of each batch of produce they are growing [or] retailing, so that they can plan better and reduce waste,” said Turquoise director Axel de Mégille in a statement.
“This investment fits well into LCIF2’s strategy of investing into technologies that help to reduce greenhouse gases.”