Interviews

In Conversation with Co-Founder of Deep Rooted.Co

Avinash BR

Deep Rooted.Co is the brand of Clover, a fast-growing greenhouse agri-tech start-up. The Company aims to create an equitable balance between the farmers and the consumers by building transparency and trust among them. The company has an omnichannel presence and caters to a growing $100Bn F&V market by delivering fresh, clean and residue-free produce in less than 24 hours.  

Clover was founded by Avinash BR, Arvind M, Gururaj S Rao, and Santhosh  Narasipura in 2018. Based out of Bangalore, the company is funded by Accel, Omnivore, Mayfield and Alteria Capital. 

Krishi Jagran had a small conversation with Avinash BR the Co founder of Deep Rooted.Co in which he tells us about his company in detail. 

What is Deep Rooted.Co all about? What services do you offer? 

Deep Rooted.Co is a grower and retailer of high-quality, contamination-free fruits and vegetables (F&V). We launched the brand in August 2020 across Bangalore and Hyderabad. By partnering with small handhold farmers, we are building India’s largest network of horticulture farmers for F&V. We are managing over 120 acres of farms, mostly peri-urban small landhold farms, in and around the 2 cities. In the process, we are also creating an equitable balance between the farmers and the consumers by building transparency and trust among them.  

With over 100 + F&V in the catalogue, we are a one-stop shop for all fruits and vegetable needs of a consumer. Consumers can login to our website or download our app ‘Deep Rooted’ to order from us. We are also available on select 3rd party digital platforms. Using an omnichannel strategy, we aim to make our fresh, clean, contamination-free produce extremely accessible to all kinds of consumers. Our exclusive focus on fresh produce places us in a unique position among traditional grocers or e-tailers allowing us to provide optimum value while improving traceability, accessibility, and availability of fresh and clean produce to a larger ecosystem.  

How & when did you come up with an idea to start a company like Deep Rooted.Co? 

My childhood friends Santosh, Guru and Arvind (co-founders of Deep Rooted.Co) and I used to enjoy spending weekends at a coffee estate owned by Santosh in Chikmagalur, Karnataka. One afternoon, while chit-chatting over coffee about my curiosity around greenhouse farming, we came up with the idea of fresh and clean cultivation. 

We wanted to solve primary challenges like quality and year-long availability of fresh produce. We set-up our own one-acre greenhouse and started doing hydroponic cultivation - growing and selling exotic vegetables to B2B clientele like internet kitchens, fine dining restaurants, etc. 

Enthused by the feedback from our early consumers, we expanded our product offerings by partnering with other greenhouse farmers and providing them with agronomy services. Within 6-9 months, we were managing 40 acres of farms across two cities.  However, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, demand dropped significantly on the B2B front while B2C customers became conscious about hygiene, nutrition and the source of produce. To meet these challenges, we came up with our D2C brand Deep Rooted.Co to build a demand backed supply chain of freshly produced fruits and vegetables that will deliver equal value to farmers and consumers alike. 

How does Deep Rooted.Co benefit the farmers and how many farmers are associated with you? 

During our initial interactions with farmers, we realized that there is a substantial gap between what consumers are looking for (assurances in terms of quality, availability, and price), and what farmers are working towards. Hence, farmers were consistently struggling with opacity in knowing what to grow and securing sustainable yield. Combined with unpredictable market access, most crop cycles are not profitable for farmers. Therefore, we started working with small farmers to substantially increase their yield and profits through a demand-backed supply chain and minimize wastage.  

Our agronomy team shares detailed information on land preparation, sowing and harvest schedule while planning resources for the full crop cycle that allows farmers to extract maximum benefit from their investments. Deep Rooted.Co farmers have not only increased yield and income by 3x-4x, but also yield several-fold, and significantly reduced post-harvest wastage from 30% to 6%.  

Currently, we have 90+ farmers operating across 120 acres of land in Bangalore and Hyderabad, growing crops under the direction of experts and agronomists. 

What challenges did you face as a startup during the pandemic? 

The farmers lost access to markets during the pandemic and understood the importance of ensuring structural access to the market by partnering with organized players. At this time, we saw a high inflow of farmers interested in becoming a part of Deep Rooted.Co. On the other hand, consumers became more cautious about where they purchased their fruits and vegetables. We were uniquely positioned to meet the needs of both consumers and farmers.  

From the beginning, our business model focused on growing fresh, clean, and contamination-free produce. Thus, we built on and amplified what we were doing prior to the pandemic.  

In the beginning, we faced several operational challenges. This included determining whether farmers could arrange labor for harvesting, if our vehicles could reach farms in a timely manner for pick-up, if sufficient workers were available in the warehouse, and whether we could deliver on time to our customers. It was a stressful phase for our team since we had to revise plans practically every hour. 

Please tell us about the best day of your life as an entrepreneur.

It's hard to pick out one day as the best. The best part of being an entrepreneur is seeing problems being solved through our approach. The first batch of seeds we sowed on our farm, getting the harvest out, taking the first samples to the customers, invoicing our first sale, receiving good feedback on the quality, onboarding our first farmer, and getting the harvest off the managed farm and seeing the network of farms we manage grow and launching the brand in the second city are all fond memories for me. The list is endless. 

What future plans do you have for your company?

In terms of impact, we are just getting started. We plan to scale in three broad areas:  

  1. Network of farms: We will be onboarding more farmers into the network as our consumer base continues to grow. In order to seamlessly integrate and manage this entire network of farms, we will be adding a layer of technology. 

  2. Consumer side technology: We will be rolling out significant developments to our mobile app to make shopping even easier and more personalized, attuned to purchasing behavior, preferences, etc. 

  3. Geographic expansion: We will soon expand to other cities in the south and west of the country.  

Krishi Jagran came across a farmer named Srinivas from Karnataka who told us about his experience with Deep Rooted.Co. He was a teacher and also used to manage his family farm. He even employs small labourers to assist with all kinds of farming work. We had a small interaction with him also. He explained how Deeprooted.co has helped him. 

How did you get in touch with Deep Rooted.Co and how has it changed your life? What do you like to do besides farming? Please tell us in detail, about your interests and how you got into it? 

Back in the day, he used to grow flower crops and was involved in floriculture only. After the pandemic hit, he witnessed huge losses due to a slowdown and dwindling opportunities in the segment. His friend who was already associated with Deep Rooted.Co introduced Srinivas to the company for farming as well as agronomy support. With the help of their expert agronomy team, I focus more on land preparation, planning, sowing and harvest schedule, which has substantially increased my profits by around 25-30%, Through this association, he was able to quickly pivot his business, and branch out into a variety of vegetable crops including greens, like English cucumber, spinach, haricot beans, and capsicum, with coriander.  

Srinivas - The Farmer

Tell us about some unique farming practices that you learnt from Deep Rooted. Co 

Before partnering with Deep Rooted.Co, we had grown vegetables in poly houses. Our collaboration with Deep Rooted.Co has sparked qualitative & quantitative changes. Previously, we were not aware of the nuances of achieving quality produce with remarkable yield, but now with extensive guidance and support, we see a noticeable boost in productivity. We enrich our crops with natural fertilizers to maintain soil health, thereby benefiting production & sustainability. Their agronomy team has helped us in every possible way, from determining the best variety selection to implementing fertilizer optimization strategies, determining harvest stages and explaining the importance of consistency in crop quality.  

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