Villgro has incubated agri company GRoboMac. Here, founder-CEO Manohar Sambandam talks about his enterprise:
What does your company do?
We develop farm robotics for harvesting farm produce.
Currently, we are developing a cotton-picking machine. These machines will be used by large farmers or Farming As A Service (FAAS) companies who will rent it out to smaller cotton farmers for harvesting cotton.
How did it come about?
I am a practising farmer. Agriculture in India is primarily dependent on human manual labour and there is an acute shortage of human workforce due to migration of the workforce to other profession. This is my own pain point and I found the situation is the same across the country. When I left my regular corporate job to do something on my own, I decided to solve the pain point I had and that is how we started this company. My company is essentially addressing the labour shortage problem in the farming/agriculture.
Why are you excited about this space?
The labour shortage situation is a severe one faced by the agriculture economy and the farmers and it is only going to be worse as the years pass by. It can affect the food security of the country since agriculture will become very unviable and farmers have to adopt non-sustainable and un-ecofriendly practices to sustain farming if the situation continues. Given the advances and availability of technology in other domains it is only pertinent some of these technology is adopted to more pressing ground level problems we are facing. As a farmer and someone who has a technology understanding the challenges and opportunity is huge and is exciting to solve a very pertinent problem we are all facing.
What is innovative about your service?
Most farm machinery companies are developing machines that apply brute mechanical force for mechanization, but pure mechanical power along cannot be used to mechanize the farm tasks. There needs to be intelligent in the machines as well to make the machines smarter. Our approach is to build smart machinery by using technology and help adopt sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture.
We use some of the advanced technologies like 3D vision and robotics for agriculture operations at an affordable cost. We believe the technologies will become affordable and cheaper in the days to come.
What is the impact you want to have?
Agriculture will have to be economically viable and sustainable. Our effort will help farmers make agriculture a viable profession and also help adopt eco-friendly agriculture practices.
What successes and challenges have you seen till now and what is next?
We have been able to demonstrate the viability of the technology. The challenge is to build a very robust and farmer friendly machine at an affordable cost.
What keeps you motivated?
The need to come up with a compelling solution
How do you think Villgro will help?
I am working on a solution, which addresses a very relevant social problem in agriculture. We will achieve the solution but it takes persistence, effort and time to make it a viable product. Villgro can support me with funds, with a longer-term perspective, and also support me in all aspects to achieve the goal.