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DeHaat, an agricultural tech startup, raised $2.8 million in venture debt funding from Mumbai-based Trifecta Capital as investors seek more opportunities in farming-focused companies, which have long been overshadowed by startups catering to consumers.
DeHaat is an online platform providing Indian farmers with equipment and materials including seed and fertilizer. The new debt will be used to launch credit and insurance products, according to YourStory. DeHaat’s total funds raised have reached $7.7 million, putting it at the heels of Indian agribusiness heavyweight players such as Lawrencedale, EM3, and Agrostar.
“Our larger goal is to become a one-stop destination for Indian farmers, which can meet all of their agricultural needs,” said Shashank Kumar, co-founder and CEO of DeHaat, in an interview with YourStory. DeHaat serves 100,000 farmers in India’s rural states, and the company is aiming to reach 250,000 by the end of the year.
Demand from India’s growing middle class for convenience and quality food has been the driving force in the country’s agrifood industry. “Downstream” startups focused on delivery, restaurants and consumers raised almost $1.5 billion in 2013 to 2017, compared with only “upstream” agtech companies raised only $189 million over the same period, according to online venture capital firm Agfunder.
“We can’t help thinking that great opportunities upstream are being missed and underfunded in the rush to appease consumers,” an AgriFood Tech Investing Report said.
The investment in DeHaat continued a recent emphasis on upstream agtech investments, which grew almost seven times from 2013 to 2017 in India, Agfunder said. Worldwide, upstream investments surged 44% in 2018 from a year earlier.
Upstream and downstream investments are more balanced in mature agrifood markets such as the U.S. Globally, upstream investments reached $6.9 billion last year, led by agricultural biotechnology, and downstream investment was about $10 billion, according to Agfunder.
Trifecta Capital is a venture debt company with $2.7 billion of equity. Its portfolio includes online grocery and food delivery companies BigBasket and Box8. Kumar said DeHaat will benefit from Trifecta’s deep relationships with financial institutions and agribusiness corporations.
The Trifecta funds come on the heels $4.17 million seed money from investors including funder and VC firm Omnivore that DeHaat received in March.
Founded in 2012, DeHatt set out to supply farmers with quality equipment “at the right time, price, and quality.
Rob Leclerc, a founding partner of AgFunder, told Karma Network that there were three factors that compelled him to invest in DeHaat: “Rapid growth, clear customer advantage, and elegant technology solutions.”
Leclerc said that he saw an opportunity to disrupt “a really broken distribution and supply chain.” DeHaat cultivated relationships with farmers by providing personalized farming advice through smart phones and community events. That deep connection with farmers is what’s missing with big agriculture suppliers. DeHaat’s commission rates are not disclosed.
“It’s pretty incredible for them to get where they are today by bootstrapping off practically nothing” before they had funding, Leclerc said.