Pune-based agri-biotech startup BioPrime helps farmers grow climate-resilient crops

In 2016, more than 4,000 farmers in Narayangaon in Maharashtra, Asia’s largest tomato hub, lost 100% of their yield. Temperature fluctuations, which coincided with the flowering season, resulted in low yield.

This incident did not go well with Renuka Diwan. With a doctorate in plant biology, Renuka was attending a reception in Pune when she heard about the problem. Ironically, while over 4,000 farmers lost their entire yield, people spent Rs 10,000 on meals at the reception.

Wanting to do something to solve the problem, Renuka, with other PhD students Shekhar Bhosale and Amit Shindestarted BioPrime in 2016.

The Based in Pune startup agri-biotech develops bio-molecules that ensure optimal growth and performance of plants, and able to withstand adverse climates.

“We were surprised by the vast lag that exists between scientific progression and technological advancement, and its translation into commercially available resources for farmers,” Renuka said. Your story.

The founders recognized the need to ensure optimal functioning of plant processes that can withstand adverse weather conditions, and so their journey began.

Currently, BioPrime products are used by farmers in states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

What BioPrime offers

BioPrime has eight products on the market. These products fall into three categories: stress relief, growth enhancement, and yield enhancement.

Renuka explains: “We use small biomolecules, derived from plants or microbes, which specifically activate certain processes in plants. These, in turn, are able to modify the functioning of these processes and of the plant.

For a single application, a farmer usually spends between Rs 300 and Rs 500 for the product. A farmer can also buy all the products from BioPrime, which would cost him 5-10% of the total input cost. It varies by culture.

For vegetables, it costs between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500; for grapes and sugarcane, it costs around Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000.

“But we calculate the return on investment even for the farmers as the cost-benefit ratio. So for vegetables, for every rupee they spend on us, they earn about Rs 7 to Rs 8 extra. In the case of vegetables high value like brinjal they earn extra Rs 17, for flowers like chrysanthemum and marigold they earn Rs 19 for every rupee spent Similarly for cotton and sugarcane they earn Rs 20 for every rupee they spend on us,” Renuka explains.

Depending on the crop and its market value, the cost-benefit ratio changes. Basically, for every rupee spent by a farmer, he earns on average between 8 and 12 rupees.

building blocks

Renuka, Shekhar and Amit obtained their PhDs in Plant Sciences from the University of Pune, Maharashtra, and have considerable expertise in their field.

The BioPrime team

Renuka says, “Our team is made up of people from plant science, applied science, agriculture, agronomy, biotechnology, microbiology, clinical microbiology, and more.

At present, the startup has a strong team of 38 members divided into research and development, business development, sales and marketing and production.

Obstacles along the way

Figuring out how to bring the product to farmers was no easy task for the startup.

“We discovered that having the molecules was not enough. We also had to understand how the farmer was going to use the product at the right time. It also involved designing the applications, deciding on dosages, timings, etc. », explains the founder.

Gaining farmers’ trust for the product and the brand was another hurdle the team had to overcome. The founders knew their solutions needed to be adopted by small regional farmers. It also meant working on outreach and awareness.

Renuka sees the task of securing B2B partners as an ongoing challenge. “Just as convincing a farmer can be a challenge, the same also applies in terms of B2B channels,” she says.

She adds that a significant amount of agricultural innovations and inputs are imported, and only a few are Indian innovations. Therefore, the trust factor around this is very low.

Partnerships with The Nudge Foundation and Cisco have greatly helped Renuka and her team overcome these obstacles. “They connected us with some good foundations, startups, and peers in the ecosystem,” she says.

Growth and competition

BioPrime has raised over $2 million through grants and investments. “We recently closed our pre-Series A investment of Omnivore,” Renuka says.

According to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies, BioPrime achieved revenue of around Rs 89 lakh in the financial year 2021.

“With BioPrime, we have an excellent example of innovation designed to improve human and planetary health. We hope to see more entrepreneurs like the BioPrime team rise to the challenge and help change the course of Indian agriculture for the better,” said Mark Kahn, Managing Partner at Omnivore, at the time of the investment.

Currently, the startup has competitors like Biostadt, UPL, PI, IFFCO, Verdesian.

But BioPrime maintains that its products are more effectively formulated, have better shelf life and stability, promote direct growth, and have 100% batch-to-batch consistency.

“Compared to commercially available products, our product ensures 3% more efficiency and is also compatible with agrochemicals, nutrients and fertilizers,” says Renuka.

BioPrime works with companies like DCM Shriram and Agrostar for product co-development as well as companies like Delta Agrostar, BigHaat, Bharat Agri and organizations like TATA Trust-Social Alpha and Deshpande Foundation for product distribution.

It is also being tested with some major agricultural input companies in India.

Roadmap for the future

The BioPrime team aspires to work in the category of plant protection, which would involve the development of insecticides, pesticides, weed killers, herbicides, etc. safer.

To accelerate product development and reach the market, the team is also working on two new platforms called Sniper and Bio Nexus for biomolecule discovery and plant-associated microbe discovery, respectively.

With the Bio Nexus project, the team is building India’s largest library of plant-associated microbes for crop trait modification.

“While Snipr is already on the market, Bio Nexus products are in the development phase and will soon be on the market,” says Renuka.

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