BASF Venture Capital GmbH (BVC) is investing in UrbanKisaan, which specialises in hydroponic cultivation of various types of vegetables, greens and herbs in tropical urban environments. This is the company’s first investment in an early stage business focusing on India. Conceptualised in 2017, the startup operates several suburban greenhouses and vertical indoor farms in Hyderabad and Bangalore. It sells fresh produce, some of which is grown directly in the shops, in its franchise-owned brick-and-mortar stores and through an app and website. The startup has optimised hydroponics technology for use in tropical climates such as India. With only one tenth of the costs, the proprietary technology is significantly more efficient than conventional global standards in hydroponics cultivation. The company is also capitalising on the trend of online food retailing, which is booming on the subcontinent. Vihari Kanukollu, co-founder and CEO, UrbanKisaan, said, “Our approach in hydroponics enables us to produce our food cost-effectively and with relatively little effort. Our produce also contributes towards sustainability as it is grown in clean, hygienic farms in and around the city, thus minimising the total carbon footprint. Use of IoT (Internet-of-Things)-enabled technology for monitoring the farms ensures pesticide-free produce. The growing demand from our customers shows that our idea is well-received. The farms are managed through the proprietary technology. Nutrient content, pH levels, atmospheric humidity, CO2 concentration, light concentration and other important parameters are controlled and adapted to the needs of the particular plants with an app. Markus Solibieda, managing director of BASF Venture Capital GmbH, said, “UrbanKisaan, as a pioneer in the hydroponics space, has developed a unique growing method and combines this with a compelling business model for sales. AgTech is one of our key investment focus areas worldwide. This includes, in particular, our goal of supporting innovative agricultural and food-related businesses in Asia. We look forward to learning more about hydroponic farming and exploring its potential through a close collaboration between UrbanKisaan and BASF’s agriculture experts.” With the investment the startup plans to further expand its market presence in India, deploy its farming technology to work with thousands of farmers, and bring fresh, local, sustainable produce to urban dwellers. Hydroponic farming – an efficient way to use limited resources The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 while the area available for farming and freshwater reserves are becoming increasingly scarce. Hydroponics offers a sustainable way to grow crops without soil and using vertically stacked layers while reducing water usage by about 90 percent. Especially in densely populated urban areas, this presents a more efficient way to use limited resources like water, space and manpower. Water that is not absorbed by the plants is captured, purified and fed back into the farm’s water circulation system, minimising wastage significantly. India is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, with a production value of about $64 billion. It is also a large consumer of fruits and vegetables, and while much of this is through unorganized channels (local vegetable markets, hand-pulled carts and neighbourhood stores), organized channels (modern trade and online retail) account for a little over 20 percent of the market. Thus, hydroponics is a fast growing and efficient alternative to traditional supply chains in the organised fresh produce market