Maharashtra’s Nashik District is known for its grapes as well as vegetables that are supplied to the vast population of Mumbai. Although the demand for vegetables and grapes is never-ending, the farmers were looted by the middlemen and traders in APMC. The profits were never shared with the farmers. Then came Sahyadri Farms, a company based on the cooperative model but works with corporate efficiency and ethics. Started with a turnover of Rs 18 lakh only Sahyadri Farms has now grown to be a giant with a turnover reaching to a whopping Rs 525 crore last year.
Maintaining Global Standards
Vilas Shinde, an Agro MTech and his 16 farmer friends, started Sahyadri Farms as a small entity in 2004 just to export the grapes to European countries and USA. They had to bear losses just due to a lack of information about European regulations. Then came the 2010 crisis when European countries banned Indian fruits due to the high concentration of pesticides. As an impact, 160 out of 210 farmers exporting grapes discontinued the grapes business. But Sahyadri stood ground with a knowledge base it had gained in decade's business expertise. Instead of giving in to international pressure, Sahyadri adapted quickly and fought back the crisis by converting to a new avatar as a farmers cooperative corporate company. The members base quickly started increasing, and they purchased 35 acres of land in Mohadi village near the Ozar air force base in Nashik district. They adapted the European standards quickly with the help of the Central Government and gained back the European market in just two years. They taught farmers to control pesticides to minimum levels and eventually turned them to organic farming. The organic farming base of Sahyadri's member farmers gradually increased, and now the company is known worldwide for organic products ranging from grapes to a variety of fruits and vegetables. They have achieved various certifications worldwide while maintaining global standards. The company has a 17 per cent market share in the European fruits market. The company, which dealt only in grapes till 2015, quickly developed into a fruits and vegetable giant, taking advantage of the new farming policies of the Modi Government; with 15 different fruits catering to global markets and supplying 35 vegetable varieties to global and domestic markets.
Today, Sahyadri Farms works as a parent company with 22 farmer producer companies and some marketing subsidiaries, including the retail store chain under Sahyadri Retails. The global certifications enable Sahyadri to export fresh fruits and fruit pulp worldwide. Sahyadri has a dominating presence in 40 markets and 700 trading entities nationwide and a 17 per cent market share in 42 nations, including Europe and US fruits and pulp markets.
Sahyadri has developed various apps which enable its farmers to control enhance quality of their products with global standards. Sahyadri’s B2B apps enable the company to engage directly with 15 thousand vendors nationally.
The company takes 40 farmers each year to Europe, the US, Australia and other countries for training with 50 per cent cost sharing. Tata Trust has recognised Sahyadri as a premier partner in farmer training and rural skill development. Sahyadri has initiated a Training Academy in its vast 100 acre facility in Mohadi village, with Tata Trust as a Partner.
Sahyadri has also started an incubation centre to help the farmers from other districts of Maharashtra to replicate its success story. Vilas Shinde, MD and chairman of Sahyadri, says that Maharashtra has potential for 700 such value chains with 15 thousand farmer companies. Sahyadri has a plan to incubate 16 farmer companies each year.
Sahyadri has also started an in-house weather station with installing various weather sensors in the farms of its member farmers. They have a soil and chemical testing lab in place for the farmers, which helps farmers decide the amount of fertiliser and control the use of pesticides to a minimal level. As of now, all of its 25 thousand farmer members are producing organic produce using zero per cent pesticides.
It is also tinkering with the idea of creating a credit system called Farm Setu for its member farmers, which will enable them to gain financial credits from financial institutes.