Agri-Tech Startup Aibono Raises Another $2 Mn In Pre-Series A Round The fund raised by Japanese and Swiss investors will be utilized for business growth

By Debarghya Sil

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Vivek Rajkumar, Founder and CEO Aibono

Farm aggregator Aibono on Friday announced it has raised $2 million in a pre-series A round from Japanese venture capital firms Rebright Partners and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital based out of Tokyo and Singapore, respectively, and Swiss Impact Investor Lesing Artha. Earlier in 2019, the firm had raised $2.5 million.

The startup will utilize the fresh fund to expand across Bangalore and markets around the Nilgiris belt. This will involve onboarding more than 2,000 small farmers, over 2,000 standalone retailers; entry into modern retail and direct-to-consumer via Internet-based food delivery platforms by end of this year.

The Bengaluru-based firm is an end-to-end aggregator platform that connects premium perishable vegetables from farm to fork. The startup onboards farmers in the Nilgiris belt and supplies hill vegetables, herbs, leafy greens and organics all year round to retailers and consumers.

The startup which was founded in 2015 leverages data science driven demand-supply synchronization, farm analytics and "just in time' engines to prevent food wastage, improve agricultural efficiency as well as stabilize livelihoods of farmers specializing in perishable vegetables. The platform is connected to over 1,000 farmers from the belt and delivers their fresh produce to over 110 postal codes across Bengaluru and neighbouring towns, catering to more than 800 exclusive retailers.

The company claims that because of its full stack platform from farm production to the last-mile operations they have been able to scale even during the months of stringent lockdown implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and supply chain breakage. According to a company statement, the startup has witnessed a 160 per cent growth rate in post COVID-19 months.

Commenting on the recent development, Vivek Rajkumar founder and chief executive officer of Aibono, said, "We are happy to be adding meaningful value to farmer livelihoods with assured return on their efforts, while servicing millions of consumers during this pandemic with a steady supply of high quality fresh farm produce; we bridge the gap from Kisan-to-Kitchen. With this round of funding, we will now invest to scale capacity and increase supply to our existing Kirana businesses, expanding to institutional retail as well as making possible direct-to-home supply of super perishables via modern delivery platforms like Swiggy, Dunzo and Amazon in the next phase of our growth. We are encouraged and excited that Investor attention is on full-stack solutions starting from seed up to the point of consumption of fresh perishables as high potential businesses."

Takeshi Ebihara, founding general partner of Rebright Partners, said, "With India's retail demand for fresh farm produce going through the roof, very few players are concentrating on solving pain-points at the ground level, for seamless movement of perishables across the value chain. With the government's focus on opening up farm-gate infrastructure in recent times; we are seeing start-ups such as Aibono who make full-stack agri-businesses lucrative to invest in. It's inspiring to see their sustained first, middle and last mile E2E operations during the pandemic delivering essential premium and perishables, while demonstrating the best financials among F&V platforms."

Speaking on the funding, Masataka Nakamura, partner of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital said, "Covid pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to business continuity that has made the Investor community seek caution and be conservative in approach to funding. In Aibono, we see a balance of scale and profitability, with equal emphasis on farmer & retailer growth alongside a sustainable business model. We see them as two sides of the same coin, both of which cannot succeed in isolation. This has become an essential criterion for us as we navigate funding decisions in the new normal."

Audrey Selian, director of Lesing Artha associated with Rianta Capital, said, "The prevailing pandemic and its adverse impact on food production, consumption and wastage validates the urgent need for data science and advanced technology intervention to course-correct. With many businesses reeling under the impact of losses compounded during the pandemic, Aibono has demonstrated its core value in protecting the small farmer against losses, adding meaningful value to farmer livelihoods via farm services and the assured sale of super perishables during this economic downturn. Increasing farmer income and stability during such difficult times is a tremendous challenge for a young business to surmount. With this infusion of funds, agri-tech enablers like Aibono with experience in JIT harvest and demand-supply synchronization will make significant social impact for farmers possible".

Debarghya Sil

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Correspondent

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