Farm Demolished and Agri Methods Booed, Triton Foodworks Champions Hydroponic Farming to Success
Despite heavy losses and drawbacks the startup earned over 1 crore in revenue for 2017 and is planning to launch its own B2C brand of produce.
This agritech startup is using hydroponic farming methods to bring in more than one crore in revenue, but traditional agro companies are still wary of new farming techniques and believe Hydroponic Farming is just a “rich man’s hobby.”
Triton Foodworks was launched in 2014. Its cofounders Dhruv Khanna, Ullas Samrat and Deepak Kukreja speak to BW Disrupt:
1. Why are hydroponic farming techniques better suited to our world’s future?
We are running out of arable land and usable water to grow food in order to meet the increasing demand of the growing population. Moreover, the food that is being grown today is heavily dependent on the use of pesticides which is a leading cause of health issues and environmental pollution.
Hydroponics is the solution to all these concerns. Using Hydroponic techniques, we can grow pesticide free produce using one eighth of land and almost 80 percent less water throughout the year. Since hydroponics is a 'controlled environment agriculture' practice, it is weather agnostic - meaning most of the products that we offer can be produced all through the year irrespective of the weather conditions outside. Additionally, since we can literally setup farms at any location, we are able to cut down on food miles which in turn leads to lower pollution levels associated with transport of food.
2. What do other competing agro companies and farmers (who do not use hydroponic methods) have to say about using this technique?
Other agro companies and farmers who do not use hydroponic methods have a stand that Hydroponic Farming is the rich man’s hobby, a claim we have consistently proven wrong by reducing our cost of production per unit to comparable levels as conventional farming. They also believe that people will show some resistance towards this sort of a product offering, another claim that we have consistently questioned as we have seen an increasing demand for safe, healthy and consistent produce.
3. Could you please share the full story of why the Delhi municipal corporation demolished the operation Triton was running at Sainik Farm?
We had set up a pilot farm at Sainik Farms, Delhi, to test out the premise of hydroponic farming. Sainik Farm, being a disputed area, does not allow any construction for residential purposes. We were under the process of setting up a greenhouse at our farm after successfully testing growing strawberries in an open system. The local police and municipality approached us and warned us that the farm will be demolished expecting a favor in return. Since we were only carrying out farming at the location, we informed them that we would not entertain any such requests. Post this, the municipality demolished our structure claiming it to be illegal. Senior officers came in later and apologized stating that they thought we were constructing a residential complex.
We tried taking up the matter with the concerned authorities, but our pleas fell on deaf ears. We eventually shifted our facility to a different location in Delhi. The whole episode cost us eight months and a huge loss.
4. How much land does Triton Foodworks take to operate its business?
The total leased land Triton has is around six acres (five acres in NCR and one acre in Maharashtra). The hydroponic setup is around 2.5 acres. Land for Agriculture can be leased easily in the country and we are currently planning to expand our presence by leasing land and using our resources in team building and R&D.
5. Who are Triton’s customers? Is this a B2B operation?
We are about to launch are B2C brand in mid-April. We are also in talks with institutional buyers for our produce. A mix of B2B and B2C is the best approach for our business and the position we are at currently.
6. And what of Triton’s revenue numbers and business growth?
We brought in upwards of Rs 1 crore as revenue in 2017. Majority of it was from our consulting business, which is now put on hold in order to focus on getting our products to market, through B2B partnerships and our upcoming B2C brand and model.
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