Agritech startup Greenikk is building a digital ecosystem for banana farmers

College friends Fariq Naushad and Previn Jacob Varghese have always been inclined towards entrepreneurship.

While in college, they started a company called Invento Technology Solutions that developed a platform for housewives to sell food online. Later, in 2016, they launched a software solutions company called Teczium Solutions in Rwanda. While the company managed to close deals worth $750,000 within 12 months of its operations, Fariq and Pervin were still unhappy. They wanted to build something for India and in India.

This laid the foundation for vertikk. According to the co-founders, after returning to India in 2019, they were intrigued by the sustainability push, which led them to create a product in the agricultural space.

Greenikk, based in Thiruvananthapuram, is currently building a digital ecosystem centered around banana farmers. The agritech platform has built Empowerment Centers (ECs) to provide farmers with necessary support such as finance, seeds, crop advice, insurance coverage, agricultural inputs including counseling weather and market connection, covering the full range of production and marketing both inside and outside the country.

According to the founders, the startup aims to solve problems for every stakeholder across the entire banana value chain – from banana growers and processing units to commission agents, B2B wholesale buyers and fiber buyers. . The startup also recovers banana waste and transforms it into manure and banana fiber.

“We are the first comprehensive banana value chain platform that provides end-to-end support (from finance/insurance to product marketing and waste recovery). In fact, it will increase the income of every stakeholder in the banana value chain,” says Fariq.

Currently, the startup has established CoEs in some of the country’s major banana-growing agricultural belts, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.

How did it start?

In 2019, there was a ban on single-use plastics in India. This gave Previn the idea of ​​turning the papaya petiole into a sustainable straw. Pervin and Fariq worked with a scientist to bring out the final product and presented it at the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge held at IIM Calcutta. Greenikk was also recognized as one of the top 3 social startups in the country in 2020.

The company continued to work with papaya merchants and farmers until 2020. But during the pandemic, the team had to put this project on hold as costs rose and the hospitality sector came to a halt.

Meanwhile, the company was still receiving inquiries about whether it could help distribute the fruits of the network it had built. The team also gained insights from working with the central government’s BIRAC scholarship scheme, where they worked with farmers to build a B2C model of sourcing and delivering fresh produce to customers. This model also allowed the company to secure an initial investment from a US-based investor.

Once the economy opened up, Greenikk pivoted to a B2B model as there were more opportunities for growth.

“Apart from being a digital merchant, we couldn’t add any value. So, as founders, we came to the conclusion: why not focus on a set of cultures, or maybe at least one culture to start, then deepen,” shares Fariq.

This led them to focus on a versatile crop, the banana, as India is also the largest producer of bananas in the world.

Finished fibrous products made by Greenikk from agricultural waste (pseudotrunk)


Organizing a 200-year-old fruit and vegetable supply chain takes real effort at the ground level, says Fariq. The company was first cheated out of money from its stakeholders. Fariq recalls an instance where an entire truckload of bananas went missing one day and they found out that they had been cheated by a dealer, causing them a loss of Rs 1.55 lakh.

“We are also facing huge pressure, resistance and threats from dealers not to approach farmers directly,” shares Fariq. “We had also reached a stage where we had to close the business twice due to zero cash flow. This caused us to change our business models three times to land on banana monoculture.

“Right now, our platform operates on a single model, which also empowers dealers and all existing stakeholders,” he adds.

Build an ecosystem

The company sells bananas to bulk B2B buyers such as potato chip manufacturers, export agents and large wholesalers. While the startup is not yet profitable, Fariq shares that it is actively investing in R&D.

Greenikk, which has a network of 10,000 farmers, grew by 300% in FY22, with sales of Rs 1.58 crore. Fariq shared that the startup is expected to end the current financial year at Rs 6 crore.

“Our product is a technology platform (physical and digital) that all stakeholders can access,” shares Fariq.

Physical empowerment centers in banana growing belts will provide end-to-end agricultural services and products to farmers. Digital platforms will connect all banana stakeholders, allowing them to access financing and other facilities such as buying/selling products.

“We will also have value-added end products made from bananas (chips, banana powder, banana wine) while its waste stems will be used to make banana fiber, handicrafts and textile products. , all under our own brand,” adds Farik. Greenikk currently sells these products through a platform called Vimala Welfare, and is looking to sell on e-commerce platforms like Amazon in the near future.

The startup has a 12-member team and serves clients such as Beyond Snacks (Shark Tank Funded), Tierra Foods, Chedda Foods Mumbai, Kozhikodens, Casco Mumbai, Vimala Welfare Center and Reshamandi.

Greenikk currently competes with Vegrow, INi Farms, and Desai Farms.

Finished fibrous products made by Greenikk from agricultural waste (pseudotrunk)

The market and financing

India has nearly 1,300 agricultural startups. According to a report by Bain & Company, it is the third largest in the world in terms of agritech funding. According to a report by EY, market linkage and supply chain is expected to exceed $12 billion in market potential by 2025.

Earlier this month, Greenikk raised Rs 5.04 crore in pre-seed funding led by 9 Unicorn Ventures; Kerala-based angel investor group Smart Spark Ventures; Manish Modi, who heads Mauritius-based Mastermind Capital Ventures; Saurabh Agarwal and Mayank Tiwari, founders of Reshamandi; and Arjun Pillai, who sits on the board of directors of Zoom info.

Upcoming plans

The company plans to set up a model farm in Theni and Mettupalayam districts of Tamil Nadu, where the latest banana farming practices will be used. These will serve as a model for farmers around the belt, says Fariq

The startup will also set up craft units (from fiber to fashion) in Kochi, Kerala; and Theni, Tamil Nadu, to process natural banana fiber into value-added products.

In Tamil Nadu, the company plans to establish two agricultural input and collection offices to conduct farmer engagement programs, marketing and advisory services, and the sale of banana-related agricultural inputs.

Fariq shares that Greenikk wants to reach 50,000 farmers over the next 15 months and expand activation centers across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.