Beyond Organic, consider Hydroponic

13 Jan 2022

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Dear Reader,

With climate change becoming a prime concern for the world alongside other contemporary world environmental issues and the Indian government’s mission to dramatically increase the incomes of our farmers, we are presented with yet another opportunity for a revolution. And this revolution can come in the form of hydroponic farming for not just agricultural communities but also urban dwellers struggling in the relatively worse-off environment situation in the cities.

Hydroponics is a contemporary method of horticulture or growing plants, usually farm produce, without using soil. In this method, the crops are grown on water, rich in essential micro and macronutrients. According to studies, plants grown hydroponically grow faster and healthier than plants in the soil, since they are provided nutrients directly to their roots through the water in the form of an aqueous solvent, and not through the soil.

Several startups in India are using this technique to produce organic food in the obvious lack of land availability considering the expense of buying a large piece of land for business. These are startups that are also helping urban inhabitants build urban gardens in limited spaces. Leveraging technology to grow high-quality, low-cost vegetables for the masses while promoting a healthier way of living, Eeki Foods is a venture by IIT alumni that provides nutritious and residue-free vegetables at affordable prices all year round. A wholesale hydroponic, organic gardening and wellness product distribution company, with a focus on integrating sustainable and moral concepts into a modern economic model.

Acqua Farms is helping urban Indians grow their own food using the limited material available for farming activities in an urban setting with a starter kit. They also offer larger planter systems with 24, 48, 72, 96, and 1,000 depending on the user's demands, a subscription-based service to individuals who are unfamiliar with hydroponics, in which they assign the customer an agronomist who takes care of their plants and monitors them once a week for a monthly charge. Urban Kissan, another startup aims to incorporate the 'In My Backyard' concept into sustainable farming. With the Urban Kissan's assistance and supervision, you can now grow fresh food such as lettuce, herbs, greens, and exotic veggies all year. They may be grown everywhere, from rooftops to balconies.

As more startups are sure to come into the hydroponics space, Urban farming will pick pace in India and indeed around the world. What is needed is for rural agriculture, the primary agriculture, to also make use of this method that does not require high-end technology but provides environmental as well as economic benefits. The country which has been feeding the world, not just in the way of exports but in the sense that India makes 1/6th of the world, should garb on to this innovation for the collective benefit of the world.

credit : Akhil Handa

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Banking in Metaverse

For the uninitiated, Metaverse is fundamentally a virtual, 3D space for people to interact with one another and with businesses. There are various definitions floating in the market and as per Statista, the metaverse is a virtual space that allows digital representations of people, avatars, to interact with each other in a variety of settings, using virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR) glasses, smartphone apps, or other devices.

The global Metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $800 billion in 2024 vs. about $500 billion in 2020, based on Bloomberg’s analysis and Newzoo, IDC, PWC, Statista and Two Circles data. The Metaverse idea has been touted to have immense potential as it could be applied to just about anything.Talking about the banking sector, Korean banks have been the first to explore the opportunities that Metaverse has to offer with Korean banks such as Hana and Woori having launched their branches in the metaverse setting.

For enhanced customer engagement, KB Kookmin Bank has created KB Financial Town on metaverse platform Gather. The town consists of Financial and Business centre, Telecommuting centre and a playground. The first part has been prepared as a virtual branch where the customers can move with their avatars and talk to their banking advisers through video chat that will automatically start as soon as they stand in front of the latter. The bank also plans to use the virtual branch for educating young people on finance as well as training their employees.

Although this may sound like something that is still future-looking, but Financial Institutions are increasing gearing up for the virtual world. Last October, Bank of America has launched virtual reality (VR) training in nearly 4,300 financial centres across USA. This will allow approximately 50,000 employees to practice a range of routine to complex tasks and simulate client interactions through a virtual environment. In metaverse, digital banks will be in the right position to begin facilitating transactions in the environment. For example, the digital Bank viz. Mercobank, based in UK, has begun putting strategies to develop virtual environments for enabling its customers to access banking services online and manage financial transactions in the metaverse, “similar to real life.”

We believe that while traditional financial institutions may not be the primary players in the Metaverse, the technology will gradually gain popularity. When it does, finance will be a significant part of its operations and how it generates value, both for individuals and organizations.

Highlights of Issue 5 of FinTalk are:

• Our Home grown StartUp Stories: Saral Designs, Mumbai
• Fintech firm Legalpay launches healthcare focused fund
• The rise of open banking:How Big Data is changing FinTech
• Paris-based VC firm help European startups cross into Africa
• Zingtree turns complex customer service processes into clear action plans

With Regards,

Akhil Handa
Chief Digital Officer
Bank of Baroda

Cloud kitchen Startups on Cloud9

The F&B industry is poised for transformation due to technology shifts, changing consumer habits, and rising disposable incomes. Cloud kitchens are one such emerging segment gaining popularity & it is expected to gain more traction as Gen Zs enters the market.
Cloud kitchens are delivery-only restaurants where the preparation + packaging of food takes place while operating at a fraction of the costs incurred by traditional restaurant establishments (rentals, decor, equipment, & wait staff can be saved while operating virtual cloud kitchen brands). Simply put, a cloud kitchen is a 4-walled kitchen structure from where food is dispatched to customers who’re ordering from their offices or homes.
Consumers place their orders via food delivery aggregators such as Zomato, Swiggy, or direct-ordering platforms such as DotPe, Thrive, etc. These orders are then accepted on POS Systems such as Posify, Posist, & Limetray.
In the end, direct orders are fulfilled via third-party logistics (3PL) providers such as WeFast, Dunzo, Pidge & others.
Foodtech & cloud kitchens are highly scalable, profitable, & asset light compared to traditional F&B concepts. Consequently, their investments & ROIs have reached record highs in 2021 and are expected to grow to a $4 billion industry in India by 2024, up from $1 billion in 2021. The restaurants without physical stores, which only deliver and operate through cloud kitchens, could outpace growth of physical outlets in the next 12 months, despite the reopening of dine-in.
Rebel Foods, an Indian startup which is also backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Sequoia Capital, entered the Unicorn club to achieve a billion-dollar valuation after securing $175 million in a funding round led by the sovereign wealth fund Qatar
Investment Authority.
It said it’s growing at 100% annually and moving toward profitability with an annual run rate of over $150 million. It operates more than 45 brands from Behrouz Biryani to Ovenstory Pizza and Faasos wraps across 10 countries including India, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.
Founded by Kiran Prasad, Hygiene BigBite pivoted to a multi-brand cloud kitchen model in 2017 which has raised $15 million from Falcon Edge. It currently operates 10 brands — including Gunpowder and Biryani Trip — across 50 kitchens.
Cloud kitchens will continue to gain the edge by accelerating cost-savings and margins by leveraging trends like kitchen automation, drone delivery, the gig economy, and rising real estate costs in urban areas. The myriad models are peaking investor interest in the F&B space and when it comes to innovation in this space, we have seen only the tip of the iceberg yet!

Credit : Akhil Handa

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