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Anuj Kumbhat, Founder & CEO, WRMS

21 Mar 2024 , 05:46 PM

Run us through the company's business model. How was the idea behind starting this company conceptualized?

WRMS (Weather Risk Management Services) is an agricultural and climate risk management company transforming the agriculture sector for the last 18 years by leveraging data, technology and financial innovation. Our mission is to develop risk management solutions to help farmers enhance productivity, gain an assured income and build resilience against climate change effects while practicing sustainable farming. 

The company has been founded by Sonu Agrawal (IIT, IIM alumnus) along with CA Anuj Kumbhat (Chartered Accountant) and Dr. Ashish Agarwal (PhD, Electrical Engineering from IIT). UPL Limited (erstwhile United Phosphorus Limited), an Indian multinational company that manufactures and markets agrochemicals, industrial chemicals, chemical intermediates, and specialty chemicals, and also offers crop protection solutions, is the largest stakeholder and a key investor in WRMS.

We are on a mission to enhance the way agriculture is undertaken in India by transforming India’s farms into ‘SecuFarms’ – income secured smart and sustainable farms. 

Ingen Technologies Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WRMS established in 2008, manufactures, supplies and installs agriculture and supply chain related IoT devices for government and private sectors. The IoT devices provided by WRMS for the agriculture, dairy industry and supply chain logistic solutions add up to the major revenue stream for the company. The company also offers accurate and real-time weather data services using automated weather stations that help measure parameters like temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, and solar radiation every second. 

WRMS has developed significant experience in offering full-stack services in parametric and agriculture insurance. WRMS has done Index Insurance product development and hazard assessment studies in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. All the insurance companies providing Weather Index Based Insurance in India have used WRMS’s services in product design and distribution.

We have a 500-member team with presence across 22 states in India; and have experience of working in 15 countries across the globe. Our team comprises experts from diverse fields including agriculture, data science, actuarial sciences, and IT.

Kindly walk us through WRMS unique smart-farming model.

Through SecuFarm, our flagship product, we offer farm-level yield assurance solutions to smallholders in India. We leverage data, technology, and financial innovation to offer farmers: 

 

  • A guaranteed benchmark yield
  • Adoption of smart farming technology to manage operational risks and maximize yield
  • Financial risk transfer to manage catastrophic risk 

 

WRMS helps farmers set up SecuFarms i.e., sustainable smart farms that not only enhance farm productivity, but also guarantee a minimum yield and income to the farmers. Our smart farming technology facilitates remote monitoring of farms through which farmers can be provided advice – in advance as well as in real time – on how to best maximize farm productivity. This is done by using a combination of smart and sustainable technology that involves soil sciences, water management, non-toxic pest and disease management, IoT, AI, machine learning, smart irrigation, drones, telematics and GIS. 

 

The target farm yield and income are defined in the SecuFarm contract, and the plan to achieve the target farm income is also outlined beforehand. In case the actual farm yield turns out to be lower than the promised level due to incorrect technical assistance, error, and / or negligence, WRMS compensates for the shortfall in the actual farm income vis-à-vis the targeted value of the farm income. This assurance of a minimum income makes the farmer more willing to adopt smart and sustainable technology. Different smart and sustainable technologies are deployed on the farm to operate in tandem with a single goal to improve farmer’s income and reduce his production cost.

 

What sets you apart from other agritech companies in India?

WRMS is more than just an agriculture technology company. WRMS provides farmers with farm-level advisory, complete income protection, and farm-level loss assessment through SecuFarm. It is the first Smart & Sustainable Farming solution in the world that ensures livelihood stability of farmers.

Having an expansive experience of almost two decades in the sector, WRMS has worked prolifically with some of the leading names in the agro-input and procurement industry like Pepsico, Safal, ITC, Mother Dairy, etc. along with government and govt-run bodies like NCFC, APSDPS, KSNDMC and Bihar Government. With over 2.5 million farmers served, 1 million acres of land geo-tagged and 10,000+ IoT devices installed, WRMS is a leader in the agriculture and dairy risk management industry.

WRMS can be credited for introducing many firsts such as bundling the global first parametric insurance with agri-input value chain. It started CARM services in India; Introduced bundled solutions of Index Insurance (BICSA), India and Bangladesh; Satellite-based flood index insurance product, UP; Index insurance for securing credit to chili farmers, Andhra Pradesh; Parametric insurance based disaster risk financing solution, Fiji and many others.

 

How does the SecuFarm app work? What is the idea behind it and how are you marketing the product?

WRMS endeavors to make farming sustainable and profitable for smallholders, and with this mission, the company launched the SecuFarm app, a one-of-a-kind solution in the agri space, to offer farmers farm level yield assurance by downscaling their risk using technology and data. The SecuFarm app bridges farmers across the country with the latest digital technology in agriculture and handholds them right from the seed selection stage to make sure that they get a better yield by following the package of practices shared with them in their own language. Once farmers get enrolled in the SecuFarm app, their farm is geo-tagged for farm level monitoring. After this, they start getting customized farm specific crop management advisories, weather forecasts, irrigation advisories, crop awareness audio-visual content, soil analysis, etc. on the SecuFarm app in their language, which ensures a high farm yield and better crop management. The app also links farmers directly with agri experts using the Plant Doctor feature to resolve all their crop-related queries. The app offers post-harvest market linkages to ensure that the farmers get the best prices for their crop in the market. In case the farmers don’t produce the assured minimum yield due to weather attack or crop diseases even after following the package of practices, the company gives them timely compensation, thus protecting their socioeconomic status and supporting rural livelihoods. Thus, SecuFarm is a complete income protection solution for farmers that also drive them towards sustainable and climate-smart farming practices. WRMS is currently affiliated with over 10 million farmers; 1 million acres of land have been geo-tagged; 1.5 lakh SecuFarms have been created; and over 15,000 farm IoT devices have been deployed.

What were the challenges faced during setting up and scaling the business? How did you overcome them?

18 years of WRMS journey is filled with challenges we have overcome. WRMS is at a juncture where our products and services have proven track record of quality and service. Our challenge is to get the capital scale up to expand each of these product lines. We are also looking to scale SecuFarm solution in all parts of the country by partnering with like-minded organisations like FPOs, lending institutions, impact organisations, agri-input companies, etc. working with farmers. 

What are the key drivers of WRMS in index insurance? How many projects has the company completed in this space?

We started our risk management journey in 2005 by creating a full-stack digital-first solution to help insurers and reinsurers understand, quantify, and manage the risks associated with weather events and crop yields. As a pioneer, WRMS has bagged many world firsts in the parametric insurance space like designing and implementing the first-ever parametric insurance solution for countries like Fiji, Indonesia, Haiti, Fiji, Tonga, India and Bangladesh. We have also served diverse agri value chain players like seed companies, contract farming companies, and agri-input companies with their very first value-chain-enabled bundled index insurance solutions. 

Having worked in 20 countries and with esteemed clients like World Bank, PepsiCo, Bayer, UNWFP, WWF, GIZ, and UNCDF, we are geography agnostic. 

WRMS has developed a full-stack digital-first platform for designing, development and implementation of innovative risk management solutions. The platform allows development of Indexes based on diverse datasets, including 

  1. Observational Weather Data and Visibility Data
  2. Remote Sensed Data of Vegetation, Flood / Drought Extent
  3. Earth Observation data of Wind, Rainfall, Temperature and other parameters
  4. Yield Data of Crops

The platform enables holistic risk management that includes Product Validation, Product Design, Data Management, Product Education, Beneficiary Onboarding, Policy Management, Claim Calculation & Payouts.

 

What are the new trends in the farming sector? How do you see AI and other technologies in the sector for the next 5 years?

The new trends are what IoT and AI bring to the sector. These technologies together have successfully revolutionized the agriculture industry in ways one cannot imagine — combating the most common problem the world is facing, i.e., bridging the gap between food demand and supply.

 

Over the next five years farmers will increasingly adopt these technologies to meet the growing need for food and to improve crop quality. 

 

WRMS has signed an MoU with government bodies for agriculture and Agritech solutions; could you throw some light on this?

WRMS aids the government bodies in the effective implementation of government schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY schemes) by subsidy optimization, timely loss assessment & claim settlement, providing farm-level manpower services for crop assessment & monitoring agriculture insurance, and promoting innovation in agriculture.

Consequently, the PMFBY plan becomes transparent, manageable, cost- and time-effective, and manageable. Additionally, in order to perform pilot research for the improvement of crop cutting experiments, the company collaborates with governmental organisations like the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) (CCEs).

Ingen Technologies, a fully-owned subsidiary of Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS) has also collaborated with the Regional Meteorological Centre, Guwahati, Assam, India, Meteorological Department (IMD), and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India, and bagged the contract for procurement, installation, and maintenance of Automatic Rain Gauge Stations in the North East States of India. The company is working with many government organizations like Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, Andhra Pradesh State Development Planning Society, and more.

 

What challenges do you face in convincing Indian farmers to adopt more smart farming?

The difficulties we have in persuading Indian farmers to use smart farming techniques include low literacy rates, traditional agricultural methods, a lack of trust in adopting technology, limited investment capacity, and herd mentality. Because farming involves risk and uncertainty, farmers are unwilling to change.

Share details of recent funding? Are you looking to raise funds over the next 12 months?

WRMS got Euro 2.1 Mn funding last year. It is using the funding to develop and implement the yield guarantee solution to improve the resilience of 100,000 smallholder farmers in India against climate risks and incentivize smart agricultural risk management practices as well as to scale up the yield guarantee solution for crops such as cotton, chili, paddy, wheat and potato. 

 

Anuj Kumbhat

Related Tags

  • Agritech
  • Anuj Kumbhat
  • Founder & CEO
  • SecuFarms
  • WRMS
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