New Investment: Climate-Resilient Greenhouses for Smallholder Farmers - Acumen

New Investment: Climate-Resilient Greenhouses for Smallholder Farmers

November 16, 2020

Acumen has invested in Kheyti, a company whose greenhouses help farmers in India adapt to the effects of climate change.

THE CHALLENGE: CLIMATE CHANGE DESTROYING FARMER CROPS

About 70 percent of families in rural India—most of whom own less than five acres of land and earn less than $3 per daydepend on farming for their livelihoods. Climate change is threatening these farmers’ low incomes with volatile temperatures, drought and soil erosion ruining their crops. 

While large commercial farms use greenhouses to protect their crops, they are too expensive for smallholder farmers. Lacking the tools to mitigate the effects of climate change, millions of smallholder farmers are rapidly losing their incomes.

THE INNOVATION: A TEMPERATURE-CONTROLLED, GREENHOUSE-IN-A-BOX

Co-founded by a team of four entrepreneurs including Acumen Fellows Kaushik Kappagantula and Sathya Raghu, Kheyti is making greenhouse technology accessible to smallholder farmers for the first time. The company’s Greenhouse-in-a-Box helps farmers adapt to drought conditions by lowering temperatures by 10° F (-12° C) while requiring 90 percent less water. Kheyti’s greenhouses also require 70 percent less pesticide than traditional farming, reducing soil erosion.

For each customer, Kheyti installs a drip irrigation system, provides fertilizer and farming tips, and even offers connections to affordable loans to purchase the greenhouse. The company also helps farmers sell their crops to large grocery retailers.

After nearly five years in operation, Kheyti’s early results are promising with its farmers getting seven times more yield with the same plot of land and doubling their incomes.

WHY ACUMEN INVESTED: FARMER PROFITABILITY AND CLIMATE RESILIENCE

Acumen India invests in agriculture and workforce development, areas where we see the greatest opportunity to address poverty in the region. Kheyti fits squarely within Acumen India’s criteria of investing in integrated solutions that improve the profitability, sustainability and resilience of smallholder farmers.

“Greenhouses have existed for years. What Kheyti is doing here is making the greenhouses affordable for Indian smallholder farmers and making the intervention work at that level of small holding. This is a phenomenal demonstration of the model that can scale to give not only stable and enhanced profits to farmers but also improve their resilience to climate-related negative impacts. We already knew Sathya and Kaushik as Acumen India Fellows and we are particularly heartened by their unwavering focus on smallholder farmers—around which every decision is taken in the company,” says Mahesh Yagnaraman, Acumen India Country Director.

“After having proven the product-market fit over the last few years, Kheyti is now poised for scaling this model up to thousands of small farmers. We are excited about Acumen’s investment because it helps us remove a big bottleneck in this growth by providing essential working capital. We are also excited because Acumen’s investment helps us become more ready to be a scalable, viable social enterprise, ready for mainstream growth,” says Kheyti Co-Founder Kaushik K.

For more on Acumen’s guiding investment philosophy, see our eight Investment Principles.

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