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How this 23-year-old Mohit came up with the idea for an agritech startup aimed at automating farming

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How this 23-year-old Mohit came up with the idea for an agritech startup aimed at automating farming

Mohit Dahiya founded Jai Bharat, a startup that manufactures agricultural machine tools to assist farmers in reducing manual labour during the farming process. The first product is a paddy transplanter machine that significantly reduces the amount of water used in rice production in farming.

Mohit Dahiya, who was born into an agrarian family in Sonipat, Haryana, was no stranger to the difficulties faced by the farming community. As a result of his personal experience with labour shortages during paddy transplanting season, he could empathise with farmers’ concerns, which prompted Mohit to conduct research on ways to alleviate the sector’s problems.

While pursuing his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering at Lovely Professional University (LPU), Mohit, now 23, had the opportunity to gain an outside perspective and conduct research on potential solutions.

“Within a few months, I came up with the idea to develop an automatic machine that can perform the work of eight to ten farmers in the field,” Mohit explains. It resulted in the establishment of Jai Bharat Agritech a startup in Punjab in October 2020, but the team began prototyping and conducting research in 2017.

“We have built a new age Paddy Transplanter Machine which is one of its kinds in the industry. It extensively reduces water consumption for the production of rice, which is generally known as a water consuming crop. It uses SRI Technique (System of Rice Intensification), a farming methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It is a low-water, labour-intensive method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools.”

Mohit recruited his classmate Saawan Kaur as a co-founder and his brother Amit Kumar Dahiya to assist with finance, registration, and legal work once he had the idea in place. The team continues to grow.

The workings 

“With this machine, we are able to meet all of the SRI parameters (System for rice intensification). This will undoubtedly contribute to agricultural advancement, as this machine has the potential to replace eight to ten workers in paddy fields. Thus, the potential for medium and large-scale farmers is enormous, as they are no longer reliant on manual labour,” Mohit explains.

He clarifies that they are utilizing a variety of technologies. The rice transplanter is equipped with a precise operation for picking seedlings from the dense seedling mat. This technology reduces the number of seedling mats required per unit area by equipping the rice transplanter with a precise operation for picking seedlings from the dense seedling mat.

On the other hand, the SRI is a collection of processes and a methodology for managing and conserving resources holistically by altering how land, seeds, water, nutrients, and human labour are used to increase productivity with a small but well-tended number of seeds.

Building a tool from scratch

“I struggled to balance my startup venture and my studies. It was difficult for me to construct a machine from scratch and then secure funding for my venture. The pandemic also forced me to postpone my plans to manufacture the machines,” Mohit explains. The mentoring he received at LPU aided him in managing and balancing his studies and tool development.

While drafting the machine’s blueprint, Mohit realized he lacked the expertise necessary to design software. As a result, he decided to study it and began working on the paddy transplanter machine on his own.

“It is difficult for anyone to make a device from scratch, but for me it was more challenging as I had planned for a sustainable product. I started with a software aided design, and thereafter, we constantly monitored it and kept on improving it until the last day,” says Mohit.

When they first designed the machine, they used a solid frame, and it ended up weighing a whopping 750 kg. The duo knew it needed to be lighter, so they looked to a telephonic tower for inspiration, attempting to decipher its structure.

“We discussed this with Gurpreet Singh and Sonu Singh, our design instructors. They then shared the details of the subject in which I could study design and how the machine’s weight issues could be addressed,” Mohit explains.

It was at this point that he decided to concurrently add a civil engineering elective, which would aid him in reducing the weight of the machine frame. It merely added 1.5 years of study and work.

COVID-19 Impact 

What aided in this process was being a part of LPU’s Startup School and participating in the ‘Startup India Punjab Yatra.’ This resulted in them receiving Rs 30,000 in prize money. They also applied to IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, where they raised Rs 1.5 lakh through their seed funding programme.

“When the pandemic began, my batch mates were evacuated, but I stayed in Punjab in the hope that the university would allow me to do lab work. However, the university determined that this was not feasible due to the strict health guidelines imposed by the state and federal governments. I spent about three months in the hostel hoping to get a job in the lab,” Mohit continues.

He did, however, obtain permission to work in the lab for a month after three months. However, due to the growing population, Mohit has since relocated his work to Jalandhar, where he has been able to work with a lathe machine in a factory.

Mohit recognized the need for gearbox modifications while testing the machine in October 2020. This added Rs 10,000 and 15 additional days of work. The next step was to convince the farmer to use and pay for the machine. The working prototype is in place, and a few tests have been conducted to elicit consumer feedback.

The team is currently manufacturing over 1,000 machines and intends to sell them during the paddy transplanting season, which runs from June to July. “By June, when the kharif season begins, we expect to sell around 1000 machines to farmers, easing their workload and heavy reliance on labour,” Mohit says.

The machinery

Despite the fact that the pandemic has slowed the process, Mohit remains optimistic. The team is concentrating its efforts on medium and large farmers who cultivate rice on more than ten acres of land. One machine costs Rs 80,000 to manufacture, and the team intends to sell it for Rs 1.3 lakh per unit.

According to an EY report, the agritech market could reach $24 billion by 2025. According to the report, agritech firms raised $532 million between April 2018 and April 2020. Numerous startups operate in the same space, including DeHaat, Gramophone, Tartan Sense, Intello Labs, and SenseGras. Jay Bharat, on the other hand, is more focused on agricultural tools and products.

“Our first innovation for farmers will be a new generation paddy transplanting machine, which will be available in the market by June or July 2021 through direct selling and social media marketing. Additionally, in the coming months, we will be equipped with weeding and other cutting machines,” Mohit explains.

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