Great and successful companies are born from small ideas and big dreams. The story of A S Agri and Aqua emerges out of one such dream by a visionary – Mr. Prashant Zade – who witnessed technological stagnation in India’s largest yet the most overlooked sector i.e., Agriculture, and decided it was time for transformation.
The Beginning of his Journey
Mr. Prashant Zade had his eyes on turmeric farming and the problems faced by farmers ever since 2014. What inspired him to finally quit his ongoing 20-years-long career in Media and Broadcasting Technology and officially move to Agriculture sector and Agri-Tech was his attendance at PM Modi’s speech at Wembley Stadium, UK, as a Technical Delegate, where PM Modi emphasised on the need for promotion of agriculture.
Knowing there’s no better way to learn about an industry than first-hand experience, Prashant spent 45 days in Sangli’s turmeric market to understand how it operated and what can be done differently. On a particular visit to see the processing machines, he chanced upon a manufacturers’ label, and decided to get in touch – only to learn that the manufacturer was in Tamil Nadu, and that the machines in Maharashtra were actually 8 years old models compared to the advanced ones in Tamil Nadu. This was the moment when he decided to change how things work.
A Problem-Solving Mindset
With dedication and determination, positive change is inevitable. Prashant decided to help resolve this pain point of outdated technology, and bought 3 machines himself, creating awareness about the faster advanced machines.
According to him, understanding the real issues that farmers face is key to development, and providing solutions through innovative business models is the need of the day. After processing, he went to the root of troubles – growing – which too suffered from flawed methods and other inconveniences. Farmers could only sell half of their yield, and saved the remaining half to sow them back, since they could not afford to buy new seeds again.
He decided to dedicate his time, money, and efforts, and invested in good seeds, and worked on planting, cloning, and making seeds for the first three years – an experiment that resulted in good quality seeds enough to plant a thousand acres.
Since an agriculture cycle lasts 9-12 months, Prashant also decided to expand into fisheries in the meanwhile and acquired dams for fish farming. This marked his venture into aquaculture, which became another A S Agri and Aqua cornerstone.
From 2014 to 2017, Prashant focused on research and development on soil-based vertical farming and aquaculture – spending 4.5 crores from his pocket – and having sold off all the gold and jewellery in his house. This experimentation is what paved the way for A S Agri and Aqua.
A S Agri and Aqua – Sowing the Seeds of Success
Prashant decided to take people on board as partners in 2016 to upscale operations. First arrived Kamlesh Oze, then Sandeep Samant, Pravin Pathare, Harshal Oze, Vaibhav Kotlapure, Sandesh Khamkar, Niranjan Kadle, and at last, Surinder Dhiman and Jayanta Bandekar, in that order. These 10 partners – a balanced mix of enthusiastic, innovative, and experienced stalwarts from different verticals – came together to lay the foundations of A S Agri and Aqua.
When Prashant and his team formed and commercialised A S Agri and Aqua in 2017, there was no turning back. A S Agri and Aqua was created to revolutionize India’s technologically-stagnant agriculture ecosystem and stop farmers’ suicide by improving their lifestyle and self-sufficiency.
To achieve these objectives is an uphill battle, but the company has time and again proven success with its methodologies. The company acquired its first polyhouse in 2017 for turmeric farming in Ghoti, a heavy-rainfall and low-temperature region that is unsuited for turmeric. Despite apprehensions from people about vertical farming, the company proved the method’s efficiency and success by growing high-yield turmeric using basic science for providing modifications to the Polyhouse.
While 80% of the world’s turmeric is grown in India, the country only exports 8-10% of the yield due to stringent export standards requiring more than 4.5% of curcumin content. When it comes to A S Agri’s turmeric, all our polyhouses produce turmeric that are consistent in quality, variety, growing method, and contain levels of curcumin content suitable for export – giving us access to a huge international market.
Over the years, the company ventured into several new verticals, including healthcare and supplements, digital connectivity, investments, green fuel, contract farming, turmeric trading, and more, bringing about change and delivering excellent results. By July 2020, the company has 147 projects ready, and 200 more set for completion by the years’ end.
A S Agri and Aqua has expanded operations into 3 Middle Eastern Countries viz. Qatar, Oman, and UAE (Abu Dhabi and Ajman) and has been appointed as a food security company, allowing us to use our advanced technology to grow their daily needs for them, with government support and funding
We have also expanded our presence to UK and booked 10 acres of farms, and have tapped into the prawns and crab industry in Sri Lanka through aquaculture. We are also looking towards establishing our foothold into Soya-bean soil-based vertical farming in USA and South America.
A Better Future
At A S Agri and Aqua, it’s our mission to break traditional norms of farming and reduce risks for farmers. We aim to develop agriculture and Agri-tech sectors to an extent that it becomes an appealing career option in the coming days.
With the level of growth that we’ve shown over the past three years, it will be soon when our name is listed in the NY Stock Exchange and we emerge as a prestigious place to work at. These are our future goals that we are working hard for.