Startup Circle: How did AgriTech Sensegrass turn traditional farming into Smart Farming?

CIOL spoke to Lalit Gautam about his current venture, plans about Sensegrass and how it felt to be in the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Laxitha Mundhra
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Startup Circle_ How did AgriTech Sensegrass turn traditional farming into Smart Farming_

Sensegrass is one of the top 40 finalists of Data Innovation Bazaar. It empowers the agricultural sector with industry-first data-led solutions. The startup is making the first Smart Soil Sensing NPK Sensors for pesticide and fertilizers detection using IoT and AI algorithm-based prediction software. Having both a hardware and software product, Sensegrass monitors the soil with an IoT sensor and provides real-time updates with the AI-based software for better decision making.


Here is an interview with Lalit Gautam. Lalit is a serial entrepreneur and founder of SenseGrass. He is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Fellow, Environmental and Agriculture enthusiast, startup mentor and consultant and exit in past. CIOL spoke to him about his current venture, plans about Sensegrass and how it felt to be in the list.

1. How did you come up with the idea?

I came up with the idea in around 2018. I have been working in the rural development sector for the last 4-5 years with a special focus on sustainable and rural development solutions for India. My first startup was working with the rural communities in the craft and art space. So, I had the experience to see what the core problem is and what are the real challenges. In rural communities there are two major occupations, one is agriculture and then comes the craft industry.


So, when Handscart, my previous startup had reached a stable position, in 2018 we started working on issues related to agriculture. Two reasons motivated me, the first reason is personal because I am a third-generation farmer. I have never done farming, but I have seen my forefathers’ grandfather and so on. That was one of the key reasons, and also during my previous startup, I have lived with a lot of farmers and witnessed their challenges. I noticed that the farmers on the field are farming during their spare time while having a regular job to get a stable income. I realized while India is an agriculture-based economy, this is the current situation of agriculture.

We started doing some research and noticed that agriculture is a very broken industry, especially in developing nations. Then, we launched this idea of SenseGrass with high-end technology, focusing on efficient solutions for small-scale farmers because they are the majority of global farmers. We researched for almost 6 to 8 months about the product development and went to the market to see whether our solution is right-fit or not. Som we got some new learning and that’s how it started.

2. How does the technology of IoT for soil work?


Our IoT sensor is implemented with the Nano-Satellite analytics which measures values from both under and above the soil for high efficiency. We are making agriculture more precise through nano-satellite field images with accurate precision farming through smart ground sensors for small farms, which are usually hard to monitor.

Our in-house smart soil sensing device covers and predicts accurate data surveillance under and above the soil. We are making the world’s first smart soil sensor for NPK detection using our patent technology that measures more than 18 parameters from micro soil data (including NPK fertilizers) detection and gives solution and prediction to farmers for better decision making of getting the best crop yield and to save money.

3. What is your Indian market penetration? And your business growth till now?


We started our operation in the international market and eventually entered India, and since then we have seen good growth. We are working with 35+ clients in India with an 8-9% business growth month-on-month. Also, we are working with agricultural marketplaces, food and agro production companies. Sensegrass has also done a pilot with the agricultural ministry. Currently, we are operating in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka.

4. How do you teach farmers, who can hardly use a smartphone, to use this technology?

SenseGrass is a combination of IoT hardware device and software. So, the software comes in two variants, one is mobile - the user can simply download the mobile application and signup. The onboarding process is pretty simple and made mobile friendly as tablets might not be an option. The procedure is fast, and it has quick and easy UI and UX. It is available in English currently, and we are planning to make in regional languages as well.


SenseGrass is also available on the WEB dashboard, which is straightforward and simple as well. We work with enterprises, nonprofit organizations, governments as well as private companies who help in educating customers on how to use the app and navigate them with the system. Before we sell or onboard customers, we provide them with training/demo on how to use the hardware sensors and the mobile application.

5. How do you assess who needs technology and who does not?

SenseGrass’ works with anyone who is involved or is looking at being in the agriculture sector. From corporate to small scale farmers, food-agro companies, NGO’s as well as the government of India who handles soil testing, all these comes under our purview. We are working on creating sustainable smart farming solutions and empower the farmer community.


6. Tell us something about your team.

We are a team of friends who went from being innovators to co-founders for SenseGrass. We have an experienced and diversified team and a few of the core members include:

I, Lalit, have a degree in pharmaceutical Medicine (Pharm Doc). Further, I have an MBA in International Marketing and Entrepreneurship, with over 10 years of startup experience. I was selected in Forbes 30 Under 30 for Technology Manufacturing and was also a finalist of Social Entrepreneurship.


Rahul Gundala is working full-time at SenseGrass as CPO and has completed his masters in product development from University of Maryland Recently & Bachelors from IIT-D in CS. Has previously built a patented motorized soldering tool that was acquired by Soldron. He takes care of platform development & solution architecture at SenseGrass and is responsible for customer onboarding, multisource knitting, data analytics & visualization.

Varun Pandit has a degree in computer science and microeconomics while having a degree in CS and Economics; he has been working with data and AI since he was in college. While he heads Data Science position in SenseGrass as Chief Scientific Officer, he is also involved in ground rural economics to make sure a high impact is created in regards to customer outreach.

7. How does it feel to be in the Forbes' 30 under 30 list?

It almost feels the same whenever you get an award or recognition for your work, which boosts your confidence. Recognitions like this shows we are doing something good. Forbes 30 Under 30, especially for the class of Europe, is highly competitive and is considered the best entrepreneurial recognition. With such an acknowledgement, we are overwhelmed to continue what we are doing to bring a greater impact on our society.

8. What are the challenges you faced while bringing SenseGrass to this level? How did you overcome them?

In India, every step is full of challenges, and startups face the most number of hurdles in their initial years. For instance, in a country like India where we have soil everywhere, it was difficult to get samples for testing and research. Also finding the right opportunities to network and grow is critical.

We consider ourselves fortunate to participate in a platform like Data Innovation Bazaar 2020 to showcase our talent and broaden our network to help expand our startup. Being a company driving data-led solutions, the right guidance and platform are needed. And Western Digital's Data Innovation Bazaar has helped us with that.

9. Lastly, what is your vision for SenseGrass?

Our core mission is to drive a positive impact on the small to mid-sized farmers in India with our cutting-edge technology. We have customers in operation in the other parts of the world and have received a good response. We are working on reducing the fertilizer input and focusing on the technology and business side as well.

Four-five years later down the line, we are expecting an acquisition or merger in a company with the same social impact mission. Someone who is doing something similar for sustainable agriculture and farmer growth. For the time being, we are developing SenseGrass into a more stable, sustainable impact-driven agricultural company, which is providing high-end tools to the farmers and companies; making farming more sustainable and efficient and helping the small-scale farmer to improve their income. So, the current focus is on the growth of the company and our solution.