Trends #10: New Age Farming - Seaweed Farming ft. Abhiram Seth
High Tech/New Age Farming Newsletter
3 weeks back, the Indian Union Budget was released and within that was a special nugget of information that got us very curious. The government had approved a proposal to spend 640 Crores in setting up a large multi-purpose seaweed park in Tamil Nadu.
Now, our initial thought was, who is going to eat so much seaweed? Are we exporting to Japan and China, coz those are the countries that consume seaweeds in their food. We were horribly wrong. Turns out, Seaweed has tons of use cases and is used in the food, cosmetics, bio-stimulants. More on that in the episode.
The Global Seaweed production market is ~13 Billion Dollars and is expected to double in the next 5 years. Currently, China and Indonesia dominate 80% of this market. India is less than 1% of the global market, a stat that shows the room for growth. We aren't behind because we don't have the necessary resources to produce seaweed, we're behind because the necessary focus and resources haven't been allocated to this Industry. All that seems to be changing now.
In order to go deeper into this industry, we have Mr. Abhiram Seth, Managing Director at AcquAgri, India's largest producer of seaweed. He's had an interesting journey which started with him managing the export business at PepsiCo starting 1993. We got to learn in this episode that because Pepsi had entered the country pre-liberalization, they were required to export a certain amount of goods out of India. That resulted in them exploring the agriculture and contract farming route to export food products out of India. One such chance encounter with an international customer pointed them to the seaweed farming industry.
Over the years, Mr. Abhiram Seth, while heading the Agri and Export initiative at Pepsi developed this market along with the government's support. In 2008, when Mr. Abhiram was leaving, he asked the team at Pepsi if they were going to continue the seaweed business. Given that the export conditions had since been removed, Pepsi was planning to shut down the initiative. That's when Mr. Seth requested Pepsi to buy this business and Pepsi happily obliged by selling the business at Book Value to Mr. Seth.
In the episode today, we talk about Mr. Seth's journey, the uses of seaweeds, the value chain in this industry and where he does he think are the opportunities.