Srinagar, Feb 5 (IANS) Kashmir-based horticulture startup Qul Fruitwall (Qul) becomes the first private sector company to receive global institutional capital in Jammu and Kashmir.
Incofin, a Belgium-based impact investor, along with Fiedlin, an Indian growth capital platform for small and medium enterprises, have invested Rs 60 crore in Qul, which serves 5,000 farmers and has an EBITDA of over Rs 40 crore in four years.
The transaction not only opens the door to more foreign institutional capital in an untapped region of Jammu and Kashmir, but highlights the huge potential of its horticulture industry that supports the livelihoods of half its population .
Founded in 2019 as a technology-integrated platform for growers, it covers the entire value chain, from orchard installation, development and maintenance to controlled atmosphere storage facilities to chain integration of digital supply with the national market.
Qul demonstrates a farmer-centered value system by collaborating with small and marginal farmers to strengthen their entrepreneurial capabilities. Through precision farming techniques and the use of artificial intelligence/machine learning tools, it provides farmers with orchard-specific predictive insights, market trends and pricing details. Its commitment to innovation, both biological and non-biological, is reinforced by strategic collaborations with global research institutes, incubators and innovative companies.
Qul leverages processes and technology as transformative forces to improve efficiency and sustainability in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals.
Khuram Mir, founder of Qul, who hails from Shopian, the apple bowl of the Kashmir Valley, said, “Our mission is to transform lives and improve livelihoods by at least quadrupling within five years the apple yield of the levels 12 MT per Qul plans to expand its operations with this impact capital raising, which is socially conscious and environmentally conscious, and intends to take this model to 30,000 farmers in the coming years. The company aims to target to cross Rs 1,000 crore revenue in the next five years with strong performance metrics.”
Qul has successfully transitioned over 5,000 farmers to high-tech, high-density agriculture – a sustainable, scientific, regenerative and climate-resilient approach, leading to higher yields, better quality products and reduced of agricultural inputs, increasing farmers’ incomes by four to six times. The enabling political environment in Jammu and Kashmir, along with the mission for integrated horticulture development, serve as catalysts for the growth of the horticulture sector in the region.
Incofin and Fiedlin, see Qul as having unique strengths in operations, biotech and digital technologies that put it in a strong position to scale its model.
Commenting on the partnership, Rahul Rai, Partner, Incofin India shared, “By leading this round of investment, Incofin furthers its mission to support innovative agricultural startups that make agriculture viable and sustainable. We are excited about Qul’s ambition to bring Indian apples to the world stage.”
If Qul achieves its goals, it will have enabled the saving of 32 billion liters of water, the direct employment of 3,500 youth in the Kashmir Valley and sustainable agriculture on over 6,000 hectares of land with farmers earning between four and six times their current income.
Wim Wienk, President, Fiedlin India said, “Qul brings together the best of Kashmiri entrepreneurship with international expertise resulting in a resilient and sustainable orchard platform. State-of-the-art farm techniques adapt fully to local circumstances, thereby improving productivity and reducing agricultural inputs and thereby increasing farmers’ incomes. Qul’s initial profitability underlines the viability of the orchard platform. Scalability makes our investment in Qul is attractive”.
Qul’s current operations focus on the apple value chain, which is the largest temperate crop in the region, with more than 1.6 thousand hectares of land devoted to apple cultivation. Qul has already started research work in other fruit categories and plans to enter other fruit segments like cherries, plums, kiwis, pears, etc.
With a strong commitment to cutting-edge technology, sustainable practices and farmer welfare, Qul is poised to lead the way in transforming horticultural agriculture, increasing yields and ensuring a thriving and sustainable industry for temperate crops .
The infusion of equity reflects Incofin and Fiedlin’s confidence in Qul’s vision, paving the way for a brighter and more resilient future for temperate crops not only in Jammu and Kashmir, but across the Himalayan region .
The name ‘Qul’, a Kashmiri word for tree as well as the whole universe in Arabic, is a symbolic representation of being in the business of the ‘universe of trees’.
Apart from the obvious operational relevance, it is meant to represent the social and spiritual connotation of a business that drinks from nature only to return more wealth and wisdom like the legendary talking tree of the East.
Inval acted as Qul’s exclusive strategic advisor for this transaction.
Inval is an advisory team started by senior development banking and corporate advisory professionals to provide an advisory ecosystem to small and medium enterprises in tier-II and tier-III cities in India with an aim to support and unleash entrepreneurship in India’s micro markets where aspiring entrepreneurs seek to transform their profitable businesses into sustainable organizations.