Private equity (PE) fund Zephyr Peacock is investing in Utkal Tubers India Pvt. Ltd, an early-stage potato seeds company, a top fund executive said.
The investment is part of Zephyr Peacock’s plans to make several investments in the food and beverages segment in order to help address the demand-supply mismatch for key commodities. Utkal Tubers aims to become one of India’s largest potato seed companies.
“Food and beverages dominates consumer spending in India. With rising income levels, there is evidence of slow transition towards a non-cereal based diet, leading to an increase in consumption of vegetables for carbohydrate nutrition. More than 60% of the total arable land being used for growing cereals, potentially imply shortage of other food items in the next decade,” said Zephyr Peacock vice-president Pankaj Raina.
Vegetable seeds, particularly potato seeds, are one of the most critical means to address the growing carbohydrate nutrition requirement. The segment is largely untapped and has the potential to demonstrate strong growth in the next decade.
Utkal Tubers is looking to produce high-quality mini-tubers in a tissue culture laboratory and multiply them in its own development farms and through supervised contract farming in different regions of the country, according to Zephyr Peacock.
In April this year, the firm also signed a memorandum of understanding with Odisha to set up a research lab for tissue culture development and development farms in rural areas for seed multiplication.
Utkal has recruited a core team comprising experienced professionals in the field of potato tissue culture and cultivation, and has retired experts from the Central Potato Research Institute on its panel of advisers for this project.
Last year, farm biotech giant Monsanto decided to expand its research and development facility for vegetable seeds near Bengaluru. Monsanto said India has great potential for the firm to grow its business on the increase in vegetable consumption led by population growth and greater affordability.
“Shortages in food items could be potentially addressed through imports, but in the long run, India will need to become self-sufficient. This can be addressed by improving yields of other commodities crops, establishing good supply chains to reduce food wastage, and finding other alternate ways to address carbohydrates and protein requirements,” Raina said.
Zephyr Peacock is the India-focused PE fund of US-based Zephyr Management.