“In a seller’s market, the difficulty of cultivating saffron at a large scale along with the high-profit margins, it’s a wonderful opportunity to grow this as a business. There is an exponential potential of doubling profits yearly with the least investment, with the first year as a maximum investment and a one-year break-even point,” says Avanish Goel, Founder of Indigold, an Indian agtech that grows saffron.
After the first investment, the seeds will multiply, and there will be no need to purchase seeds for the next ten years, as Avanish found out. “Hence, profits will start doubling every year from the second year onwards.”
Located in Dehradun, the Capital city of Uttarakhand State in India, a 20m2 pilot farm appears at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. Conducting one pilot thus far, Avanish has been able to collect various datasets he needed. “Based on the success of this trial, we can scale out production 10-fold at a commercial size.”
Dr. Avanish Goel and Dr. Archana Kamble
Saffron: the golden crop?
Avanish foresees a tremendous future for the Indian saffron industry as the current market size in India alone is around $ 8.5-9 Billion USD while domestic production is only 10% of the market size. “This huge gap, added to the high-rated quality of Kashmiri saffron, itself is a good reason to tap the potential of this market at the start only. Due to its high demand, saffron can be readily sold in any part of the country, and globally truly.”
Harvested saffron is sold at a local price, starting from Rs 300.000 to Rs 500.000 per KG (€ 3325 - 5500), yet depending on the quality. Kashmiri Saffron is of premium quality among all the countries that grow it, its export market demand is very high, and in the export market, it ranges from Rs 500.000 to Rs 1.000.000 per KG (€ 5500 to 11,000).
Being a Mechanical Engineer with an MBA from the India Institute of Management, Avanish is also pursuing a PhD in Management. Doing research over the past two years in indoor ag, Avanish narrowed the crops down to saffron only because of the demand, the ever-growing supply gap, the medicinal properties, and its high profitability. “It made perfect sense to take this to a commercial level and still an unexplored market in India at large commercial scale.”
His other half, Dr. Archana Kamble, has been contributing to the project ever since its initiation as well. She is an Ayurvedic Doctor by Profession, having done her Master in Medicine (MD) in Gynecology and Obstetrics, and is currently working as a Principal in a Medical College in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.
Growing saffron requires four important parameters in a controlled environment to be constantly monitored and changed as per the three-month growing cycle. These parameters are, according to Avanish, low temperatures (up to 5°C), humidity ranges from low to high during the growing period, proper light intensity, and CO2.
“When providing these parameters correctly, you can grow saffron aeroponically in any part of the world. I will try to do more in-depth research to increase the productivity and quality of the saffron we grow inside our farm. Hopefully, in the next two to three years, I can master the art and take it to the next level.”