Applying Science, Creating Tomorrow
Vaibhav Tidke’s memories as a young child are peppered with instances of visiting and shopping at the weekly fruit and vegetable markets. As he grew up, he developed a strong inclination towards applying science to address the problems of this community. In college, he established a not-for-profit ‘Science for Society’ with a few of his friends and during his final year, collaborated with National University of Singapore (NUS) on a project to study the relationship between dehydration and agricultural harvest. This project was not only aligned with his motivation to create a social impact, but also formed the knowledge foundation for his future entrepreneurial pursuits.
During his post-graduate programme, Vaibhav sustained his earlier inclination and developed a Solar Conduction Dryer (SCD) under the umbrella of Science for Society along with a friend. As the name proposes, SCD utilizes solar power to convert fruits and vegetables into their respective dehydrated forms. In 2010, recognition came in the form of Bayer AG’s recognition of SCD as a global innovation; the team was also awarded € 1000. Receiving the Dell Award in 2012 further bolstered the team’s confidence in their technology and its potential to make an impact. This is when a team of four friends, who had started Science for Society, decided to set up an enterprise which could commercialise its technology. S4S (an acronym for Science for Society) was founded in 2013 as a food preservation company for inventing new food processing machines. With technology at its core, S4S is working with a range of partner organisations to create sustainable supply of preserved food products.
While the technology gained recognition and momentum, there were many sector-specific challenges that Vaibhav had to face. Long gestation period and payment cycles, low adoption rate of technology and capital-intensive operations put immense financial pressure on S4S.
Being entirely at the mercy of the weather, the agricultural cycle and consequently the customer cycle remained unpredictable. The environmental and climatic conditions affected the overall production levels which, in turn, affected the post-harvest processing. For instance, when there is little to no rain, the importance of post-harvest technology decreases, and economic returns are affected. To meet the economic returns are affected. To meet the financial needs, Vaibhav and his team undertook various consulting projects and tutoring. They were committed to making it work. Another significant hurdle that the organisation faced was the need to persuade reluctant farmers to accept this technology.
“It is your vision, your dream, and your passion that makes a startup feasible. Start early, give sufficient time and take your own decisions.”
Vaibhav and his co-founders have steadily and successfully overcome this plethora of challenges. S4S now collaborates with FICCI, DFID, and Gates Foundation to test the application of their technology on various food products. With revenues from SCD becoming stronger each year, S4S is now eyeing newer technologies and platforms. There is a massive need for technology solutions for agriculture. The team at S4S, with Vaibhav at the helm, is committed to it.