My name is Jaisimha Rao, founder and CEO of Niqo Robotics. I'm Indian, but I grew up in Kuwait. I studied electrical and computer engineering at the Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. I started off working for Wall Street, but after eight years, I hit my tipping point. Working for the next bonus had lost its appeal.

I asked myself: is this life? So, I moved back to India to reflect and decide on how to move forward.


The difference between corporate America and rural India was profound.

India is the largest grower of cotton in the world – we have 34 million acres. But we have sub-par yields per acre. You have to follow a few steps for a successful harvest, ranging from planting at the right depth and with the right spacing, fertilising at the right time and place, spraying correctly, and harvesting correctly. While not everyone should necessarily strive for a maximum yield per acre, we should be more mindful of our resources: at the moment, 70% of our fertilisers are getting washed away, and 40% of our sprayers aren’t even hitting the plant, but the soil.

I remember asking the manager of my family’s coffee plantation why he put this or that fertiliser or pesticide in those quantities. He answered that years ago, this is what his grandfather was told to do, and he taught his son the same, who in turn taught him. This was a traditional playbook, spanning generations. And that’s where I saw robotics entering the field. This wisdom-driven industry could do with a more scientific approach. So, I started Niqo Robotics.

Scientific approach

Back in 2016, we saw the first wave of artificial intelligence.

We started off with drones. They would fly over the farmland, capture images and deliver the analytics to the farmers. After three years of hard work, in 2019, we had zero repeat customers, and we had come to the conclusion that farmers do not pay for advice – they pay for solutions.

So that’s when we moved from pure algorithms to robotics – which is a nice combination between software and hardware.

Robotics as a service

Our mission is to build accessible and reliable robots for sustainable farming

Jaisimha Rao

Put in very simple terms, we built a robot by taking a sprayer, adding a computer as its brain, five cameras as its eyes, and nozzles as its arms. A beautiful marriage between the ability to see, think and act.

One point four billion Indians – do we really need a robot?

Robots will never live up to humans. The dexterity of a human when it comes to walking and using their hands, the ability to see and act: a piece of machinery, even artificial intelligence, will always be inferior to a human. However, I think there are certain tasks on the farm that are not suited for humans.

Take for example, spraying. Currently, most of it gets done by a human with a knapsack, wearing barely any protection. They are working close to the ground, in 40°C, inhaling the pesticides, at barely 400 rupee a day. It's our view that humans should not be doing that. A machine should do that.

VLE strategy

Farming happens on a hyper local level. That’s why we use a dealer distributor model:

A local dealer has a relationship with the local farmers that we can never establish all the way from our headquarters in Bengaluru. So, our first point of contact is always the dealer. We explain to them our value proposition and make sure they understand the value for their clients. In turn, they will make our story a local story, and tell it to their clients.

At the moment, we have fifty sprayers active across different regions of India.

This is our VLE Strategy – the village level entrepreneur. We have leveraged local relationships with local tractor dealers, and local pesticide shops with existing ties with the farmers. They lease our sprayers and pay us a flat fee. They then offer spray as a service to the farmers in their region. It’s a B to B to C business model: the middle B is a local entrepreneur generating local employment while convincing their clients of our technology.

We don’t sell our sprayers because most Indian farmers have small farms, averaging around four acres. They don’t need, and can’t afford, to buy a tractor just to spray four times a year. The future of Indian farming, due to its size, is robotics-as-a-service, with VLEs leading the charge as key enablers.

Robotics as a service


There are many discussions on the sustainability of spraying pesticides and fertilisers. But one thing we can all agree on, from both an economic and a climate perspective, is that less is more. If you have to spray, it’s best to spray as little as possible, as precise as possible, using only the minimum amount possible at the right place at the right time.

The same can be said for water. In these times of climatic change, where droughts and floods are becoming more frequent, it’s important to carefully consider our water usage. And our technology allows you to do just that.

The value of data (protection)

Data is powerful, but it's not a solo act. We need collaboration to unlock its true potential. Companies offering "free" stuff in exchange for our data? Not cool. It's a hidden cost, and frankly, unfair.

On the other hand, some see data as the new oil, a valuable commodity to be hoarded. But raw data itself is just information. It's when we analyse it and turn it into actionable insights that the magic happens.

Here's the sweet spot: we collect data together, then work side-by-side to identify the problems we're trying to solve. This valuable data could even be made public after a period, fuelling academic research and propelling the entire agrotech industry forward.

Of course, we need to be smart about sharing. My real-time sprayer data? Top secret. But anonymised data from last season? Absolutely! It's valuable for researchers, creates momentum for agrotech, and honestly, doesn't hurt my start-up one bit. It's disruptive innovation, not disruption of my business.

I'm able to pursue my dream of reducing the use of pesticides, water and liquid fertiliser, because the Belgian government is using taxpayer money to give Omnivore a chance to improve agriculture, and because Omnivore, in turn, decided to give me a chance.

We have already saved so much on pesticides and water, and we’re just getting started.

But I’m looking forward to when our technology will be used in Belgium, generating impact on the ground – going full circle.

The impact BIO has, through Omnivore, through Niqo Robotics, not just on India, but on the world, is real. It’s tangible. The world is better off now. And Belgians should be proud of the work BIO is doing.

Next steps

Now that we’ve crossed the R&D hurdle, we need to stabilise the product. The next phase is scaling up and generating real revenue and profit.

To our surprise, there are a lot of farms around the world that fit the Indian model, where the VLE approach would be easily applicable.

I spent some time in Europe, and even in a country like Norway – you cannot imagine something further away from the Indian weather than Scandinavia – we would see ten-acre, fifteen-acre farms where they are driving tractors similar to ours. Maybe with a different cabin or AC, but regarding horsepower the needs of Norwegian or Belgian farms are closer to our Indian experience, than, for example, a corn farm in Texas.

We’re getting a bunch of inquiries from European farmers, from France and Belgium, for example. So, once we’ve scaled up in India, we will be looking at other regions with similar set-ups.

Jaisimha Rao

BIO invested in USD 5 M in the Omnivore Partners India Fund 2 and USD 5 M in the Omnivore Agritech & Climate Sustainability Fund III, two funds of Omnivore, a venture capital firm. Omnivore invested in Niqo Robotics.

Jaisimh Rao is the CEO and founder of Niqo Robotics. This is his story.

Omnivore Agritech & Climate Sustainability Fund III

  • Equity $ 3,500,000.00 (2023)
    Asia, India

  • Equity $ 5,000,000.00 (2023)
    Asia, India

Read our most recent impact stories

Don't shy away from the grey

Impact story

Don't shy away from the grey


My name is Joris Totté. I am the incoming CEO of BIO.

This is my story.

An illustration of how the world can be

Impact story

An illustration of how the world can be


My name is Tammy Newmark and I am CEO and Managing Partner of EcoEnterprises Fund.

BIO is one of our investors.

This is my story.

A lever for emancipation

Impact story

A lever for emancipation


Géraldine Georges is the chair of the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO).

This is her story.