Aqua Connect – helps farmers in procuring seedling and selling shrimps to exporters

Enables farmers engaged in shrimp culture to spend money wisely and earn money nicely

“Shrimp aqua farming is one of the most popular livelihood activities in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala, West Bengal, in some parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The industry is growing but not the farmers! Reason is farmers lack the awareness and information on value of shrimp in export market. They are confined to selling their aqua produce to the middleman at whatever price (low) offered because shrimp being perishable they can’t hold it for long,” emphasizes Mr. Rajamanohar K S, co-founder, Aqua Connect. Another problem faced by the farmer is procuring quality seed of shrimp. If the seed is of good quality it grows into healthy and big size shrimp that fetch good price however farmers do not have an easy access to the same.

Due to these problems aqua farmers are not able to attain growth and prosperity inspite of their committed hard work. These issues were told to Mr. Rajamanohar, technology entrepreneur by his co-founder Mr. Sanjai Kumar, aqua farmer for more than 25 years. The two met as co-passengers on a train journey, conversed on their respective business and learnt about each other’s expertise. By the end the journey seed of a new venture was sown ‘AquaConnect’ along with two more co-founders, Mr. Shanmudha Sundara Raj and Mr. Karthivelan.

Assistance on quality seed procurement directly from licensed hatcheries, feed and probiotics at optimum cost, technical guidance for shrimp culture by the team of experts working on the field and selling shrimps to the export company at the best price are the main activities of Aqua Connect. through which life of aqua farmers will be changed for good. The company is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu and works with more than 600 farmers in coastal belts of India. It deals in all three shrimp breeds namely Tiger (P. Monodon), P. Indicus and P. Vannamei.

90-120 days is the culture period of shrimp farming in one cycle. “Farmers first go to the hatchery to purchase post larve (baby shrimp), rear it by giving feed plus necessary probiotics and sell it to the export house through agent/middlemen. In this period of 3-4 months he spends Rs. 10-20 thousand on travelling in search of quality seeds, sometimes looses the produce in between due to some disease and later sells the produce after few negotiations to middlemen. Throughout the process he is never at ease and ends up spending more money than earning,” Mr. Rajamanohar elaborates the grave condition of aqua farmers in Indian coastal region.

Rajamanohar K S

 

Based on the discussions and after meeting numerous shrimp growing farmers AquaConnect was formally started in 2017 to provide concrete solutions to the farmers using the technology. “We have a tie-up with well-established hatcheries that provide best quality shrimp seed and export houses that purchase the produce from the farmers at the best price. Besides we also have a team of aqua experts on the field who are constantly in touch with the farmers throughout the culture period right from the seed purchase till shrimp harvest and delivery,” he adds.

Seed Procurement
“Hatcheries update their production schedule on our mobile app to let us know about the availability of the seed. As per the posts received we alert our team who then informs the farmers about the seed availability. As our team is always connected with the farmers they know about their requirements,” says Mr. Rajamanohar. Accordingly farmers procure seeds for shrimp culture. The seeds are assured of good quality as the hatcheries associated with AquaConnect are licensed and recognized in the industry.

Technical Guidance and Supply of Feed and Probiotics
Farmers are skilled at their work yet sometimes they require technical guidance to get-through the difficult times to save their produce. “Our team helps them with the right advice at the right time. They even assist farmers in buying required medicines through our app at lesser cost,” he shares. Similarly farmers also buy feed at low price from AquaConnect than offered in the market.

Direct Selling to Export House
AquaConnect has successfully eliminated middlemen from the selling process. “Through our data collecting tools and on-field team we know when the farmer is ready for selling shrimp and accordingly he is given four selling options along with rates. Farmer is free to make the decision on selecting his buyer based on the quoted price and harvest the shrimps else he can hold it for some time. In this way we have enabled farmers to sell directly to the export house and that too with a choice,” he asserts. Export house collects shrimps from the farmers’ farm within 8 hours and makes the online payment directly into their account.

Challenges
Initially it was planned to connect with the farmers through mobile app considering the vast penetration of smart phone in rural India however Mr. Rajamanohar along with his other two co-founders soon realized smart phones usage is limited to playing games and taking photos plus videos and not for business. “Therefore we introduced a toll-free number that was helpful in connecting with the farmers than the mobile app yet the numbers were not encouraging. Nevertheless we had to reach the farmers to help them so we appointed aqua experts for the face-to-face conversing. We learnt from our experience if we have to connect with rural India it is possible only through human interactions independent of technology intervention,” he affirms.

Future Plans
AquaConnect plans to stay focused on Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh region and make an impact by bringing the notable change in the life of farmers.

Mr. Rajamanohar concludes, “Recently Indian aquaculture’s export worth has been estimated as 5.8 billion dollar and 80% contribution is from shrimp. The industry is indeed growing in double digits. Shrimp farming is lucrative for farmers as they get premium price in just four months. In addition in the current budget Rs. 10 thousand crore is allocated for the development of aquaculture farmers hence government is providing best possible support. Farmers must come forward without any worries as we are here to help them grow and sell shrimp!”

Mr. Rajamanohar K S is technology entrepreneur with an extensive experience in building Internet and mobile technology driven businesses. He holds a graduate degree in Industrial Design from IIT Kanpur, India.

Contact details:
AquaConnect
Type II/17, Dr.VSI Estate, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai – 600041, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: 1800 123 1263 (Toll Free), +91 72999 10993
Email: raj@cari.org.in
Web: http://cari.org.in/

Bharat Rohan Airborne Innovations – helps farmers to produce better using agri technology

Checks on plant growth through hyperspectral imaging, generates early pest alerts, crop nutrition diagnostics, weed anomalies and provides yield predictions

“There are many solutions as in pesticides that can be sprayed to kill the pests once they infect the crop but there was no actual solution that could actually tell the farmers the exact health status of their crops. If only farmers knew that their crop is going to be infested with certain pest or disease then some precautionary measures could be taken. To resolve the issue we at Bharat Rohan Airborne Innovations, collect valuable data by flying our UAV (or drone) platforms equipped with hyper spectral cameras and transforms it into actionable information to generate early pest alerts, conduct crop nutrition diagnostics, detect weed anomalies and perform yield predictions. Thereby we assist farmers to safeguard their crops, improve the production and increase the profits,” Mr. Amandeep Panwar, co-founder and CEO, Bharat Rohan Airborne Innovations.

The problems prevailing in the farmer field is diagnosed by using non-destructive method of hyperspectral imaging and prescription maps are created. These prescription maps are then converted into recommendations reports in vernacular language of the farmers. The recommendations are provided by the agronomists/pathologist/entomologists and validated by ICAR and State Agriculture Institutes. In this way using the agri technology farmers are able to reduce their losses as pest attacks and disease outbreaks are identified at very initial stages that can be rectified by taking the corrective measures.

Bharat Rohan Airborne Innovations was incorporated on June 2016 at New Delhi. It has branch offices at Hyderabad, Lucknow and Baramati. Company offers service based model wherein the end-user (farmer, farmer company, cooperative, NGO, food processing company or seed company) subscribes to their services for entire cropping season. “Our trained UAV Pilot conducts the aerial surveys equipped with sophisticated UAV/Drone based hyperspectral remote sensing methodology. The acquired data is converted into meaningful prescription/abundance maps pinpointing regions of potential damage or identified crop health status. These maps are then converted into actionable advisory in their vernacular. Depending upon the requirement, we also help farmers in implementation of the advisory and also in sourcing the inputs required in time,” elaborates Mr. Rishabh Choudhary, co-founder and CTO.

When asked about cost-benefit ratio, Mr. Panwar says, “As per various researches, on an average, a farmer looses 20% of crops due to pest attacks and 15-20% due to mineral deficiencies. Then, he applies agri inputs which are not actually required. In this way we save atleast 10% of such losses. For example in sugarcane the average yield is 50 ton per acre and production cost is Rs. 2500/ ton (assumption). Then 10% crop loss saving through our services that can be calculated as savings of Rs. 12500/- per acre.” The fee for the service is charged per acre per crop season which is equivalent to just 30% of such crop saved.

The technology used in identifying health status of crop is based on Hyperspectral Imaging which determines minuscule colour changes occurring in the plants due to physiological and phenological changes. “When a disease like bacterial blight infects a pomegranate plant, it is caused by a pathogen called ‘Xanthomonas Axonopodis PV Punicae’. This pathogen releases a number of effector proteins including TAL effectors into the plant its secretion system. This effector protein causes some biochemical change in the plants and leaves. With human eyes, these changes become visible only when the water absorbing red-brown spots become visible on leaves but with Hyperspectral imaging, we are able to identify the colour changes occurring in the leaves due to these biochemical changes – even at just the onset of the infestation which helps us in providing early predictions and forecasts to the growers so that losses can be prevented,” explains Mr. Choudhary.

Speaking about data acquisition, Mr. Choudhary highlights, “Single UAV drone can collect up to 1000 acres of hyperspectral data every day. We visit our farmers’ farm once in every 7-15 days depending upon the rate of growth of the crop that helps us monitor every stage of crop and generate advisory in time which enable timely, accurate and precise actions.” In a single flying stretch 100-150 acres can be covered depending on wind and flight conditions.

Both the founders studied Aeronautical Engineering in Lucknow and collaborated on many college level projects. With the common aim to solve the problems in agriculture using technology they decided to work together. After incorporation of Bharat Rohan they started acquiring data from the UAv/Drone platforms that they had build in college and the spectral cameras. They worked on high value crops like pomegranate and then got incubated in a-IDEA which is the Technology Business Incubator of ICAR-National Academy of Agriculture Research Management, Hyderabad. a-IDEA helped them to partner with various ICAR institutes and provides access to great advisors and mentors. “We have unique partnerships with Hyperspectral sensor and camera manufacturers like Imec, Belgium and Bayspec USA. Also, we have strong relationship with CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow,” he informs.

The prototype was developed for pomegranate crop in Kasindra, Rajasthan. Later the service model was commercially introduced in Baramati, Mahatrashtra for pomegranate and sugarcane crops. “Now we are working on other crops namely mentha, potato, mustard, paddy, wheat and sweat pea,” says Mr. Panwar. Company has recognizable presence in Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. “We are covering 1000 acres for industrial farmers, food processing companies and seed companies. Even other farmers are ready to take our services as we are reducing the losses. Next we are planning to scale our operations to atleast 30,000 acres by 2020,” he adds.

They conclude, “We want to offer our services to every single farmer in the country irrespective of their landholding size. What other companies see as a challenge, we see it as an opportunity for transformation. We want to save the crops before it is lost!”

Contact details:
Bharat Rohan Airborne Innovations
a-IDEA, TBI Building, Center for Agri-Innovation, ICAR-National Academy of Agriculture Research Management, Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad-500030
Email: aman@bharatrohan.in, info@bharatrohan.in
Web: http://bharatrohan.in/

Nilesh Ghusar – invents low-cost milk dispensing machine enabling dairy farmers to sell milk directly to end user

12th class dropout innovates low-cost milk dispensing machine enabling dairy farmers to sell milk directly to end user

Experience is more important than education! The statement gets proved looking at the life journey of Mr. Nilesh Ghusar. He hails from Gir, Somnath district, Gujarat. At the young age of 28, he is dairy farmer turned manufacturer of low-cost milk dispensing machine. All he wanted was to sell his farm produced milk at market price instead of selling to co-operatives. “In villages we dairy farmers sell milk to dairy cooperatives at Rs. 22/litre or less whereas same milk is purchased by consumers in cities at Rs. 35-40/litre. It was a huge difference and I wanted to bridge this gap. I choose to sell milk directly to consumers but supervising the supply chains was a time intensive task therefore I decided to design and manufacture milk dispensing machine to dispense milk by paying cash or even cashless,” he shares. Inspite of having no formal education in engineering Mr. Ghusar could design the machine based on his visualization and passion for modifying/assembling machine. He named the machine as ‘Milk ATM’.

At first Milk ATM was installed in Veraval city, Gujarat in mid 2016 and it gained instant popularity during the period of demonetization as the machine has the feature of cashless milk dispense with the prepaid card, biometric finger printing and lastly username and password. The machine has separate cooling unit that keeps the milk fresh upto three days. Consequently, Mr. Ghusar started getting numerous orders from different parts of the country to make customized milk dispensing machine. “USP of my machine is low-cost and no-maintenance. I had designed it for myself to overcome the constraints that are commonly experienced by small dairy farmers. Therefore even when there are many milk dispensing machines already available in the market my machine is recognized for its unique features and is affordable by dairy farmers having small operations,” he adds. Within a year he has sold more than 30 machines across Gujarat and in other states too namely Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Chhattisgarh. According to the capacity of the machine selling price varies between Rs. 75 thousand to Rs. 1 lakh.

Mr. Ghusar received overwhelming response for his machine hence he formally established company ‘Drastikon Research and Development’ to manufacture and sell milk dispensing machine. Speaking about customization, he says, “Capacity, mode of payment and quantity of milk dispense of the machine is mentioned by the client. Based on the specifications given the machine is made. Capacity varies between 50 litre to 1000 litre. Recently I have also introduced mobile milk dispensing machine. It is installed in the auto/e-rickshaw so is moveable. It gives more flexibility to the farmers in terms of milk refill and reaching the wide customer base.” All variants of machine are made from stainless steel. Raw materials and spare parts are procured from Ahmadabad, Mumbai and even imported from Taiwan.

Explaining the cooling system of Milk ATM, Mr. Ghusar says, “To improve the shelf life of raw milk it must be chilled therefore in my machine I have installed an in-built cooling system that keeps the milk chilled for maximum three days. Usually the milk is dispensed within a day but I gave three days cooling period.”

When asked about cleaning the machine as milk is perishable, he clarifies, “Along with the machine a cleaning gun is also given as an attachment. After the milk container gets empty it is cleaned with hot water pressure with the cleaning gun. The water is dispensed out through the milk spout. Cleaning is recommended even before the milk refill.”

The machine is maintenance free. “I have kept the design simple and functional so it is absolutely free of maintenance. I have consciously done so because my attention is on farmers having small dairy operations. The ultimate motive is to enable these farmers reach the customers directly and sell the milk at the market price using only button and spouts. In case of any breakdown it can be rectified through a telephone chat,” he asserts.

In future Mr. Ghusar plans to expand his manufacturing unit. “I shall be setting up the works for bulk manufacturing to process more orders in less time,” he reveals and concludes, “Cut, copy and paste can never give enduring results therefore I always stick to my original idea which is then implemented using my own creativity. Besides I never give up. During my 12th board examination I met with an accident and couldn’t continue study further! I became a dairy farmer but always continued assembling parts to make functional machine with some originality. Later to overcome the obstructions in farming I invested my experience and created milk dispensing machine. I follow one thumb rule that is – try to solve the problem with a noble unique solution. It will be solved!”

Contact details:
Mr. Nilesh Ghusar
Drastikon Research and Development
Pramukh Building Shop Number 4, Near Namaste Hotel, Byepass Shokdi, Gir, Somnath, Gujarat – 362 265
Mobile – 09426444495
Email – drastikon.ghusar@gmail.com

Triton Foodworks – hi-tech farm producing pesticide free salad leafs, vegetables and fruits hydroponically

Hi-tech farm producing pesticide free salad leafs, vegetables and fruits hydroponically. Production close to 8 folds in open cultivation. Quality of the produce clears all the laboratory tests with top grades.

Today when majority of Indian youth are running away from agriculture three friends Mr. Deepak Kukreja, Mr. Dhruv Khanna and Mr. Ullas Samrat, based at New Delhi completed their professional degree courses in much popular streams but choose to become first generation farmers taking up hi-tech farming. They started their first experiment urban farm in New Delhi in October 2014 and within the span of three years expanded their operations with new farm set-up at Mumbai, Pune and Mahabelshwar. Their company ‘Triton Foodworks’ clocked the turnover of Rs. 1.2 crore last year.

Driven my passion towards technology and farming the trio are self-taught farmers focused on increasing the farm income by decreasing the production cost keeping the quality intact and implementing new marketing strategies for higher sales. “We are growing 8 folds quantity of food in 1/8th of the area without soil and using 80% less water than in one acre open cultivation. Our entire farm is operated on the switch of buttons that requires minimum manpower and we have developed our own formulations of bio nutrients to be fed in the water to support the plant growth. In this way we are using half as many resources and have reduced dependence on outside purchases too. Consequently our production cost is reduced and we sell our produce ourselves to B2B and B2C clients without any involvement of middlemen thus it leads to higher profits. With technology intervention our model proves farming is interesting and profitable too,” asserts Mr. Dhruv Khanna.

Speaking about the farm infrastructure he says, “As in Delhi the temperature rise upto 47-48 degree Celsius during peak summers we have fan pad cooling system to controls the climatic conditions inside the farm and water chillers to cool the water in which the plants are grown. In this way we create a favorable environment inside the farm as required by the plants. The temperature is under 24/7 check and every plant growth is closely monitored. Therefore the quality of the produce when harvested is excellent.”

Crops grown are strawberry, seedless cucumbers, regular tomatoes, aubergine (eggplant), bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, five varieties of lettuce and herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, arugula etc. “As it is a completely soilless system of farming we use two different media for growing creepers and leafy vegetables namely cocopeat and deep water culture respectively. We mix many nutrients in the water for the consistent plant growth and best quality of the produce, elucidates Mr. Khanna. To bring down the cost of production all agri input solutions are made in-house. “We buy ingredients in bulk and prepare the solutions as per our formulations.” Besides there are two RO systems, 2000 liter capacity in which the nutrients are mixed and supplied to the roots of the plant. 30% rejected water from RO system is used for cooling system. Thus every drop of water is used wisely.

In addition to keep the crop safe from disease and pest attack preventive measures are taken such as spraying neem oil/garlic oil thrice in a week with automatic sprayers. “We never use any chemical based farming inputs in our farm. We ensure edibles grown in our farm are 100% nutrient rich that boosts the health of the consumer. Our entire produce is absolutely pesticide free. It has been tested and certified in the laboratories. All our produce gets approved in no-time by our B2B clients such as nationally renowned fast food retail chains, food processing companies, hotel etc.”

Crop production is planned as per the market demand. Off season crops are also grown as it fetches higher returns but the quantity is kept less. “We grow multiple crops so that we have good variety to sell to our buyers,” he shares.

Next important aspect of farming is marketing. “Initially we sold all our produce in New Delhi wholesale market as we were occupied in setting up the new farms. In the meantime we were also testing B2C segment by selling small batches where we kept our shelves at the small grocery store in Thane, Mumbai. The response received in B2C segment was encouraging and we got good sales because the consumers liked the taste of our vegetables quite a lot,” highlights Mr. Khanna. Company founders also directly contact B2B clients for their product sales. “They too liked our farm produce but as they have bulk requirement the contract is kept on hold. However we do sell our produce in smaller batches to them if they have the requirement.” B2C segment is more profitable and at the same time more challenging.

“Presently our 80% business is B2B and 20% is B2C. The price variation selling in mandi, B2B clients (institutional buyers) and retailers is huge. For example basil is sold at Rs. 60/kg in mandi, Rs. 100-120/kg to B2B clients and Rs. 300-320/kg to B2C clients. Looking at the pricing indeed B2C segment will be alluring but it is a complete different business in itself that demands flawless supply chains, storage facility and customer care. Therefore we keep it both B2B and B2C clients,” he reveals.

When asked about hydroponic system being high capital intensive, Mr. Khanna clarifies, “Indeed the investment is high but the production is 8-10 times more than the open cultivation. Secondly as the farming is done in controlled environment so the risk factor is negligible. Lastly most important the produce is pesticide free that ensures no harm to the health of the consumer. The return on investment surely would be attained in 3-3.5 years by selling the produce in wholesale mandi. If the produce is sold to B2B or B2C segment then ROI will be still much sooner.”

In future the founders of Triton Foodworks plans to expand their farm facility to 5 acres and export the herbs as raw plus value added products to international buyers. “There is good demand of basil oil in international market. We are looking forward for such export opportunities. Also we want to completely stop selling our produce in wholesale market and keep equal focus on B2B and B2C segment,” shares Mr. Khanna.

He concludes, “Farmers’ son in rural India is moving to cities to drive taxi and majority of urban youth anyway hardly have any connect with agriculture. Thus in coming years it would be a huge challenge for India to produce food all our countrymen. We realize this upcoming demand and supply gap of food thus presently we are focusing on expansion to minimize the gap as much as possible. We all three are first generation farmers so we are learning with experience. And we are sure to nail it in well in future!”

Contact details:
Triton Foodworks Pvt. Ltd.
207, Aggrawal Corporate Heights, Netaji Subhash Place, New Delhi – 110034
Email: info@urbanfarming.co, dhruv@tritonfoodworks.com
Web: http://www.tritonfoodworks.com/

Akash Chourasiya – invents four layer farming model to grow four crops simultaneously in same farmland in open cultivation

Invents four-layer farming model to grow four crops simultaneously in same farmland in open cultivation

Earn Rs. 10.50 lakh by growing four crops in one acre farmland in one year. Does it sound unrealistic? Well it is very much possible through four-layer farming model invented by Mr. Akash Chourasiya, 28, young farmer from Tili village, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. “In this model income is not only generated by selling the harvest of four crops cultivated in the farmland but also by reducing the production expenditure immensely,” he adds. The four-layer farming model reduces 5 times the expenditure and the benefit goes up 4 times. Thus the total earning goes up to 8 to 10 times.

As a young boy Mr. Chourasiya had a dream of becoming doctor, he cleared the medical entrance exam too but changed his path to grow healthy and nutritious food for the people that they never seek a doctor!  In order to grow poison free food and make farming profitable he did series of trials and crafted four-layer farming model.

In this model, the crops are sown in the same soil but grow at different levels.  First land preparation is done by treating the soil with the mix of 100 kg calcium powder dust and 30 kg neem powder.  At the time of sowing, the soil is fed with the compost of rock phosphate and cow dung along with vermicompost manure. Only indigenous seeds and saplings are used in this system.

Once the farmland is ready, 3 feet wide rows are formed one foot apart and all four crops are sown one after the other. The first layer has ginger/turmeric. Usually ginger is sown in the month of May but in this model it is sown in February.  “We sow ginger 6-7 inches below the top soil keeping the distance of 6 inch. Now it would take three months for ginger to reach the top surface so to utilize and keep it safe from weeds we cultivate green leafy vegetables. It becomes our second layer,” he elucidates. Beds of 2.5 wide are created on the rows. On these beds seeds are sown of the any green leafy vegetable like spinach, fenugreek, coriander etc.

Within 15 days of sowing seeds of green leafy vegetables germinate and covers the entire farmland. “In this way as direct sunlight doesn’t fall on the soil 70% water evaporation is controlled and there is no scope for weeds to come up in the soil. It saves money on water and expense on removing unwanted weeds,” explains Mr. Chourasiya.

Next for the third layer a structure is created with bamboo logs and dry grass for supporting creeper vegetables. Bamboo logs are placed at 5 * 5 feet distance and the roof of the shed is covered with dry grass. The creeper vegetable sapling is planted close to every log so that it climbs up. Till April the creeper reaches 5feet height and spreads on the top of the shed. “By the end of March month the temperature soars high so this third layer crop gives protection from sunlight to the second layer crop, the green leafy vegetable,” he elaborates. Vegetables preferred for third layer are bitter gourd or pointed gourd or coccinia. “Leaves of these vegetable crops are small so even when it covers the top of the shed it allows little sunlight to reach to the second layer crop that is essential for its growth.”

In fourth layer it is best to grow papaya. The saplings are transplanted at 12 *18 feet distance. Leaves and fruits of the tree are approximately at 7 feet height so it doesn’t disturb the third layer vegetable crop. In this way all four crops are sown in same month and same soil.

When asked about the roots of four crops grown in same soil getting tangled below the top soil surface, Mr. Chourasiya clarifies, “Roots of all four crops are at different level below the soil so it doesn’t tangle. 3 inch below the top soil roots of green leafy vegetables settle, at 6 inch is ginger roots, third layer root goes upto 2 feet depth whereas papaya tree roots penetrate till 2.5 feet.  Thus as root zone of all four crops varies thereby the growth is consistent and normal.”

Irrigation is done through fogger system enabling efficient use of every drop of water. “Water keeps penetrating down because the soil is porous as no chemicals based agri inputs are used and the soil is treated well with natural agri components. Also through the fogger system we spray a solution of cow dung decoction and vermiwash as the preventive measure from the diseases or pest attack. It is done once in a month. We even have 8 feet high cloth boundary wall on all sides of the farm. It keeps the insects and pests away from our farm,” he highlights.

Harvesting time differs for all four crops allowing farmer to have a regular supply of produce for sales enabling him to have consistent cash inflow. Green leafy vegetable is harvested from March-July, creeper vegetable from April-November, ginger from August-October and papaya from November-December. The farm is then allowed to rest and land preparation again begins from 3rd week of January for next cycle.

Mr. Chourasiya could craft a successful model for growing nutrient rich food but alone he cannot serve the forever increasing population so he started a movement at the tender age of 21 years in 2011 where he encouraged farmers to quit use of chemicals in their farm and also convinced youth to take up commercial farming. To give momentum to this movement he provides absolutely free-of-cost training on his farm where farmers are given on-field exposure to four-layer farming model, water conservation, maintaining seed bank, rearing desi cows, vermicompost and preparing all other farming inputs on the farm itself. So far he has trained 7,500 youth and 37,500 adult farmers across the country as well as outside India.

Along with four-layer farming model Mr. Chourasiya has also developed a system for water conservation and interception of soil flux which can recharge 10 lakh liter water per acre and 4000 kg of soil can stop the flow with this technique. 14500 farmers in different Indian states are using this technique. He has invented natural air-conditioned shades to avoid the impact of climate change through research.

“It is imperative to eat healthy food as it keeps our mind and soul healthy that in turn keeps our body healthy. So grow chemical free food for better today and tomorrow. Also Indian youth have to take up commercial farming for improving health of our people and economy of our country,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Mr. Akash Chourasiya
Unnat Krishi Abhiyan Parisad
Behind Old RTO Office, Near Water Tank, Rajeev Nagar, Tili, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh – 470002
Phone: 09179066275
Email- akashchourasiya05@gmail.com

 

 

Kushal Mangal Jaivik Krishi Farm – reaps sweet rewards by blending traditional farming practices and latest technology

Reaps sweet rewards by blending traditional farming practices and latest technology

“It is mandatory to learn new things to adapt to the changes happening around yet the goodness of traditional knowledge must be continued to be practiced. Stuck between old and new I decided to stick to the goodness of each and merge the two in the favour of my farm growth. I turned into 100% traditional (organic) farming practices to produce best quality sugarcane, set-up latest machinery to make chemical-free jaggery, brown sugar and vinegar from sugarcane and utilized internet technology to market and sell all value added products directly to the end consumer. It increased my income by many folds and gave consistent growth to my farm,” shares Mr. Rakesh Dubey, farmer from Kartaj village, Narsinghpur district, Madhya Pradesh.

 

His farm ‘Kushal Mangal Jaivik Kirish Farm’ spreads in 16 hectare in which 38 acre has sugarcane cultivation and in the rest of the area seasonal vegetables, grains and legume crops are grown. Entire farm acreage is under organic cultivation. Mr. Dubey has included diverse elements of integrated farming to make it self-reliant such as small dairy unit of 4 local breed ‘Malav’ cows (native of Madhya Pradesh state), vermicompost and forest trees. He took up commercial farming in the year 1990 and has been felicitated with many awards for high sugarcane production precisely 1000 quintal/acre. However he left it all instantly and turned into organic farmer, “I didn’t find use of chemicals in farming enduring for long term as the quality of sugarcane was not as desired, soil heath was deteriorating and life of living beings consuming this produce was under threat to many diseases. Thus since 2012 I changed my practices to 100% chemical free farming, he adds.

Powdered jaggery, liquid jaggery, brown sugar and vinegar are produced at the farm from sugarcane. These products are sold under the brand name ‘Kushal Mangal’. Mr. Dubey does the marketing of these products on his own by using the social media and online marketing tools. As a result he has good sales of these products that have multiplied his profits. “I come in contact with bulk buyers and retail consumers in all parts of India through website and social media like facebook page. I am also selling these products regularly through Amazon,” he shares.

He started value addition of sugarcane in 1996 with jaggery processing but it being inferior quality he got less price. Conversely after 2012 even when the farm was in conversion period he started getting good demand for organic jaggery. “We started making the jaggery in the natural way without adding any chemicals. Above all after the post conversion period in 2015, most important advantage we got from organic farming is that the quantity of jaggery produced from 1 quintal sugarcane increased. Earlier from chemically grown 1 quintal sugarcane we used to get 12 kg jaggery but now with 1 quintal organically grown sugarcane we get 16 kg jaggery. We not only got superior quality and minimum input cost but also the quantity increased. Besides organic jaggery is sold at premium price,” he highlights.

Sugarcane processing plant at the farm has the capacity of producing 350 quintal jaggery per day. The capital investment made was Rs. 10 lakh. Jaggery is produced from November-February. During the monsoon the same plant set-up is used for making vinegar. “In the period of July-October we make the saplings in the nursery for next crop cycle using the cane-setts. The left over cane-sett is waste but we utilize it for making vinegar. It is a surplus for us. Vinegar is best in quality and is selling through advance orders. Similarly we make hand-made brown sugar without any chemicals like sulphur. Our brown sugar contains only 74% sucrose, fit to be consumed even by a diabetic patient,” he states.

To increase the farm production in organic farming Mr. Dubey recommends change in the farming technique. “We choose to increase the age of our sugarcane crops to 18 months. To do so instead of planting the cane setts directly in the soil we first prepare the saplings in our own nursery. Then these saplings are transplanted in June month keeping plant-plant distance as 2 feet and row-row distance 6 feet. In 18 months trenching is done 11 times. Consequently the yield obtained is 865 quintal/acre,” he elucidates.

Speaking about the agri inputs in the farm Mr. Dubey says, “Every crop cycle gives three outputs after harvesting viz one for the grower/farmer, second for cows and third for farmland itself. This third output is referred as farm waste that is obtained in ample quantity. It is decomposed along with the dung and urine of cows to make manure, bio-pesticides and insecticides for the next cycle. We are self-sufficient for making agri inputs within the farm. When we started organic farming in 2010 the carbon content of our farm was 0.27 and now it is increased to 1.01. This increase in organic carbon of our farm is our strength, our income.” As the entire farming practice is consciously chemical free the soil and crop have become resistant to disease and pest attack.

His future plans are expansion and increasing farm production keeping the farming practices strictly organic. “I also want to encourage 500 more farmers to set up a farm like mine and we all would work under one group. The objective is to increase the production of organic produce so that the selling price can be reduced. Every year on my farm I am trying to increase the production and decrease the cost but to bring a revolution of healthy and nutritious food I need more farmers to join me. I will continue my struggle till the prices of organic produce drops!” he signs off.

Contact details:
Kushal Mangal Jaivik Krishi Farm
Kartaj Village, PO Singhpur, District Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh – 487 110
Phone: +919425448313
Email: rakeshdubey313@gmail.com
http://www.kushalmangaljaivik.com

Dr. Abhishek Bharad – agricultural scientist returns to India leaving well-paid job in USA to improve livelihood of farmers

Agricultural scientist returns to India leaving well-paid job in USA to improve livelihood of farmers. Based at Buldana, Maharashtra

“I hail from Vidharbh (cotton belt) region known for farmers’ suicide. So I felt people like me are of more use here than anywhere else! Thus I choose to return back and do something meaningful for farmers in India,” says Dr. Abhishek Bharad. He is engaged in goat farming and conducts free-of-cost workshops for farmers once in a month. He sells buck (male goat) to farmers for breeding.

In addition to goat farming Dr. Bharad is working on other sectors of agriculture simultaneously to create a complete model of farming that operates smoothly inter-dependent on one another. “I am doing horticulture with organic farming practices, vermicompost, mushroom cultivation, dairy and poultry farming with native breeds, seed production etc. The basic foundation of the model is that output of one segment becomes input for other. Excreta from cattle is used for vermciompost that produces manure for horticulture farm. Thus it forms an integrated farming chain. We have more such chains in agriculture. I am exploring it all and as it gets standardized would share with farmers,” he elucidates.

“I did my bachelors from Government Agriculture College in Akola, Maharashtra. Next I went to USA for 8 years to pursue masters followed by PhD at Louisiana University. Soon I started working at the university however environment and infrastructure of USA didn’t attract me much and I decided to return back to do some business. To be an entrepreneur was my childhood dream that never went off!” he adds.

Dr. Bharad returned back home in February 2016 and spent some time in researching his course of action for future. “Fortunately I got some consulting clients and realized that it could be ideal to start a demo production farm rather than just focusing on consulting on theoretical basis. It led to setting up of my farm Samrudhi Goat Farm at Sakharkherda village, Buldana district, Maharashtra.” Farm spreads in more than 25 acre area, partly owned and leased. “I came back with some capital that was invested in establishing the goat farm initially and rest I took loan from family and friends for extended activities for farm integration.”

When asked about opting goat farming as primary agricultural activity he says, “Goat farming is less prone to risks unlike horticulture that is largely affected by weather conditions, threat from wild animals and fluctuating market prices. In goat farming we have quite a good control on the business.”

At Samrudhi Goat Farm 8-10 breeds are reared namely Jamanapari, Beetal, Sojat, Sirohi, Barbari, Osmanabadi, African Boer etc. Goats are reared for selling to other farmers for breeding. “I have different selling purpose than other commercial goat farms. I sell bucks exclusively for breeding purpose. The selling price is higher than the male goats sold for meat. Usually the price of male goat sold at my farm is more than Rs. 10 thousand/buck,” he highlights. One year old buck is ready for breeding. He started selling bucks from February 2017 and on an average he sells 10-12 bucks/month. Female goats and kids are sold rarely. “We sell female goats only after 4-6 pregnancies. It is important for controlling in-breeding. Further breeding stock of buck is changed once in year to avoid in-breeding. We keep up-to-date documentation of every animal in the farm.” At the moment the herd size at the farm is 300 all inclusive (kids and adults).

Amongst all the breeds, Osmanabadi breed is most popular in Maharashtra as it is the local breed and has high birth rate. “This breed in particular has higher probability of delivering twin-kids. Although the goat is smaller and the weight gain is much slower than rest of the breeds but its’ ability to deliver twins is higher thus it attracts the attention of goat farmers,” explains Dr. Bharad.

Goats are fed with the mix of green fodder, dry fodder and concentrate. The new born kids are allowed to have mother’s milk upto 3months. Later to which slowly it is introduced to different feeds. “We grow the feed in-house as it is cost effective and rich in quality,” he asserts. Goats usually do not drink much water but must have 24/7 access to clean drinking water. “During peak winters the water intake in goat is less so we mix jaggery into it to enhance the taste.”

As the goats are fed with balanced assorted fodder it improves their resistance to diseases. “In case they fall sick then we prefer to give home remedies instead of allopathic medicines. In addition the standard vaccination schedule is followed stringently as preventive measure,” he shares.

Usually the life span of goat is 8-12years. Female goat can reproduce every year twice. “However on my farm we would control the cycle of reproduction to ensure good health. Instead of getting 4 deliveries in 2 years we will keep it 3 in 2years to give time to goats to recover. Also in this way we avoid extreme weathers conditions to keep new-born kids safe and healthy. During peak winters in January and December as well as June- August at the time of peak monsoon we do not want goat delivery as the new born is prone to infection, diseases and requires immense care and look after,” states Dr. Bharad.

This imperative knowledge transfer is given to other goat farmers during monthly workshops. Usually 100 farmers participate in one day workshop. So far Dr. Bharad has interacted with more than 1000 farmers. To bring the desired change in lives of the farmers it is significant to come in direct contact with them therefore I started conducting monthly workshops on goat farming, organic agriculture, mushroom production etc.” he says. Speaking of free-of-cost workshop sessions he clarifies, “Goat farming is booming business in Maharashtra thus many people refer themselves as experts and conduct program collecting the fees of Rs. 2000-5000/day. It is not correct! I find it unfair to charge the fees from the farmers as goat farming is not a business where we can learn or teach the entire process in one single day. In my workshops it is more of healthy discussion on goat farming and other sectors of agriculture. Sometimes I also call professors or goat breeders to share their experience so that farmers can be benefitted.”

In time to come Dr. Bharad wants to assist farmers in selling their farm produce by setting up a formal company. “Last year I focused on goat farming while this year I am concentrating on organic grain cultivation in open field and vegetable farming in poly house. I am installing 4units of shade nets in1.5acres to grow Indian native vegetables in soil. The aim is to demonstrate that local produce can be cultivated at lesser price yet high production can be attained. Farming is profitable and sustainable if done correctly,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Samrudhi Goat Farm
Farm : Sakharkherda Village, Sindkhed Raja Tahsil, Buldana District, Maharashtra
Correspondence: Ward No. 8, Khandala Road, Near Shriram Nagari Bank, Chikhil District, Buldana, Maharashtra 443201
Phone: 7038392636, 8888144546, 8381091681
Email: abhishek.bharad@gmail.com

Kunal Tiwari – ecommends vigorous use of geographic information technology in farming for enhancing production and profits

Recommends vigorous use of geographic information technology in farming for enhancing output and profits

Agriculture is essential for life maintenance on planet earth but its’ practices remain primitive even after enormous development in other industry! Now it is mandatory to bring a change in farming practices to feed the massive population that continues to increase forever. The solution lies with IT industry that has the potential to improve the production alongside managing all problems such as climate change, labour issue etc.

Mr. Kunal Tiwari, Executive Director, Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) advocates use of IT driven technologies for the betterment of farming to produce better. In his words, “In this present era the success of large-scale farming highly relies on geographic information technology (GEO-ICT) through what is known as precision farming. With the use of remote sensing, GPS and GIS, farmers can be able to understand site-specific needs of their farms. With this information, they are capable of formulating and implementing management techniques that will ensure the optimal use of inputs to maximize their output and profits.”

Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development, encourages and facilitates rural communities to adopt an integrated approach to agriculture and work towards achieving better returns and economic success. The organization is based at New Delhi.

GEO-ICT provide a farmer with an information resource that he can use to make informed decisions that guarantee effective and efficient management of the farm to maximize its productivity. Thus, farmers can understand and implement these technologies in conjunction with their experience and expertise to get maximum benefits of their farms. A few of such technologies are-
• Global Positioning System
• Geographic information systems
• Remote Sensing
• Drones
• Computer-controlled devices (automated systems)
• Smartphone mobile apps

GEO-ICT would act as an agent for changing agrarian and farmers’ life by improving access of information and sharing knowledge. The ICT tools can change the ideas, activities and knowledge of the farmers. Farmers feel empowered and can adopt appropriate measures at the time of need.

These new-age technologies have made its way significantly into the agricultural sector, and with positive results. Mr. Tiwari throws light on few affirmative effects of GEO-ICTs in agriculture:
• Improved decision making – By having the necessary information, farmers—big and small can make better and more informed decision concerning their agricultural activities.
• Better planning– GEO and ICT has paved the way to come up with farming software which can keep better track of crops, predict yields, when to best plant and what to plant, to intercrop or focus on just one product, or determine the current need of the crops—just about everything needed to improve production and income.
• By adjusting to the modern farming methodologies, farmers can have better control of their crops. Gaining information from their farm is essential in sustaining its success and fuelling further growth.
• Community involvement – There are several programs which are made possible by GEO-ICT based applications, and community involvement in agriculture can be increased as well. When a community adopts modern methods for agriculture, the production of local goods can be increased.

As an affordable and accessible means of communication, rural communities are realizing the potential of mobile telephony to create economic opportunities and strengthen social networks. With a pickup in the Internet usage and increase in smartphone penetration in rural areas, farmers have been able to make use of the Internet to research on farming solutions. The government along with various companies and NGOs has introduced mobile applications for farmers that provide real-time data about weather, local markets, seeds, fertilizers among other things. In addition, farmers can also interact and get guidance from agriculture experts across the country via the apps.

When asked technology in agriculture will be productive but it is very expensive too, Mr. Tiwari clarifies, “The smallholder farmer, who is much more exposed to the risks of agriculture, including climate change the smallholder farmer, who barely has a profit margin, and is often cultivating just to feed his family. So it is he who needs low cost strategies more than anyone else. Though such technologies are a bit expensive, community involvement and FPO concept are making these accessible to the group of farmers to use it effectively. There are several programs which are made possible by ICT applications, and community involvement in agriculture can be increased as well. When a community adopts modern methods for agriculture, the production of local goods can be increased.”

“ICT has allowed for innovations that bring financial services, including mobile money, to smallholder farmers enabling financial institutions to support such farming community by providing loans at easy rates and also assisting them with various other schemes. ICT facilitates knowledge generation, documentation, and sharing in support of farmers and of farmer innovations,” he adds.

“Progressive farmers are seeking out new tools to meet the challenges to feed the world. The next generation of farmers is much more comfortable in trusting the technology. There is a considerable effort not just by technology companies, but also by the manufacturers of tractors, sprayers, combines and other equipment to both educate the farmers and also integrate these technologies into the equipment so that they become part of the new tools which are more productive and efficient. Farmer organizations can function more efficiently by using information communication technologies (ICTs) to attract and retain a wider membership, generate more funds, and provide better services to their members,” he highlights.

Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development intends to set up 1 acre model precision agriculture farm with help of GEO-ICT solution providers which shall serve as centre for excellence for entire farming community in the country. “We have joined hands with various ICT companies in country for latest technology dissemination in rural areas. Also we have developed partnership with GODAN (Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition) to capitalize partnership in seeking International mileage in ICT for Agriculture domain,” he shares.

He concludes, “The GEO-ICT industry is very positive about the future however it may take some time to come in full swing in India. The present effort indicates that the major sector which will dominate the market using ICT and geospatial technology will be agriculture where overall demand will increase by 1.1 % per annum, energy anticipates 1.7% growth per annum, and infrastructure represents 10% to global GDP.”

Mr. Kunal Tiwari is currently heading Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development in capacity of Executive Director and also leading Global Trade facilitation for Agribusiness at Indian Council ofFood and Agriculture. He has dedicatedly contributed towards sustainable agriculture practices,precision agriculture and rural upliftment with value addition in various parts of the country.He has represented country on various global platformswith perspective on precision agriculture and judicious use of GEO-ICT models in Agriculture. He holds a bachelor degree in Agriculture & Technology and a post graduate diploma in Agribusiness & Plantation Management.

Contact details:
Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development
306, Rohit House, Tolstoy Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Phone: 011 2373 1128
Email: ed@card.org.in
Web: http://www.card.org.in/

Rajendra Bhaskar Lohar – auto-mechanic designs and invents low-cost multi-purpose tiller for farmers

Auto-mechanic designs and invents low-cost multi-purpose tiller for farmers

“I want to create affordable and functional farm machinery for the farmers and not high-priced show piece that doesn’t reaches the masses,” says Mr. Rajendra Bhaskar Lohar, mechanic turned farm machinery inventor. He hails from Pachora village, Jalgaon district, Maharashtra. His invention, the low-cost mini tiller is used for marking, sowing, tiling, weeding, mulching and other farming activities. A farmer can also use it like a mini tractor. “It can be used in multiple ways. It is the solution for the labor issues in farming.”

The tiller effectively sows maize, sorghum and pearl millet crops. Besides for crops like cotton it can be used for marking before sowing. It is a gear driven machine available is petrol and diesel version. The gears of the tiller can be changed both by hands or feet.  “The efficiency and performance of both models is very good however farmer must select the model based on his usage. The diesel version tiller runs continuously for 5-6 hours and can cover up 3-4 acre while the petrol model is functional for 2-2.5 hours and can cover up 1.5-2 acre. The difference lies due the capacity of fuel tanks in petrol and diesel machines.

The delivery schedule for the machine is 7-8 days.  The petrol model is sold at Rs. 20-25 thousand while the diesel model is priced Rs. 35-40 thousand. “I have priced it less because it must be accessible to farmers so that they can adapt farm mechanization and increase their farm production. Presently there is fear in them for switching on mechanization because it costs more and maintenance plus operation cost is additional. I assure them that with regular maintenance like cleaning, oiling and fixing the internal parts the tiller can work for more than fifteen years. Rest we are always a phone call away for all sorts of repairs and fixation,” claims Mr. Rajendra.

Mr. Rajendra developed this machinery on the basis of his years of experience as auto-mechanic and feedback from farmers. “I designed the tiller through hit and trial method! I don’t have any engineering degree or a teacher to guide me. I kept making and breaking the parts of tiller with the ultimate aim to develop low-cost machinery that makes farmers’ task easy and simple on the farmlands,” he adds. It took consistent efforts of three years to actually convert an idea into functional machinery. He self-funded the innovation with the profits earned from his garage where all sorts of vehicles are repaired proficiently.

Speaking about designing farm machinery without having any know-how on farming, he says, “It was my farmer friend Motilal Patil who gave me a complete walk-through on working of a tiller. Based on the same I designed mini power tiller using the engine of a scooter. He frankly told me about the problems faced while using my tiller on the field and I kept correcting it under his guidance. Yet in order to be more accurate I decided to be near to the farmers thus handed over my garage in Jalgoan to my team and moved to Pachora village in Jalgoan district.”  With more close interactions with many farmers in the village the tiller attained the perfection. “I used to ask the farmers to use the tiller for free and return it back with their feedback. It was continuous process and finally the tiller was ready to be sold commercially.”  As the tiller is economically priced and good after sale-service is offered Mr. Rajendra’s tiller is gaining popularity locally as well as in other states of India.

In time to come Mr. Rajendra plans to include new implements to the tiller so that 70-80% of farming activities can be completed easily. “I shall be working alongside the farmers so that the performance of the tiller improves on the field. The feedback and advice from farmers shall be considered utmost as they are the end-users,” he adds.

Contact details:

Mr. Rajendra Bhaskar Lohar

Plot No – 10, Jargaon Chaufuli,
Banoti Road, Siddhivinayak Show Room, Neighborhood, Pachora, Taluk- Pachora,
District – Jalgaon, Maharastra,Mobile: 09975393181,Email: ahiren95@gmail.com

Innovative Agrilife Solutions – improves farmers’ income with contract farming

Improves farmers’ income with contract farming. Initiates process with conventional farming later turns them organic

“In the beginning farmers are asked to associate with us only with one acre cultivation continuing their usual agricultural practice of using chemical based farming inputs. Later if they find it gainful they can increase their acreage and even adopt chemical free farming. We inform them about our contract farming norms and never persuade them to grow for us on buy-back guarantee. Nonetheless as our farming model is simple and transparent farmers in our network are increasing steadily,” says Mr. Sachin Kale, Founder, Innovative Agrilife Solutions. Organization was established in 2016 at Medhpar village, Bilaspur district, Chattisgarh. There are 167 farmers associated with them till date. The total farming acreage under contract farming is 300 acre.

sachin kale- pic 2

“As majority of the farmers are small and marginal I neither wanted to buy their farmland nor take it on lease because they lose the ownership. Instead I wanted them to continue farming themselves, provide them the planting material, monitor the crop growth, assist in solving production related problems if any, buy their produce and sell it to the bulk buyer. In this way their income gets assured and sometimes they also get perk when part of the company’s profit is shared with them,” he describes the drive behind venturing into contract farming. In the contract, farmers are quoted per kg price of their produce in place of the lump sum amount. They grow more they earn more. The price is decided on previous year sales figures. “We stay in touch with our farmers always right from sowing till harvesting. We have appointed agricultural officers and consultants to train the farmers and the end produce is tested in the laboratory for the quality check. It is all well-planned and documented. There is no room for manipulations or cheatings!”

When asked the need to design two models of contract farming that differs on the basis of crops grown and farming methodology, Mr. Kale responds, “I didn’t want to force the farmers to change their farming practices immediately as their entire livelihood is based on the farmland. So we created two models.”

 

The first model is conventional (using chemical inputs) farming model in which two basmati paddy varieties are cultivated known as HFT and Vishnu Bhog. After harvesting paddy seasonal vegetables are grown. Few to name are bottle gourd, brinjal, tomatoes, ridge gourd, beans etc. “We also grow spinach and coriander in this model. Except potato and onion we try to grow all the vegetables. We consciously grow seasonal vegetables because it sells easily as the demand exists and entire produce is sold the same day as it is harvested,” Mr. Kale explains.

sachin kale- pic 4

In the second model June – December desi rice variety ‘Dubraj’ is grown followed by peas or maize. It is 100% chemical free farming model. “After harvesting Dubraj paddy, we grow peas as it fixes nitrogen in the soil, again Dubraj paddy and then later maize is cultivated to fix the potassium content in the soil. These three crops in two years cycle strike the nutrient balance in the soil and have been standardized. Our contract farmers are asked to follow it stringently,” he says. Dubraj rice is one of the oldest rice varieties grown in Chattishgarh region. It is 150 days old crop, grown organically and is rich in medicinal properties. It is premium quality rice sold at price above Rs. 100/kg. “The demand of Dubraj rice is exceptionally high even when we sell it at premium price! We sell the entire produce in Chattisgarh itself, no need for looking for market out of the state. We have blocked the sales order till 2018. This implies the rice is sold even before it is grown! When farmers gain substantial confidence they try to shift to this model and slowly we turn their farmland 100% chemical free. Besides sale of Dubraj rice is one of the examples to showcase the prospects farming profession has in India if done with sincerity and dedication,” asserts Mr. Kale.

 

Mr. Kale left his lucrative job with Punj Lloyd and lavish life at Gurgaon to become farmer! “After years of working in corporate world in the cities that are stressed with pollution and no-open space I thought of working for self, close to the family and far away from the robotic life. Secondly food industry is very important but neglected completely and farmers are struggling at every step. Thus on experimental basis I decided get into farming and make a difference,” he shares. It all started in June 2014 on 25 acre ancestral farmland with soil and water testing. The first crop was a complete loss as Mr. Kale didn’t had any experience and knowledge of crop cultivation. “However later with the assistance of my grandfather I got the breakthrough in farming and started making profits. After the success of the second crop there is no looking back! Now our own farming acreage has been increased to 67 acre.” Later to help farmers prosper he started contract farming.

sachin kale- pic 3

 

Future plans at Innovative Agrilife Solutions are to set up a complete chain where they would provide their farmers with in-house produced seeds and bio-farming solutions. “We have already started working on production technology for seed and bio-farming solutions. Secondly as organic food market is growing rapidly we are working to tap it by reaching more number of people by setting up the shop. It is in process and shall be launched soon,” he reveals.

Based on his on-field farming experience Mr. Kale insists farmers to work on TAB terminology. T stands for technology, A for awareness and B for bank. “We farmers have to use the technology to raise our awareness that ultimately increases our bank balance. Technology is available and we have to use it to best of our advantage then farming will always be profitable,” he signs off.

Contact details:
Innovative Agrilife Solution
Shop No. 01, Kale Wada Tilak Nagar, Main Road, Bilaspur – 495001, Chhattisgarh, India
Phone: +91-8806667576, +91-9425530260
Web: infoagrilife@gmail.com

Libra Dairy Farm – rears exclusively Sahiwal breed cows for A2 milk

Rears exclusively Sahiwal breed cows for A2 milk and securing the heritage of Punjab state

“I started dairy farming in 2014 with HF cows. However later I came to know about the medicinal properties and nutritional content of A2 milk! I was then determined to feed my family with only A2 milk so I thought why feed my customers with low-quality and not-so-healthy A1 milk? Thereby I decided to rear only Indian desi cows as it yields A2 milk. Amongst all the breeds, I found Sahiwal breed was originated in Punjab so it further encouraged me to replace the existing herd of 10 HF cows,” shares Mr. Yadwinder Singh, owner, Libra Dairy Farm.  In 1.5 years he made his farm an exclusive Sahiwal breed farm.  At present the herd size is 20 including calves and cows.

Mr. Yadwinder Singh is passionate about his Sahiwal breed cows and finds it as an amazing milch breed of India. In his words, “This breed only gives back to its owner! I say so because it is adaptable to varied conditions, flexible to the fodder and resistant to diseases. I have reared exotic breeds in the past thus I am aware of difficulties faced with HF cows. On comparing Sahiwal with HF I find the former is much easier to look after and manage. Also more profits are earned with A2 milk sales than A1 milk. Above all the satisfaction for selling healthy milk is invaluable.”

Libra Dairy Farm - pic 1

He insists on allowing the cows to move freely. “In my farm we have fenced the shed in a way that it has adequate open and covered area for the cows to move as it wants. There is a separate tank for clean drinking water and timely supply of fodder thus cows have everything around it. Thus my cows are relaxed all the time. We leave the entire herd un-tied for minimum 12 hours! I believe it improves the milk yield and the cattle are stress free,” highlights Mr. Singh.

There is no specific fodder management followed by Mr. Singh nonetheless he prefers to feed the cows with balanced diet that comprises of grains, green fodder, dry fodder and other daily food items that takes care of vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrate requirements of cows. “In grains I give maize, bajra, corn and peanut husk. Berseem is given as dry as well as green fodder. Mineral and common salt are also given time to time along with wheat bran and mustard cake,” he states. (Berseem is a forage plant and green-manure crop especially grown in the alkaline soils. It is called Egyptian Clover in English.)  All the fodder is grown in-house. Entire cultivation is done using the manure made from the dung and urine of the cows. “We feed our cows healthy so it gives healthy milk. The basic foundation is simple. There is no need to complicate it by using chemical based farming inputs or buying fodder from market!”

Libra Dairy Farm - Mr. Yadwinder Singh

Sahiwal breed cows are diseases resistant yet these are vaccinated as preventive measure. “Also we do a regular health check-up although it seldom falls sick! So far only one cow has faced some problem and for the same it is given allopathic treatment. The milk of the sick cow will not be sold till it heals completely,” he asserts.

There is no bull in the farm therefore cows are inseminated artificially. “We source the best quality semen from Punjab State Government certified and authorized center. Our state government is encouraging farmers to rear desi cows so AI process has become hassle free from all aspects,” he says. Female calves are retained at the farm while male calves are either given away to other breeding centers or at local gaushala.

Libra Dairy Farm (4)

Milking is done twice in a day. Milk is sold at Rs. 70/litre. “We sell the milk raw and it is sold out completely. We are not able to fulfill the demand as awareness on A2 milk health benefit is increasing. Thereby selling is not tough,” shares Mr. Singh. At the moment there are 25 direct buyers who regularly buy milk from Libra Dairy Farm.  “There is also high demand for ghee and milk sweet (barfi). Sometimes if we have excess milk then it used for making either ghee or barfi that is sold at Rs. 1500/litre and Rs. 500/kg respectively. Ghee and barfi is made only with milk of our Sahiwal cows. In barfi too we just add sugar and rest no other ingredient is used.”

Replacing HF with Sahiwal breed cows turned out to be right decision for Mr. Singh as he is doing the affirmative farming that promises good health of his consumers as well as earning good income. “As I am located just 3 km away from the city I am able to get good price for milk and milk products. Dairy farmers who are based in the remote areas might find transportation a challenge but for me it is fine,” he asserts. In time to come he wants to increase the herd size to meet the increasing demand.

Libra Dairy Farm (6)

Mr. Yadwinder ensures the quality of milk is maintained and Sahiwal breed cow is secured. “It is important to safeguard our inheritance that also assures good health. Rearing this breed is easy and gainful even if it yields less quantity milk than HF but as the quality is superior! Based on my experiences with both the breeds I feel Sahiwal is any day the best milch breed of India,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Libra Dairy Farm
Mr. Yadwinder Singh
VPO – Libra, Tehsil Khanna, District Ludhiana – 141401, Punjab
Phone – 098143 32999
Email – veerbhatti504@yahoo.in

 

Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums -encourages farmers to take up lac cultivation for additional income

Encourages farmers to take up lac cultivation for additional income

“Definitely lac cultivation will improve farmer’s income! Revenues largely depend on the host plant, it could vary between Rs. 1.5-3 lakh/year/hectare,” asserts Dr. K K Sharma, Director, Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums, Namkum, Ranchi, Jharkhand. Lac is a natural resin secreted by a tiny insect known as lac insect. Lac is a kind of crop that can contribute 20-30% of agricultural income to the farmers. “Particularly in the rain fed areas where people are dependent on rain lac cultivation becomes substantial additional income for the farmers.” In the world lac trade India contributes about 60% followed by Thailand. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, are the main lac producing states in the country besides West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also contribute.

India produced lac has good export potential! “65-70% annual lac production is exported from India. There are many buyers for lac in domestic and international market. Farmers can sell it directly to the processing factories or close the sales deal through middlemen as well. Selling is not a challenge in lac farming,” highlights Dr. Sharma.

Lac Insects
Most popular lac insect in India is Kerria lacca ( Kerr). It gives 2 crops in year. It has two strains namely Kusmi strain and Rangeeni strain. “Kusmi strain normally matures and is harvested in January-February and June-July. Similarly Rangeeni strain yields lac in June-July and October-November,” he says.

There is another insect called K Sharda (tri-voltine). It gives three crops in a year. “It is found normally near coastal regions of our country where climatic conditions don’t vary much. Third insect is called Kerria chinensis, found in North eastern states of our country like Meghalaya and Assam. It gives two crops in a year. Depending upon the insect we are using, yield also varies along with the quality,” states Dr. Sharma.

All insects are easily available at Government research institutes. Previously lac cultivation was done throughout in the country but it reduced due to various reasons. The insects are adaptable to different climatic conditions yet cannot withstand temperature beyond 45 degree Celsius.

Host Trees
Lac cultivation can be done on different host forest trees however commonly there are three main trees namely Kusum (Schleichera oleosa), Ber ( Ziziphus mauritiana) and Semialata (Flemigia semialata). “Kusum saplings are planted at 12×12 m so approximately 70plants/hectare can be accommodated. 625 Ber saplings are grown in one hectare at the distance of 4×4 m while and Semialata is grown in one hectare in paired row system keeping the distance of 1×1 m. There will gap of 2 meters between the paired rows and depending upon this about 8000 plants can be planted in one hectare” he shares.

During the initial days of sapling transplantation of the host tree the plant is small in size therefore farmers are encouraged to grow intercrops mainly seasonal vegetables. “Once the trees gain height and the shade area increases farmers can grow shade loving plants like ginger and turmeric etc. Besides if Semialata is grown then vegetables can be easily grown in between the two rows,” he adds.

These forest trees demand less attention of the farmers yet after inoculating the lac insect on the trees it must be monitored closely at least twice a day. “Lac insect is inoculated only on soft and new branches. Therefore to get new branches the tree requires regular pruning before leaving the lac insect on it. Pruning period differs in all host trees. Kusum tree needs to be pruned at least 18monhts prior to insect inoculation while Ber and Semialata needs 6 months,” says Dr. Sharma.

Future of lac cultivation in India is extremely bright claims Dr. Sharma and explains, “Lac is a natural product. Its’ cultivation gives three products viz lac, resin and wax. All three products are utilized for different applications. These days as people are coming back to the natural products the prospects of high income are promising in lac cultivation.”

In addition to revenue generation from lac the host trees keep our environment healthy. “Farmers can do lac cultivation with other farming activities. 15-20% additional income from the same land through lac is guaranteed as the host trees can be planted on the farm boundary. Farmers must pay attention to lac and earn better!” he concludes.

Contact Details:
Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums
(Formerly Indian Lac Research Institute)
Namkum, Ranchi – 834 010
Phone: 0651-2261156
Email: iinrg.ranchi@gmail.com, kewalkks@gmail.com
Web: http://ilri.ernet.in/~iinrg/

Prema Estate – boosts coffee and pepper production with basin management techniques

Boosts coffee and pepper production with basin management techniques

Farming in scientific way is time efficient and result oriented. “My estate became a profitable enterprise by implementing basin management technique. It refers to using power sprayer, underground pipe for sprinkler and drip irrigation, submersible pump, earthing up, mulching, pulp parchment, organic manures and micronutrient application. Also we have rainwater harvesting ponds that fulfills the water requirement for irrigation in the estate. All these techniques to make farming profitable are referred as basin management techniques,” highlights Mrs. K.G. Prema, owns and manages Prema Estate. Her estate spreads in 35 acre located at three locations namely Kattemadu, Hoskeri and Maragodu village, Karnataka. The results attained by implementing basin management techniques are increase in crop production, improvement in quality of coffee and pepper and reduced labour requirements.

Coffee and pepper are the main crops cultivated at Prema Estate along with forest trees and fruit trees namely sapota, litchi and many varieties of mango. Coffee varieties grown are Robusta coffee variety and Paniyur 1. “We didn’t opt for Arabica coffee as it demands more maintenance, disease prone and yields relatively less (10kg/plant). On the other hand Robusta is sturdy plant that requires less maintenance and yields approximately 50kgs/plant,” she adds. Blend of organic and conventional farming practices are followed at the farm.

Timely irrigation and manure application is crucial for increasing crop production. All the plants and trees in the estate are fed with in-house prepared compost. To prepare the compost coffee husk, a by-product of coffee pulping is mixed with cow dung and trichoderma and left for composting. It saves 50% cost of fertilizer. Cow dung is obtained from the small dairy unit having four desi breed cows within the estate. “The compost makes good manure,” she asserts.

In Kodague region irrigation is done only from February- March to induce flowering in coffee. “We give water before it flowers. The flowers become brown and dry then after 15days once again we do irrigation. By watering in this way we can expect 90% of crop,” she emphasizes. Also pepper needs more water. “If water is given to pepper vines every day then it yields well. Therefore we use basin irrigation for pepper vines in which 40-50 litre water is given 4-5 times per vine at an interval of 5-7 days during May-June in case of delayed monsoon, regulation of shade by pruning the support trees to provide minimum 50-60 per cent exposure to sunlight.”

Irrigation is done through three rainwater ponds. Each pond has submersible pump run by electricity or diesel. The ponds are used for storing water and re-charging groundwater. “We bought wet land specifically to dig the ponds. These are 150 x100 feet in size. Wet lands are appropriate for storing rain water as it cannot be done in dry land farm,” she says.

Mulching is done for pepper root with leaves and other agri wastes such as weeds. “We cover the soil underneath pepper to avoid moisture loss is called mulching. Also we cover the climber all around with forest trees to save it from hot sun and high temperature. There are more than 200 trees/acre. The leaves from these trees fall on ground and convert into manure,” she informs. Mulching is done from December-May to protect the plants from hot sun.

Forest trees grown are silver oak, jungle wood, and Balangi tree. Amongst all the forest trees Mrs. Prema speaks about Balangi tree, “The pepper vines holds on these trees very well compared to other forest trees. We keep pruning this trees and it grows very fast. Its’ leaves are medicinally rich thus makes good manure. Instead of using various weeds for mulching, I feel these green leaves are more suitable for mulching. Balangi tree sheds its leaves in rainy season while gives shade in summers. Shade in summer is ideal for pepper plants.”

Further to boost the farm production Mrs. Prema insists on plucking coffee fruits little earlier than it matures. “If coffee beans are left on the plant to ripen for long time then health of the plant weakens. The plants also get attacked to berry borer. Thereby to avoid the loss we pluck the coffee fruits little early. This ensures the plants remain healthy for long and starts yielding soon. After harvesting coffee fruits, we prune the plants and irrigate through sprinkler. Consequently within a month it starts flowering,” she says. Another reason to harvest the crop in January-mid February is that usually in Kodagu region it surely rains in February end. With the rains the fruits drop and it is loss to the estate. “To avoid the same we essentially pluck fruits before it ripens. We hire more labours to pluck the coffee fruits that are fed in parchment pulper for processing and the work is completed in just 1month”.

Mrs. Prema has installed parchment unit to speed up coffee processing procedure. Time taken to process coffee beans in this unit is just one month which otherwise takes three months! In addition the output of this unit is excellent, “Coffee beans obtained from parchment are of export quality. It gives 47 kg coffee powder from 50kg bag while cherry coffee beans give 27kg in 50kg bag. In cherry coffee the outer husk is not removed and whole coffee bean is dried,” she shares. Annual coffee beans production at Prema Estate is 1500 bags of 50kgs.

Mrs. K.G.Prema independently looks after the entire estate. When she took over the estate, it had many problems but with the basin management techniques she turned it all right. “We must work in scientific way as it makes the operations less labour oriented and proficiency is increased. If technology is used in the right manner it is man’s best friend,” she signs off.

Contact Details:
Prema Estate
Maragodu Village, Madikeri, Kodagu district- 571 252, Karnataka
Phone: 08272-241555, 9448721170

Malagonda S Biradar – Ex-army soldier reaps good profits in poly house farming

Ex-army soldier reaps good profits in poly house farming

 “Post retirement from army I returned back home and decided to do farming. As we are agriculture based family we had been growing different crops in open cultivation and the economies had been the same always. I wanted to have some change and significant growth so decided on hi-tech farming!  I wanted to cope smartly with the constraints precisely high temperature in our region, less water and less space so selected coloured capsicum cultivation in poly house. The production attained in 10 acre open cultivation can be achieved in just 0.25 acre in poly house! Water is also utilized proficiently and temperature can be controlled very well,” says Mr. Malagonda S Biradar on his hi-tech farming venture.

His farm is located at Kanamadi village near Bijapur, Karnataka.  Other than poly house farming he also has pomegranate and grapes orchard as well as grows maize, green gram and black gram in open cultivation.

 Mr. Biradar constructed ploy house on 0.25 acre (10 guntas) with the capital investment of Rs. 11 lakh/0.25 acre. It is manually operated unit with rolling windows and has drip irrigation system.  ‘In our poly house we also have the provision to collect rain water. We have dug a pit that collects the rain water falling from the roof through the installed pipe. The same water is used for watering the plants with drip irrigation system. I have 0.25 acre poly house each for red capsicum and yellow capsicum,” he adds.  He opted to grow coloured capsicum as his first crop because it grows well even in less water. “We are able to produce 10-12 ton capsicum using 5,000 litres water in 0.25 acre.”

Usually the cost of saplings varies between Rs. 6-9/plant. The saplings are transplanted on 2 feet wide bed keeping the plant-plant distance as 1.5 feet and row – row distance 18inches. “I have planted saplings in a zig-zag manner. It implies one line of plants will be in a row and next line will have plants in between two plants of the first line. We may have one plant less in this system yet it is helpful because the gaps in between allows the free movements for working and the branches will get sufficient space to grow,” he explains.  Capsicum plants grow upto 15 feet thus leaves no space for intercropping.

To stimulate plant growth different bio-fertilizers are used. However to secure the crop from the fungus attack some chemical based fungicides are used ensuring there is no residue left behind. Pruning is also must for good growth of the plants. Leaving four branches in every capsicum plant rest all are pruned/cut.  It is done so to support the growth and weight of the capsicum from 150-300 gram. Fruits below 150 gram will not have good selling value in the markets. All four branches of the plant will be supported by thread. The plant will be twisted with the thread to aid harvesting and it looks like an umbrella,” elucidates Mr. Biradar.

Coloured capsicum is 9 months crops. It takes 3months to grow and then starts yielding for next 6 months. Green and red, yellow capsicum varieties are all different from one another. Initially fruits in all three varieties will be green in colour but as it matures the colour changes to red or yellow. It takes 20-25days. “It takes almost a year to complete one cycle of capsicum. Then we give gap of 6months before going for second cultivation. 6 months gap is necessary for the land and soil to have some rest. The land is exposed to sunlight by opening all the windows. After 2-3 cycles of coloured capsicum we then go for other plants as crop rotation. Now we have moved to Dutch rose cultivation,” states Mr. Biradar. Dutch rose is five year crop. “The plants are already flowering and ready to go to the market.”

Minimum selling price of coloured capsicum was Rs. 50/kg. “We used to harvest in the morning and pack in carton box lined with paper. The box was sealed with a plastic belt. The boxes were sent through bus to Mumbai market. We had a three-year tie up with one trader,” he shares.

As the present operations are functioning smoothly, Mr. Biradar next plans for setting up a vermicompost unit and a new poly house in 2-3 acre. In this new poly house too he shall be first cultivating coloured capsicum and then export it himself by taking other farmers too in the network. “I am convinced that agriculture is profitable if done with sincerity and taking advantage of technology. I earn close to Rs. 4lakhs/10guntas as profit after deducting all my expenses. Farmers need to think and act like entrepreneur and he will prosper!” he concludes.

 Contact Details:
Mr. Malagonda S. Biradar
Plot No. 14, Kalyan Nagar,Near Iyappaswamy Temple,Takke Road, Bijapur – 586 102, Karnataka
Phone: +91 7204030207

SourceTrace Systems – specializes in developing software applications to streamline agricultural value ch

Specializes in developing software applications to streamline agricultural value chains

SourceTrace Systems offers information and communication technology (ICT) based wide range of solutions to manage agricultural challenges at the ground level. A for-profit social enterprise specializes in developing mobile software applications that alert on natural calamities, assist in production, bring transparency in agricultural supply chains, remove the inequality that prevails in the systems and guarantee satisfactory income to the small and marginal farmers. Headquartered at Massachusetts, USA, company is actively operating in 21 countries across three continents namely Asia, Africa and Latin America impacting life of more than 500 thousand farmers.

Backed by leading social venture capital firms such as Gray Ghost Ventures, Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF), Serious Change LP and Bambili Group, company provides enterprise-class mobile transaction solutions in remote areas to industries working in critical sectors of developing economies with a focus on agriculture. It is charged with the mission to transform the global agriculture value chain enabling developing countries grass-roots resources to participate in the global supply chain and shown the impact it can have.

SourceTrace Systems provides solutions for agriculture, aquaculture, plantation, forestry and traceability. All the solutions provide complete visibility from field to market and track the value chain at the source even if it is located in remote or low bandwidth area. The real time information is proffered in most user-friendly way as the aim is to increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs.

SourceTrace ESE™ Agri solution: It is suitable for market and business processes. It tracks the flow of goods from the source to the central processing facilities irrespective of the location being in remote areas. Data is collected on mobile devices, processed immediately and given to the clients enabling them to respond to the market at the earliest. Benefits of this solution are global visibility of operations and supply chain, greater transparency, ensure source traceability, near real-time business intelligence, reduced operational costs, increased internal controls, better resource management and increased capacity to grow.

SourceTrace ESE™ Aqua solution: It is tailored solution for the aquaculture industry. It proffers detailed visibility of aquaculture value chain and operation from pond to market. Apart from the transparency and e-traceability in aquaculture operations and supply chain, this solution provides better resource management and pond health monitoring systems. It is highly Scalable from hundred to thousand of ponds. Real-time business intelligence, reduced operational costs and internal controls systems for enhanced quality control are other benefits of this solution.

SourceTrace ESE™ Agri Farm Traceability Software (FTS): Farmers deserves the recognition for the hard work they invest to produce the food and consumers should be able to trace the farmer and field where the food they are eating is grown. Therefore to give the farmers their due recognition SourceTrace has developed QR Code solution. It is the latest solution developed by the company. It helps to track the produce from the field to the consumer. Even without the use of internet customer can able to locate the farmer and his field before buying the produce. This system helps generating a trust factor among the consumers and also inculcates transparency in the supply chain of the produce. The organization using SourceTrace solution provides complete information about the source of the produce, thereby ensuring the transparency in the system.

SourceTrace ESE™ Plantation solution: It is the tailor made mobile appliaction for estate owners having tea, coffee, rubber, palm oil and other similar crop plantation. The solution designed ensures effective monitoring of fruit weight, bunch size, and other attributes of the plant as well as effectual management of pest and disease. It is done by mapping the entire crop area. It proffers best possible resource management.

SourceTrace ESE™ Forestry solution: It is a mobile data management solutions to map and manage forestry activities and provide complete visibility of operation on real time basis. It captures research experiment data and tracks the movement of mobile users. It is efficient in controlling thefts and other illegal activities in the forest.

With these solutions definitely operational efficiency in agriculture and its allied sectors will be improved and slowly all the loop holes in the system will be resolved. Founded in the year 2006 SourceTrace System has evolved largely by consistently utilizing the digital and mobile technology in the finest way to make the solutions user-friendly and proficient under the leadership of Dr. Venkat Maroju.

Dr. Venkat Maroju became part of the organization in 2012 as CEO. He holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, Ph.D. in Engineering from Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, Masters in Engineering from Indian Institute of Science. He has extensive grassroots-level experience with social enterprises such as microfinance institutions, farmers’ cooperatives, sustainable agriculture, rural supply chain and renewable energy. Being from remote area of Telangana, he is well aware of the hardships of a farmer therefore using the technology has made the agriculture value chain sustainable, transparent and equitable – thus empowering hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in developing countries. In addition he has enabled SourceTrace System to attain a unique recognition in the global market by keeping the focus exclusively on agriculture and its allied sectors.

Contact details:
SourceTrace Systems
“Classic Towers”, 7th Floor, Door No 101,, 1547 Trichy Road,, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641018
Phone: 0422 300 9000
Email: info@sourcetrace.com
Web: http://www.sourcetrace.com/

In Conversation with Dr. Venkat Maroju-

How SourceTrace Systems is bringing the change in agriculture?
In agriculture small and marginal farmers play a vital role as they are the ones producing food for the masses thus we refer them as ‘First Mile’. They produce 70% of the food consumed by the world’s population! Even being the facilitators of survival of mankind this first mile of agriculture suffers the most. Their life conditions should be improved and it can be done by providing them with the informative guidance on various aspects such as production, harvesting, value addition, marketing and so on. There are more than 500 million farmers in the world who need immediate help. To reach all of them and manage enormous data in agriculture we at SourceTrace Systems use the power of digital technology.

We have number of applications to restructure the agricultural value chains in order to provide the fair credit and empower small and marginal farmers. To do so we provide tailored IT based solutions to small co-operatives, farmer producer companies, agribusiness corporate and government agencies working directly with these farmers.

Every minute detail about the farmers’ field is documented such as soil health, crop planting, plant growth status, harvesting etc. The collected data is digitized and given to the organizations (our clients) to have a close understanding of the farm condition. These organizations are then able to help farmers in best possible way by using the information provided by our mobile applications.

How the farmers are benefitted through the solutions offered by SourceTrace Systems?
On the production side we use lot of satellite based data management so that we can advice the farmers on planning their crop production. With such information they can plan the cultivation process and harvest to increase the farm yield. Life of farmer is tough and extremely challenging. First they invest their money for the crop cultivation and post harvest after supplying the produce to the buyers they again have to wait for 6-8 weeks for the payments. With our solutions we reduced this payment cycle to 2 weeks for one our clients who work with farmers.

Besides we connect the farmers to the modern world through digital technology. We give them access to sell their produce, equip them with first-hand information on using machinery to increase their farm yield and offer them visibility as an individual. For example our traceability solutions like QR Code are simple yet effective. It assists the organization that is committed towards food safety in the value chain. These traceability solutions also help the farmers to get higher price in the market there by increasing the value of the produce. It enhances the market linkage as buyers from domestic as well as international market can locate the source of the produce. Farmers who are part of this value chain get benefited as they are able to market their produce to international buyers due to the adaptability of SourceTrace Traceability solution through their associate organization.

What are the unique features of the products and services offered by SourceTrace Systems?
Our solutions can be used for any type of crop production. We can cater to all the variants in horticulture and floriculture. Secondly we work conveniently in 12-13 languages such as Spanish, French, English etc as well as regional languages such as Telugu, Hindi, Tamil etc. In our mobile applications we can support any local language required in very less time thus we find it hassle free to work globally. Thirdly, we are working in extremely remote areas in developing countries where poor connectivity is always a challenge yet we enable smooth operations to our clients because we smartly upload huge data on the server. We ensure their work is not hampered. Lastly all our applications are extremely simple and user friendly even for the field staff. We do not mind working on complex algorithms to create an easy to manage solution in front of the user. We are committed to add value to the core to simplify the agriculture value chains.

Are these solutions affordable?
Profit margins in agriculture first mile are certainly very thin thus we know organizations like farmers cooperative and farmer producers do have the financial constraints. Nonetheless being rooted strongly to the social purpose we want to reach to the small and marginal farmers therefore we our solutions to these organizations at highly subsidized price. At the same time we also work with big agribusiness corporate those have the power to pay well and we have the backing from resourceful foundations globally. In this way we are able to balance out and cater to various segments in the agriculture. We definitely want to empower the first mile of agriculture. For example we are working with a very small cooperative located at Araku Valley near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. This cooperative works with only 400 tribal farmers extremely marginal and having land holding less than 2 acre. We have offered our solutions to them because we want to bring the positive change in the lives of these farmers irrespective of all odds.

What are the future plans?
We are accelerating ourselves to reach 10 million farmers worldwide by improving our solutions consistently. We also plan to develop solutions for other segments in agriculture as well such as value additions, warehouse, packaging etc. We also will be enhancing our capabilities to use more satellite imagery, weather based advisory for benefitting the first mile of agriculture. Soon we will be 9 billion people living on the planet earth and as per UN calculations 700 million people are still malnourished. Thereby we have to produce 50% more food than our present production worldwide. To attain this goal the only way is to make small landholders farmers more efficient using the technology. We at SourceTrace Sytems are competent to do this and we will do it!

INR Rabbit Farms – recommends for good profits

Rears and breeds rabbits. Recommends it for good profits

Protein deficiency in India is on rise and it can be met with rabbit meet. As rabbits can be reared in small area and requires less fodder it is comparatively hassle free than other livestock farming feels Mr. Thiruvenkatam. S. He is engaged in rearing and breeding of rabbits. His farm, INR Rabbit Farms is located at Bangalore, Karnataka. He speaks with us about rabbit breeds, fodder, breeding and future plans etc. Excerpts:

In our country mostly cross-breed varieties of rabbits are raised namely New Zealand White, Russian Giant, Grey Giant, Soviet Chinchilla and Indian Black etc. These breeds are adaptable to the climatic conditions and good for a commercial farm. We have developed the farm in one acre and 10 gunta area having the capacity to raise 500 rabbits. We raise female rabbits for breeding while males for meat but 15% are used for breeding.

We sell female rabbits at Rs. 900-1000/piece while the male is sold for Rs. 450/kg. We also sell the start-up kit at Rs. 9000-10,000/kit having 7 females and 3 male rabbits. We have one more kit that is sold at Rs. 13,500/kit, it consists of cages and feeder along with rabbits.

Breeding is always a crucial task and demands lot of care. Learners of this business must take up breeding only after 2-3 cycles of rearing rabbits. It provides the required experience of understanding the nature of female and male rabbits. Late to which farmer should take up breeding. The rabbit breeder needs to be cautious to ensure the breeding stock of is of different clan as in-breeding is against the law of genetics and must be strictly avoided. Also once female rabbit becomes over weight then the capacity to reproduce is reduced.

 

Breeders are also supposed to maintain post kindling care and kindling care. We keep dry hay during delivery because dry hay has high protein content. Once bunnies are born we actually separate them from mother. We keep them in separate boxes for 15-20days. We make bedding out of hay and fur of the mother which is plucked near delivery in the boxes. Separating bunnies is good for Mother rabbit as it allows all of them to have same milk from Mother. There may be chances of some bunnies are strong and some are weak. Mother rabbit may not have the patience of more than 5-10mins for feeding. Once the time is over, the mother will start running away. In such a case all bunnies may not have drank milk equally and some might have been left hungry. It increases the chances mortality! Therefore we monitor the growth of bunnies very carefully.

A clean farm is a healthy farm. We keep the cages, floor and surroundings clean. Once in every six month we burn the cage in fire for disinfection and sterilization. The mud floor is swept daily and once in a week lime powder is applied. Every day the left over feed is removed before the next feed is given to the rabbits.

 

We feed mix of greens and dry fodder to the rabbits. In greens we grow napier CO7 and lucerne. In dry feed we give wheat husk, corn grains, green gram and tur dal grains. Dry feed is bought from the market. We feed rabbits thrice in a day, 7-8 am roughly around 200 gram green fodder, around 2 pm dry feed in the ratio 40:30:30:10 and 7 pm in evening again 140-200 gram green fodder is given. Along with the fodder we also give mineral salt and regular salt on daily basis. Fodder quantity varies depending upon the size of the rabbit, pregnant or lactation period. Clean drinking water is also essential for the rabbits. We have fixed up an automatic feeder (nipple) through which they can drink water as required.

Commonly rabbits do not face any major diseases but are prone to infections like kajji roga (skin infection affects ears etc), cold (running nose) and diarrhea. As they are in a close cage they also get infected due to stress and strain because the closed enclosure restricts their physical activities. We give Ivermectin for kajji roga once a month on regular basis. To boost their internal body growth we give liver tonics like liv-52, calcium-osteovit. Bunnies are given suspension of albendazole once in a month and ivermectin once in a month till 3 months.

Rabbit farming is having bright future because rabbit meat has the capability to fulfill the protein deficiency in our country. Besides this business is attracting many youth as it is lucrative. In order to make rabbit farming industry more organized we are in the process of establishing a formal FPO (Farmer’s Producers Organization). It shall be named as Karnataka State Rabbit Farmers and Breeders Welfare Association. Presently there are 800 farmers in our network across Karnataka who shall be members of this association. This association will put a full stop to in-breeding of rabbits, provide complete training to first-time rabbit farmers, offer buy-back for rabbits etc. It shall be one-stop for rabbit farming.

Other than the FPO set-up we are trying to increase the awareness on benefits of consuming rabbit meat. Many non-vegetarians are not know about its’ health benefits. Being in Bangalore we want to popularize and increase the demand. With FPO getting functional in next 2-3 months we are sure to supply in alliance with demand of rabbit meat. Rabbit farming is certainly a prospective business!

Mr. Thiruvenkatam. S holds degree in engineering and has worked for more 17 years in marketing domain. However attracted towards agriculture he started rabbit farm and owns an agro-forestry farm in Andhra Pradesh. He is promoting both vigorously.

(As told to Mamatha S R)

Contact Details:
INR Rabbit Farms
No. 4, 6th Cross, Vinayaka Nagar, Choodenpura PO, Near Kodipalya, Kengeri, Bangalore – 560 060
Phone: +91 98455 44894
Email: thirusvenkat@gmail.com

Centre of Excellence for Protected Cultivation – promotes growing vegetables and flowers in polyhouse

Promotes growing vegetables and flowers in polyhouse. Training and seedlings provided at subsidized price. Located at Jeedimetla, Hyderabad, Telangana

Technology of protected cultivation precisely greenhouse and polyhouse farming has been tested, certified and approved in India for its ability to increase the crop yield by solving majority of the problems faced by the farmers. However, farmers’ worry for appropriate training and sourcing the quality rich planting material required for the cultivation. “We are here to assist farmers in every way! Our organization has taken the responsibility for demonstrations and training to farmers and capacity building for officers on protected cultivation for vegetables and flowers. In addition we develop pluglings (seedlings) at our plug type nursery, the hi-tech greenhouse and distribute to the farmers at nominal price. Lastly we reach out to the consumers with our on-campus commercial store for selling vegetables and flowers produced at our polyhouses,” highlights Mr. L. Venkataraman Reddy, Director, Centre of Excellence for Protected Cultivation and Deparment of Horticulture, Telangana State. Standardization of crop production technologies for vegetable and flowers is also done at the centre and technology is transferred to the farmers through the training sessions. The organization is funded by State and Central Government. It is located at Jeedimetla, Hyderabad, Telangana.

Gerbera, orchids, carnations, cut roses, liliums, zypsophiphilla, limoniums etc are the main flowers grown at the center while vegetables cultivated are coloured capsicum, cucumber, brinjal, cherry tomatoes and all exotic veggies namely different types of lettuce, broccoli, zucchini etc. Established just a year ago, the organization has trained more than 4500 farmers on protected cultivation. It spreads in 10.5 acre has 18 polyhouses.

“Amongst 18 polyhouses we have 8 naturally ventilated structures and 6 walk in tunnels. One structure is hi-tech greenhouse exclusively used for developing pluglings (seedlings). These pluglings are distributed to the farmers engaged in polyhouse farming and open cultivation of vegetables. Annual production capacity of this hi-tech greenhouse is 1.50 crore pluglings and as of date we are developing and distributing 15 lakh seedlings including vegetables and flowers per month,” shares Mr. G. Rajkumar, Assistant Director of Horticulture, CoE Price varies between R.s 0.75-4/seedling. These are sold at subsidized price to general farmers while it is free for farmers belonging to tribal section.

When asked about the seedling quantity produced at the greenhouse, Mr. Rama Krishna, Horticulture Officer , CoE, explains, “We have made different crop colonies in all the districts of the state such as tomato, Brinjal etc. We take the seedling requirement from these crop colonies through the horticulture department officers, develop the seedlings in our greenhouse and dispatch the same to the crop colonies. Our horticulture extension officers will deliver the seedlings in the villages to the farmers directly.” The seedlings are of best quality that leads to more than 90% survival on transplantation and resistant to virus attack and seed borne diseases. “These seedlings can also be used in open cultivation. We are observing high crop yield from the farmers who are using our seedlings in open cultivation too. We have recorded 70-80 ton tomatoes in open cultivation while more than 100 ton in polyhouse. It is so because the seedlings are produced in controlled and extremely monitored production system.”

Farming practices in the polyhouse is mix of organic and chemicals. “We are regularly conducting trials to reduce the use of chemical based farming inputs. We are successful in growing green leafy vegetables completely natural while for other vegetables the trials are going on. Hopefully we will get the best results soon,” he asserts.

There are three types of training sessions conducted at the centre namely one day, three days and five days. These sessions impart blend of theoretical and practical knowledge. “Our objective is to encourage every farmer to start growing vegetables or flowers in their farm as it will improve the production and so will their livelihood. The capital investment in our center is made by the government but now day-to-day operational expenses are being managed by our three activities viz training, commercial store and seedling sales,” shares Mr. Rama Krishna.

Future plans at Centre of Excellence for Protected Cultivation are to export the flowers to the foreign countries, reach more farmers and encourage them for protected cultivation by giving good training and planting material.

Protected cultivation of flowers and vegetables will certainly improve the income of farmers as the capital investment is subject to 50-75% subsidy. “In our Telangana state farmer is entitled for 75% subsidy for poly house farming. It is a substantial financial support given by the government. Rest we are here to give production guidance. Mostly the break even is one year. If the farmer works sincerely then surely he will attain success and expand his operations in protected cultivation,” concludes Mr. Reddy.

Contact details:
Centre of Excellence for Protected Cultivation
Jeedimetla, Hyderabad, Telangana
Phone: 8374449392, 07702530055
Email: coejeedimetlahyd@gmail.com

Fresh Produce Value Creation Services – integrates agri supply chains working directly with farmers

Integrates supply with demand, minimizes wastage and offers transparent transaction support to the farmers

“Indian agriculture sustenance and farmers income will improve only through supply chain efficiencies and not by calculative buying model from gullible farmers,” says Mr. Maruti Chapke, CEO and founder, Fresh Produce Value Creation Services. At his company all the farmer’s farm produce is bought irrespective of the quality grade. “Fresh fruits and vegetables have low shelf life and in that if only ‘A’ grade produce is bought from farmers then they find it extremely difficult to sell ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade produce. They would need to toil around the mandi to sell their ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade farm produce and sell for loss! Sometimes even the produce is wasted. So at my company we buy entire stock from the farmer, grade it and then sell to our B2B clients. We try our best to minimize the food waste.” Company procures fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers and sells to its B2B clients – retailers, wholesalers, food processors, restaurants, exporters and institutional kitchens across Mumbai, Pune & Hyderabad. All the produce is sold under the brand name Go4fresh. It has 40 vegetables and 8 fruits in its product portfolio including exotic, regular and organic.

Company was started in the year 2013 with 23 farmers in the network producing vegetables and fruits conventionally using chemical based farming inputs. Today the farmers have increased to 600 out of which 65 farmers are purely organic and another 200 are in the conversion period. The business model ensures to give the best price to the farmers they deserve for producing vegetables and fruits. “The price we offer to farmers is always little higher than the market price. We fix selling price for their produce before cultivation,” he asserts. If the market price of any commodity increases then the premium is shared with the farmers however in case of drop in price the loss is absorbed by the company!

The packaging of the produce clearly mentions if the product is organic, “It takes three years for the conversion from conventional to organic farming. Accordingly we mention it on the packaging such as one year conversion, two year conversion and certified organic (after three years). We keep 100% transparency on all our transactions with consumers,” states Mr. Chapke.

In addition to perk up farmers’ income Mr. Chapke recommends farmers to reduce the production cost because in agricultural commodity market selling price fluctuates tremendously. To reduce production expenditure only way out is to use farm made agri inputs and it opens the door for conventional farmers to turn organic. To lessen the expenses farmers are encouraged to work in group. “We provide the technology transfer to make agri inputs using farm available ingredients. They are also encouraged to maintain a seed bank. With the use of farm based agri inputs the water required for irrigation also reduces and soil fertility improves consistently. It not only reduces their farm expenditure but makes farmers more independent. They get confidence by working in the group and slowly quit chemicals completely to turn organic,” highlights Mr. Chapke.

Awareness on organic food exists in the market so demand is high but there is no consistent supply subsequently the price of organic food is premium. “The reason being at farmer’s level there are few myths about organic farming such as low yield, hard work to prepare the farm yard manure, insufficient quantity to feed the soil etc. Also farmer gets attracted towards organic farming only with respect to selling price and he seems less concerned with improving the soil quality, growing nutrient rich food and less production expenses. Therefore to integrate supply with demand we encourage farmers to grow fresh vegetables and fruits organically. We closely interact with the farmers and explain them the non-monetary benefits of the organic farming,” he elucidates.

As farmers are trained and provided the guidance company also takes initiative to educate the consumers on identifying organically produced fruits and vegetables visually because they should not be duped too! “Consumers are aware about the health benefits of eating chemical free food but they are often cheated as they cannot identify organically grown vegetables and fruits. So we train them such as colour of cauliflower is always creamy yellow not white, native tomatoes will have more seeds, okra seeds will be bigger in organic variant and so on,” he shares.

By 2025 Mr. Chapke aims to have 65% of his transactions only in organic and also bring down the cost of organic by increasing the production area. “We are working robustly to make farmers quit using chemicals. And by 2030 it should be 100% organic. It is very much achievable and I am sure we will do it!” he signs off.

Mr. Maruti Chapke did post graduation from Manage, Hyderabad. Before the entrepreneurial bug bit him he served 15+ years in agri produce sourcing, operations and commodity trade with Future Group, Reliance Retail, HDFC Bank and Mahindra Shubhlabh. With Fresh Produce Value Creation Services (Go4fresh) he aims to organize and deliver market oriented demand and minimize distress situations in the farming community.

Contact details:
Fresh Produce Value Creation Services
#A/2, Mafco Market Yard, Sector – 18, Turbhe, Navi Mumbai – 400 705.
Phone: 022 6640 9191
Email: maruti.chapke@go4fresh.in
Web: http://www.go4fresh.in/

Green Foundation – conserves and exchanges local and indigenous varieties of seeds

Conserves and exchanges local and indigenous varieties of seeds

“Our Community Seed Bank (CSB) is more than a store house to distribute/market seeds in a sophisticated storage facility controlled for temperature and humidity. It is a system where farmers have developed skills to meet their specific requirements of seeds such as quality, resistance to pests and pathogens, adaptation to soils. Local farmers have established their own seed networks to facilitate seed supply to their fellow farmers, families and local markets,” says Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad, director, Green Foundation.

Bangalore, Karnataka based Green Foundation was established in 1997 with the aim to empower small scale and marginal farmers of the country. To do so the foundation focused on conserving the local seeds and increase reliance on biodiversity-based ecological agriculture. Seeds are stored at Community Seed Bank. These banks are established at each cluster level where as few are working as sub centre. “We have developed BDSP\ABA (Business Development Service Provider) who visit different villages in respective cluster and explain about availability of quality seeds at these seed banks. Apart from this, recently we have established cattle feed selling centre at head quarter level. We have connected community seed bank with cattle feed selling centre for mutual benefits, they are also selling fodder crops to reach out more farmers,” she adds. Farmers are provided backing for developing entrepreneurial skills and improving market linkage for their produce. Lastly traditional agricultural methods have been reintroduced in conjunction with modern organic techniques upholding agro-biodiversity. “Agricultural diversity is most essential component of organic farm in which lies the future of food for humanity.”

Community Seed Bank (CSB) is managed by women’s groups. “They have the capacity to select the seeds, store the seeds and maintain the germination to the level of improving their performance,” asserts Dr. Vanaja. At CSB the seeds are stored under ambient conditions following the traditional storage methods using the plant based materiel to prevent insect attack. The seeds belong to the geographical locations where seed banks are situated. The seeds are basically subsistence crops that farmers from the dry land regions maintain as part of the multi cropping system.

Initially there was no financial transaction at CSB but now the system has been changed. Dr. Vanaja explains, “We were distributing indigenous seed free of cost and farmers had to return double the quantity once they harvested their crops. However there were few challenges faced like quality of seeds returned by the farmers was not good while some farmers found it difficult to return the seeds citing some problems. Also as the seeds were supplied free farmers were didn’t respect the system to the core! Thus for past 3 years we have redefined the system with new rules and strategies.” As per the new system CSB have been re-registered as ‘Community Seed Bank And Seed Producer Group’ and converted as social venture. Seeds are no more sold for free. Farmers can place their seed order and it gets delivered to them at village level. Seed multiplication is done with selected farmers by giving them buy back guarantee at premium price.

When asked about the infrastructure facilities at CSB she says, “Cluster based each CSB has its own building well equipped with solar lamps. It is constructed by using local building materials such as mud bricks, mud tiles, cane and other materials. The local building materials help maintain the room temperature and moisture level according to the seasons.” Every building has adequate space to keep different types of storage things like mud pots, gunny bags and metal containers based on quantity and nature of seeds. The seed are preserved using traditional methods based on the type of crops and quantity till next season. Each seed variety is stored separately in different container by proper labeling. “Besides each CSB has moisture level checking machine to ensure the seeds have desired moisture level when procured from the farmers. Seeds are dried under shade to avoid moisture content.” CSB has now become financially independent and serving the farmers proficiently.

Green Foundation has gained adequate experience in setting up seed banks that run profitably. “We want to utilize this experience to assist farmers’ groups in establishing more such units to preserve native seeds and provide access to good quality planting material to progressive farmers. We are in process to replicate the same model in Kulburgi in northern Karnataka and Pudukotai inTamil Nadu with support of Vrutti organization. In other states as well we are ready to provide the assistance to all those who are genuinely interested in safeguarding the native seeds of our country,” she asserts.

Dr. Vanaja concludes, “The focus on farming is not aimed only on increasing yields alone and improving profits but on maximizing the harmony in nature and self sufficiency for the small farmers. It can be achieved by understanding nature’s way to cope with biotic and abiotic stress and following the nature’s order of evolution. Secondly the philosophy of farming is based on internal inputs and recycling and efficient use of energy within the farm.”

Contact details:
Green Foundation
#25, Raghavendra Nilaya, AECS Layout, Ashwath Nagar, Bangalore – 560094, Karnataka, India
Phone: 091- 9845081040, 080-26783858
Email: earthbuddy@gmail.com
Web: http://www.greenconserve.com/

Farmer Club Himachal Pradesh – jointly grows and sells seasonal vegetables and stevia for better returns

Jointly grows and sells seasonal vegetables and stevia for better returns

“Farmers are quick learners and hard working but lack the awareness on the changes taking place in agriculture. Also in Himachal Pradesh the land holding is less and farmlands are uneven. Therefore to resolve these issues we like-minded people formed one common entity that is facilitating the farmers to work in groups,” says Mr. Rakesh Kumar, one of the representatives, Farmer Club Himachal Pradesh (FCHP). Adopting new crops, integrated farming, value addition and joint selling are the main focus of the club. “We are also working towards creating a unique recognition for our state in Indian agriculture industry just the way we are renowned for tourism.” In all there are 250 active farmers in the group at the moment. It is located at Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh.

Majority of farmers are having very small land pieces so their poly houses are also small. Across the state poly house in small areas like 250-500 sq meters are commonly seen. Farmers are able to produce reasonable quantity of the crops as per their capability however the problem comes in selling! “To transport smaller quantities of vegetables or any other agricultural products to wholesale markets in New Delhi and Chandigarh is very expensive for an individual farmer. Thus it is compulsory to work in groups, grow similar crops to obtain bulk quantity and sell jointly. To facilitate the same we have created the farmer club. We farmers work together then it is gainful for all as our state is gifted with best climatic conditions and crops do not get easily affected by diseases or pest infestation. Also the percentage of chemical usage in our state is very less,” he adds. Mostly seasonal vegetables are grown in the poly house. “We will also be growing exotic vegetables after we group farmers together and bulk buyers are identified.”

Speaking on integrated farming Mr. Vikas Kumar says, “We are growing multiple crops like fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains. It is so because then we can have regular income from our farms all the year round. Amongst the herbs we are concentrating on stevia.”

Stevia is a long term cash crop. Once planted it generates revenue in every 2.5-3 months for four years consistently. It is a sturdy crop and resistant to diseases therefore requires very less farming inputs and monitoring. “In order to make it further realistic we are doing contract farming. Under contract farming planting material, production assistance and buy-back guarantee is provided. Stevia selling price/kg is mentioned in the contract before the crop is cultivated! It gives assurance on sales,” he informs. The tissue culture plants of stevia are sourced from Noida. “We have selected tissue culture plants because it would have higher percentage of glycosides (approximately 10-13%) and also give higher yield of leaves.” The soil ph required is 6-7.5 and the plants grow only with bio-inputs such as vermicompost and trichoderma etc. It doesn’t grow in water logging area.

Training on cultivation, harvesting and packaging stevia leaves is provided. After every harvest the production increases in the next season. On an average annual production of stevia in the first year is 1500-1800kg/acre. Then after there will be an increase of 15-20%. Neat and clean leaves with moisture level 8 in dry condition fetches Rs. 110/kg. “Right now we are growing in 60 acres but post winters by February 2018 the acreage for stevia shall be escalating substantially. The goal is to grow stevia in 500-1000 acre collectively,” he shares.

Future plans are to make Farmer Club Himachal Pradesh into a legal and formal FPO where all the farmers will be share holders and would be contributing in different activities of farming from cultivation till marketing. “Also interactions with Government are going-on to set-up stevia processing plant to make the extract and value added products. Farmers income will increase only when we scale operations to processing,” he states.

Mr. Rakesh Kumar himself is a farmer and also offers poly house and drip irrigation solutions to the fellow farmers. In his words, “Farmers in Himachal Pradesh are now working in co-operation with one another. By selling our farm produces jointly and growing stevia we are going to increase our annual income atleast three times. As the farming practices are modified and new crops like stevia are cultivated the future looks promising.”

“Stevia is boon for the farmers as well as consumers. Previously as the crop was not approved by FSSAI it could not be used commercially but now after the approval the future is promising as stevia extract is allowed to be used in food processing industry as a healthy sweetener. Consumers would fall less prey to the lifestyle disease ‘diabetes’ by consuming stevia extract in place of sugar. Demand is surely going to increase substantially therefore we are encouraging fellow-farmers to prepare ourselves beforehand to be able to reap maximum gain in time to come. We are hopeful stevia will be a life changing crop for us,” he concludes.

Contact details:
Farmer Club Himachal Pradesh
Mr. Rakesh Kumar
Village Kanlog P.O. Banah Ki Sair Tehsil, Pachhad District, Sirmour – 173024, Himachal Pradesh
Phone: +91 8837671544, 9418974425
Email: farmerclubhp@gmail.com