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News                                                                                      AgriTech indiA  november & december 2017        9

         Back to the roots and                                                   Helping farmers reap


         shoots in Karnataka                                                     the benefits of tech

                                                                                   t  is  his  stint  as  the  CEO   visited  Israel  and  a  few
           A taxi driver, a studio photographer and a factory worker are among   Iof  a  tractor  manufacturer   countries in Africa, all of which
           scores of young people who have returned home to their villages from   that  helped  him  realise  the   had similar issues as in India.   ROHTASH MAL
           big, bad Bengaluru                                                    enormity  of  the  problem   “The  challenge  statement,”
                                                                                 confronting  the  farm  sector.   says  Rohtash,  “is  how  do   Rohtash,  the  company  also
                – Sathish G.T.                                                   One, farm labour was just not   you  get  technology  which  is   leases equipment. “We own a
                                                                                 available and to make it worse,   designed for large farms on to   lot and we are Uberising a lot,”
               fter he completed                                                 small farm holdings prevented   a small farm.”  he adds. It has trained people
               Class X, S. Dinesh of                                             large-scale   mechanisation.   You  cannot,  he  explains,   to  operate  the  machines.
          ASuragondanahalli,                                                     Two,  farmers  were  open  to   have  two  smaller  machines   Mechanisation  brings  down
          about 150 km from Bengaluru,                                           adopting   technology,   but   trying  to  do  the  work  of  one   costs  by  about  25  per  cent
          left his village to work in a                                          were not sure those who were   large machine. The other way   and increases productivity by
          public telephone booth in the                                          providing them with machines   to do it is, instead of using a big   nearly 20 per cent.
          bustling capital. For the next                                         would be available for them all   machine  in  a  big  field,  where   As the soya harvest season
          10 years, he would change                                              through.                owning  it  makes  sense,  can   drew  to  a  close  recently
          many jobs. But his salary grew                                            Besides,   he   says,   you use a big enough machine   in  Madhya  Pradesh,  EM3
          minimally, from Rs. 850 to                                             agriculture  should  be  viewed   in  a  small  field,  but  you  pay   aggregated  nearly  1,100  acres
          a few thousands. “I worked                                             as an industry with everything   only  per  acre,  according  to   a  day.  With  just  manual
          hard, sometimes from 4 a.m.                                            –   inputs   and   output   –   him.  The  idea  behind  EM3   labour,   this   would   have
          to late in the night, but at the                                       scientifically  measured  and   was to take the capital load of   required about 9,000 workers,
          end of the month, I was left                                           accounted  for.  Two,  farm   buying equipment away from   which number farmers would
          with little money.”                                                    productivity  should  not  be   farmers  and  get  them  to  pay   not  have  been  able  to  find  as
            That was when Dinesh   who once made a living   fodder, storage of fodder,   measured in terms of quintals   for what they use.  labour  has  become  scarce.
          noticed a news report   from a coconut farm. Now,   installing biogas plant and   per  acre,  as  is  being  done   Instead  of  sowing  seeds   Using  harvesters  and  other
          on progressive farmers   he also runs a brick factory   storing the milk. It then   in  India,  but  in  terms  of  net   haphazardly,  it  makes  sense   machines helped complete the
          in Karnataka’s Mandya   with his joint family. Their   supplies the organic milk   rupees per acre.  to  turn  crops  into  rows,   task  with  far  fewer  workers
          district, who had given up   annual income has grown   primarily to Bengaluru. For             which  makes  it  easier  to  use   and  in  a  much  shorter  time.
          jobs in Bengaluru to take up   substantially, boosting   every litre of milk, farmers   The aaha moment  equipment  for  everything,   Without  machines  available
          farming in their village. “I   the resolve of the younger   get Rs. 34. As many as nine   He  also  realised  that   right  from  sowing.  Getting   to do the job, farmers will shy
          was inspired by their story   generation to stay in the   farmers in the network earn   to   push   tractor   sales,   the  farmers  to  plant  in  rows   away  from  planting  crops,
          and decided to return to my   village.         nearly Rs. 3 lakh a month.   manufacturers  were  actually   required  a  mindset  change   especially critical crops such as
          village too,” he says.    Sharan, 24, is Kumar’s   “The significant thing is that   burdening  the  farmers  with   and a few crop seasons before   oilseeds. They would prefer to
            Today, Dinesh’s business   nephew and has a post-  many people have returned to   loans,   which   they   could   they  adjust  to  the  new  way   grow some crop that requires
          produces some 130 litres of   graduate degree. He got a job   their villages. I regard this as   hardly  repay,  pushing  them   of  doing  it.  You  have  to  tell   minimal labour.
          organic milk a day and his   as a teacher in a private school   a major achievement over the   further into indebtedness. For   farmers  why  growing  crops
          bank account is credited with   not far from home. But he   last seven years,” says Shashi   Rohtash Mal, who will shortly   in  rows  makes  sense,  why  it   Coherent farm tech
          nearly Rs. 1.2 lakh every   turned it down, joining hands   Kumar, CEO.  turn  64,  the  aaha  moment   will  raise  productivity,  says   That is why, says Rohtash,
          month. “Earlier, I remember   with his uncle instead. The   Dayanand and Kumar,   happened,  he  says,  when  he   Rohtash. “It starts from using   India  needs  a  coherent  farm
          when I went to a bank to open   dairy requires just four to six   two brothers from Kavala   was attending a conference on   machines to planting seeds in   technology   answer.   He
          a savings account, the officials   hours of work a day. “I left   Thimmanahalli; Sunil of Alur;   conscious  capitalism.  “It  hit   rows,  so  that  you  can  protect   points  out  that  the  software
          hesitated to even hand me an   the village after my studies as   Prabhu Kumar and Jagadish                             revolution  in  the  country  did
          application form,” he says.   I saw agriculture declining,”   of K. Bidare — they have                                 not happen on its own. It was
          Much has changed since:   says Kumar. “My family   all left Bengaluru jobs and                                         made  possible  by  institutes
          recently, a bank manager,   earned little from the 20 acres   returned. They earn between                              that   imparted   computer
          who happened to visit his   of land we had. Now we have   Rs. 80,000 and Rs. 1.5 lakh a                                education to graduates. That is
          village, met him to offer a   set a good example to show   month and own two-wheelers                                  the problem that EM3 is now
          loan.                  young people.”          and healthy bank balances.                                              grappling with. The company’s
                                    Of course, moving    “We can afford cars as well,                                            growth,  says  Rohtash,  is
          Against the tide       back was not easy. Families   but I don’t want to spend                                         incumbent  on  it  putting  up
            Dinesh is one of scores   opposed the idea, still   on one at the moment,” says                                      facilities  to  churn  out  2,000-
          of young men in Karnataka   attracted to the promise of   Prabhu Kumar, who worked   me. We have to approach the   them  and  harvest  the  crops   3,000  operators  of  equipment
          who are swimming against   urban salaries. Many relatives   in a Bengaluru photo studio   farmer on a pay-for-use basis.   using  machines,”  points  out   every  year.  For  the  Rajasthan
          a demographic tide, moving   suggested that even a grocery   two years ago. Interestingly,   And, the pay-for-use universe   Rohtash.  project alone, EM3 will require
          back to their villages after a   shop in Tiptur town would   along with his dairy, he also   need not be only tractors and   3,500-4,000 operators.
          stint in the city. And many   be a better idea than a dairy   runs a studio in the village.   harvesters,” says Rohtash.  In expansion mode  What  will  EM3  have  to
          of them, especially in the   farm. “Now, over the years,   “The dairy does not demand   Why  not  provide  all  the   EM3 kicked off operations   do  to  become  a  pan-India
          southern taluks of Tiptur,   they have realised that our   more than six hours. After   services  that  a  farmer  would   in  July  2014  in  Madhya   player? A lot of patience, a lot
          Arasikere, Kaduru and   decision was right. Others are   9.30 am, I am free and I go to   require  –  land  preparation,   Pradesh, with centres – called   of  cash  and  a  lot  of  software
          Chikkanayakanahalli, have   following us,” says Kumar.   the studio,” he says.  sowing,  transplanting,  crop   Samadhan   Centres   –   in   development.  “Think  of  what
          taken up the production of   After their return, Poornima   T. Ravi of   management, harvest and post-  Gadarwara and Hoshangabad.   an Uber would have to do to
          organic milk.          took up a job teaching   Maragondanahalli in    harvest  farm  management   EM3 has more than 20 centres   go all India,” says Rohtash.
            B.N. Vasanth Kumar has   mathematics in a government   Chikkamagaluru district was   –  as  a  service,  charging  the   in  Madhya  Pradesh  and   According  to  him,  they
          a Mechanical Diploma. He   college, but also sometimes   a taxi driver in the capital,   farmer on a per-acre basis? In   launched   operations   with   never  faced  a  challenge  in
          worked for meagre wages in   single-handedly manages the   bringing home about Rs.   short, introduce the concept of   McCain for potatoes in Gujarat   convincing  the  farmers  to
          a factory outlet in Bengaluru’s   fully automated farm.  10,000 a month, barely enough   Farming-as-a-Service  (FaaS),   and  entered  Uttar  Pradesh   use  their  services.  The  real
          Peenya Industrial Layout.                      to sustain a family. His farm   on  similar  lines  to  companies   earlier this year. The company   challenge was that they would
          In 2011, Kumar and his wife   Helping hand     produces 60 litres of milk   offering  software-as-a-service.   has entered into an agreement   be  with  them  right  through
          Poornima, who has a Masters   One major factor aiding   a day today and he earns   That was the seed of the idea   with the Rajasthan government   and that the company had the
          in mathematics, returned to   their move — and that of   around Rs. 40,000. “More   that  germinated  into  EM3   to  set  up  1,240  centres  across   farmers’ interests at heart.
          their village Bommalapura   nearly 160 other farmers — is   than the money, though, I am   Agri  Services,  which  Rohtash   the  State.  It  has  raised  about   For  this,  Rohtash  insisted
          in Tumkur district to set up a   Akshayakalpa Farms and   happy to be back home with   founded after he retired from   Rs.  100  crore  so  far  in  two   that  the  company  had  to
          dairy, where they now earn   Foods Ltd., a company that   my people,” he confesses.  an  active  corporate  career   rounds  of  funding,  first  from   integrate  itself  with  the  local
          about Rs. 90,000 a month.  was set up by a group of   Shashi Kumar calls this   that  included  stints  in  car   Aspada  in  June  2015  and  a   community.
            Not only are the young   software engineers in 2009 in   reverse brain drain. “They   maker  Maruti  and  tractor   second  round  from  Aspada   “It took a long time, but the
          returning, villagers who   Kodihalli in Hassan district.   returned when they were   manufacturer Escorts.  and  Global  Innovation  Fund   quality  of  conversation  kept
          once wanted to migrate   The company has created a   shown a model that works   Rohtash,  Chairman  and   in August 2017.  shifting,”  says  Rohtash,  with
          citywards have changed   network of farmers to whom   and increases their income.”   Managing Director, EM3, was   Initially,  EM3  relied  on   a lot of happiness. He believes
          their minds. Like Kumar’s   it provides technical inputs   This just might be a glimmer   joined  by  his  son  Adwitiya,   having its own equipment and   that  even  if  he  manages  to
          brother Neelakantha Swamy,   for cattle rearing, growing   of hope for the urban   CEO,  who  quit  a  career  in   Rohtash  even  made  sure  that   put  just  a  few  pieces  of  the
                                                         migration problem.      the financial services in Hong   the equipment were displayed   huge  jigsaw  that  is  Indian
                                                                                 Kong. The father-son duo took   at  the  Samadhan  Centres  to   agriculture in place, he would
                                                                                 time  to  study  the  problems   gain the confidence of farmers   have  contributed  in  a  major
                                                                                                                                 way to the sector.
          Karnataka government sees big                                          relating  to  agriculture  and   in  the  villages.  Now,  says
                                                                                 ...Continued from page 1
          scope for millets, pushes their                                        Bill Gates calls for hiGher productiVity,
          cultivation                                                            technoloGy inteGration in aGriculture

                                                                                 Need for better seeds   than the potential, he pointed   Chief   Minister   Naidu
            he Karnataka government’s                    opportunity  as  home-grown   To  increase  productivity,   out that cross-bred cows could   asked  Bill  Gates  to  work
          Tefforts to popularise millet                  solution  for  breakfast  instead   there  is  a  need  to  develop   yield more than twice as much   with  the  State  government  to
          cultivation seem to be yielding                of  foreign  foods.  If  there  is  a   better  varieties  of  seeds  that   milk as the typical indigenous   develop a model for the tech-
          results,  thanks  to  a  rising                market, farmers will definitely   can offer improved yields and   breed.  based  agriculture,  healthcare
          consumer   demand   based                      take  up  millet  cultivation,  he   nutrition,  while  providing   Recalling his first meeting   and sanitation.
          on  awareness  about  healthy                  said.                   tolerance  to  stresses  such  as   with   Chief   Minister   N   “We  will  constitute  a
          alternatives.          the  upcoming  International   The  State  government,  he   flooding,  drought  and  other   Chandrababu  Naidu  20  years   committee  in  which  I  will  be
            Krishna   Byre   Gowda,   Conference   Organics   and   said, intends to go for tie-ups   effects of climate change.  ago, Bill Gates said technology   the Chairman. I request you to
          Karnataka’s   Agriculture   Millets  to  be  held  from   with  large  food  companies   “Many   smallholder   had  evolved  over  a  period  of   be  the  Honorary  Chairman,”
          Minister,   cited   drought,   January  19-21  in  Bengaluru,   in  Mumbai  and  New  Delhi   farmers  in  India  still  use  the   time, helping farmers reap the   Naidu told Bill Gates. He said
          climate  change  and  erratic   emphasised  millet  cultivation   to   introduce   millets.   He   varieties  that  are  decades-  benefits of tech-based solutions   a  model  thus  evolved  can  be
          monsoon as the driving factors   to bring down prices so as to   pointed  out  that  the  area   old.  They  are  not  realising   in fintech and agriculture.  a  role  model  for  developing
          for  popularising  millets  such   make them more affordable.  under millets in Karnataka has   the benefits of newer, higher-  Citing   the   examples   countries.
          as ragi, jowar and bajra.  Millets  are  now  selling  at   fallen  significantly,  and  the   yielding  and  more  resilient   of   farmers   getting   The  Chief  Minister  said
            These  are  less  water-  an  average  price  of  Rs.  100  a   government  has  announced   seeds,” he pointed out.  organised  under  producers’   the  State  was  focussing  on
          intensive  crops  compared  to   kg  in  the  retail  market,  while   a  Rs.  34-crore  package  to   Bill  Gates  said  efforts   organisations, he said farmers   expanding  horticulture.  “We
          paddy or sugarcane and a shift   the farmers are getting around   encourage cultivation.  are  also  needed  to  improve   could  increase  their  incomes   now  grow  horticultural  crops
          to  millet  cultivation  will  help   only Rs. 40.  A  marketplace  for  the   the  productivity  of  the  dairy   if  they  became  part  of  such   in about 40 lakh acres. We are
          tide  over  the  water  crisis,  he   As nutritious cereals with   produce  and  incentives  will   sector  as  well.  Stating  that   associations.  planning to extend this to one
          said.  The  Minister,  who  was   low  glycemic  index,  millets   help  improve  cultivation,  he   Indian  dairy  farmers  are   crore acres,” he said.
          in  Kochi  for  a  roadshow  on   offer  tremendous  business   added.  getting  far  less  production   CM’s request
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