Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Article on Savera Farms


Last month, we were approached by SeedMe - an online portal that highlights new entrepreneurial ventures across industries. The editor contacted me via linkedin and wanted to gather more information about our current activities and our future plans. Some of you have already visited our farm at Sivagangai and seen the developments here but for the interest of others who have not been able to visit or contact us, following is a good articulation of where we are and where we are heading.
I hope you enjoy reading and as always, do give us your feedback, ideas and suggestions!

How this idea to start your business flourished?

While I was in the US, I was intrigued by the growing awareness about ‘Green Energy’. I shared my vision with my brother and we started exploring opportunities in biomass renewable energy. We soon realized that along with biomass, commercial agriculture would be a viable option for the Indian market. Agriculture in India still provides an attractive opportunity if coupled with clarity of purpose goal, scientific execution and penetrating marketing. Currently government power purchase agreements are not very favorable for the Independent Power Producers (IPP) hence our focus changed to production and marketing Melia Dubia for timber/plywood industries. Based on our experiences so far and market feedback, we are very optimistic about our plantations and are enjoying unparalleled job satisfaction.

Your initial investment in starting this business?

Total capital outlay is spread over a few key tasks. As expected the initial land acquisition is the largest single investment but there were several other tasks with significant capital requirements as we developed our plantations. Aspiring agri-prenuers with limited exposure to agriculture should be aware and not underestimate the costs related to Land Improvement, Farm Infrastructure and Annual Interest Burden. Those purchasing uncultivated or fallow land should be especially careful and include sufficient cost contingency in their purchase decision.

Tell us about educational background & experience.

My formative years were spent at The Doon School in Dehradun, Uttranchal. Living in a pristine environment, I became accustomed to a clean environment, developed principles in conservation of resources and appreciated the proximity to nature. I participated in several environmentally conscious activities at school like leading our Paper Recycling Unit and conducting aforestation programs on the hillsides of the Shivalik and Lower Himalayan ranges. My higher education took place in the United States at Georgia Tech and Duke University from where I received my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering & Masters in Engineering Management respectively. After working for several years in the Semi-conductor industry, I realized I was not connecting with my interests and my passions lay elsewhere. Subsequently, I started discussing the potential of alternative / renewable energy with my brother which finally brought me back home to India. Credit goes to my father, an Air Force officer and his network. They undertook the humongous task of visiting over 110 farm lands before deciding on our current location at  Sivaganga. By far the most important decision an aspiring agri-prenuer will need to make will be the land selection. Finally, we started Savera Farms and agricultural activities in 2010. It has been a great journey so far.

To read more, click here..

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have a few questions of my own.

    1. Did you consider organic farming for the mango plantation and short term vegetable crops? If so, why did you reject the idea? Considering the fact that the land hasn't been cultivated on previously, it would have been easy to obtain organic certification right away without a waiting period of several years.

    2. Out of 140 acres, I understand you currently have around 30 acre under cultivation with 10 acres for UHD mango plantation inter-cropped with short term vegetable crops and 20 (?) acre of Melia Dubia. Is that correct? If so, what are your plans for the rest of 110 acres. (I take it that Hydroponics will be on a much smaller area considering the costs involved).

    3. Which hydroponics crops are you evaluating? I understand that different varieties of lettuce is popular winter crop with hydroponics and fetches a good price in the export market. Any preliminary findings from your evaluation?

    Thanks. Hopefully, the answers will inform other readers as well.

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    1. Mango UHD is based on higher number of plants per acre, coupled with an intensive fertigation schedule. Nutrients need to be externally given since the nature of cultivation inhibits absorption of nutrients to a large extent naturally. I feel that UHD and organic cultivation may not go together economically. I am meeting the Jain ppl at their farms next week and will try to get some more info on this.

      Plan for next phase would be have a mix of timber and horticulture crops. We hope to cultivate another 50 acres this year.

      Hydroponics/Greenhouse would be looked into after the second phase. Based on the info online, lettuce and color peppers seem to be strong contenders, but we need to research more on this.

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  2. Thanks for your responses. If possible, please update readers on possibility of using organic methods for UHD mango cultivation after your meeting with Jain Irrigation.

    I have a couple of last questions for now. Based on your experience do you think you could provide an estimate of per acre of redevelopment cost of land from never been cultivated on to cultivation ready (not including irrigation related costs)?

    Second, could you provide another estimate for drip irrigation costs per acre?

    Thanks again.

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  3. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It helps a lot of people like me.

    I recently read that Melia Dubia can be harvested in 3 years and sold to paper mills. In that case, do you feel its better than going for planting casurina? in terms of yield if its more or less the same, do you see any good things in Melia Dubia over casurina. I have heard that Melia Dubia is local to India whereas casurina is not. Please share your thoughts.

    -Raja

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    Replies
    1. Melia Dubia has applications in biomass, veneering etc. I am not sure about paper industry, but I would imagine they would take it as well. 3 years is too short, you need to at least wait 5-6 years to gain some decent mass. I have not researched casurina in depth but it gets you about 30,000 per year per acre (harvested every 3 years). A lot of these numbers have assumptions built into it. Talk to your local KVK, Horticulture department to determine what is suitable at your region.

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