Monday, July 30, 2012

Using agri waste as a mulching source..

Finally, the rain gods showed some mercy at us and showered a couple of good spells in mid July. Not excessively moist, it was the right time to plough the intercrop area between the mangoes. After the watermelon harvest, vines and leaves were left on the ground to decay to enhance the organic content. 
Like last year, the plan is to sprinkle some Daincha seeds in between mango rows to augment nitrogen levels of the soil.
A 9-finger implement was used to plough the area. After a couple of runs, larger vines (entangled within the implement) were dislodged at the end of the field. In order to make use of the 'waste', it was decided to use it as mulch for the existing mango plants. Mulching results in suppression of weeds, retention of moisture and decrease in  soil temperature.
















Mulch placed under a plant.




In any agri related operation, it is imperative to use and reuse available waste and resources to augment soil quality and reduce maintenance costs like reduction in manure, fertilizers and watering etc..

Monday, July 23, 2012

Emerging Trends : IT in Agri

There appears to be a general consensus that the country's agriculture sector can do better with some encouragement, motivation to youngsters who are driven with a passion, and a dream to do something for the rural poor. “Ironically the government which keeps talking about encouraging youth to take up agriculture, does nothing to help us chip in,” says Mr. R.M. Thiruchelvam an IT professional from Alampattu, Sivaganga district Tamil Nadu.

Several problems
Mr. Thiruchelvam left a lucrative job as well as business plans nine years ago to take up the cause of rural development. With the support of like-minded friends he and his team did four years of intensive study of the social, economic, and administrative problems that are wrecking rural India. The team designed a comprehensive online system, www.it-rural.com to provide information and communication to increase the “per capita earning” at the village level.

Specific knowledge
“The model disseminates site specific knowledge at the village level at no cost to farmers. It is an employer-employee model. So a local person is not going to own the knowledge center. It is designed to overcome typical constraints such as social, geographical, and commercial barriers that are prevalent across the world in taking technology to the grassroots,” explains Mr. Thiruchelvam
It comprehensively addresses the key components of agricultural sector such as good quality and yield, better price realization to farmers, balanced production and strengthening institutional credit systems.

Lack of input
“There is no effective input validation available at the grassroots in the present system for rural activities, particularly farming. Information on demand forecast, cultivation procedures, input supply management, disease control, marketing, glut in production, desperate selling, impact of drought and flood are absent,” he says. The team wanted to showcase the model on a large scale to prove its efficiency. Their hard work yielded results. The Andhra Pradesh Government provided an opportunity for them to carry out a pilot project in Pulivendala, Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh. About 30 villages, 12 Panchayats, 40,000 people and 20,000 acres of agricultural land benefited. But the success lasted only for a short while. Sudden developments in the state political scene saw these youngsters grounded due to lack of financial support.

In fact, for the past two years Mr. Thiruchelvan is running from one state to another to meet different officials and experts to explain and showcase his findings. He believes that this concept can definitely provide a key to unlock different problems in the rural sector. But sadly, he has been ignored or refused an appointment.

Ideal tool
“IT is an ideal medium today for addressing several glitches a farmer faces. We are very eager to get the Government interested in this. “But sadly we are not able to get any opening in the government circles. Recently I had to keep calling for an appointment with a Secretary to Government and literally begged his secretary to get me an appointment,” he laments.

At Savera Farms, we think this is true 'out-of-the-box' thought leadership and we will continue to promote such efforts. To share words of advice, encouragement or ideas to further this cause, readers may contact Mr. R.M.Thiruchelvam at www.it-rural.com, email: thirurm@gmail.com or mobile:9840374266.

Credits : Access original article here

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life in Sivaganga...is changing!

We have been been in Sivaganga for over a year and half already. While the first phase is in maintenance mode, we are gearing up for planting phase 2 in a month or so. It is amazing how time flies, and what is more amazing is how the sleepy town of Sivaganga has changed in the last one year.

For a town that has no decent hotels with western toilets (refer to my previous post http://techie2aggie.blogspot.in/2011/08/s-for-satisfaction.html ) and good family restaurants, an accelerated pace of commercial activity seems a little overwhelming. Sivaganga town was never meant to be the district headquarters. Sivaganga probably lists in the top five districts in TN for maximum number of rural expats due to decrease in agriculture and few job opportunities in the area. Moreover, it is probably the only district headquarter in the country where Amul butter has not yet crossed the "high barriers to entry". Yes, we get butter from Chennai or Madurai.

In the last one year, tar roads have been widened, smaller mud roads have been paved up with concrete, bus bays have been established, medians constructed in "downtown Sivaganga" , flood lights installed at the bus station (bright enough for a day-night game of cricket), streets have been lit up with CFC bulbs, power cuts have drastically reduced to a couple of hours from 7-8 hours (although the wind mills need to be credited for that), signals have been installed in a couple of main crossings with a timer in them (although they count down from 10 seconds)  and last but not the least a Super Market has emerged to satisfy all the household needs of Sivaganga-ites.

For a town where you did not get quality bread and more than 1 variety of daal (until the super store), this is a welcome change. The catalyst for change been none other than the government medical college that has opened up recently. With the college, commercial and construction activity has steeply increased in the past few months.

We hope sustainable and planned development continues here because there is a lot of room for that. Somebody said change is the only constant - that was not true here until recently. The sudden boom in the economic activity will definitely be a boon for the local populace.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Update on Watermelon harvest..

I wanted to post an update on the watermelon earlier but it just kept slipping away due to ongoing activities at the farm. We planted the seeds in December 2011 and harvested the crop in March 2012. Like any other short term crop, maintaining the crop, ensuring there were no major pest issues was a labour and resource intensive task.
This season, crop in Tamil Nadu was severely affected by morning dew which apparently resulted in influx of Andhra watermelons flooding the markets here. Nonetheless, we were able to get a commendable yield, given the climatic conditions were not as favorable.

Weighing in process...




















First, we approached produce agents who took the first harvest at Rs 5/Kg (retail rate was Rs 10/Kg)




















About 10 days later, when the second harvest was ready, the agents started negotiating on the rate. Rs 3/Kg being unacceptable, we proceeded to the town mandi. Here Rs 5/Kg was maintained but the delivery was our overhead. That went on for a few days and then the folks at mandi wanted a lower rate (with delivery).

Annoyed, it was decided we would do some direct marketing to the consumers. Everyday, a couple of loads of the produce was brought to the mandi area and we were able to sell it at Rs 7/Kg.




















So we appointed one of our farm labour as the salesman and he was able to sell the produce in 2-3 hours early in the morning. With increasing popularity of the produce among the local populace, increase in the sales staff was needed. So we "bribed" a neighborhood vendor with a couple of sweet watermelons and he did some effective marketing for us - free of cost.




















Going..going..and gone!






















In retrospect, this experience was fairly valuable. It gave a good insight on challenges of producing a perishable product and then marketing it effectively. Many of you have called me regarding growing organic vegetables and selling it in the market. My advice would be to first identify your customer before getting into it..and your customer cannot be produce agents because they will bargain hard with you.

Another revelation was DO NOT blindly follow the NPK dosages given by irrigation companies or anybody else. Then who do you believe? Well, unfortunately, it will take a couple of seasons to understand the soil and its requirements. I followed the schedule fairly religiously which resulted in more foliage due to Urea (as a result the fruits were smaller and fewer).




















When the foliage is thick, a lot of the energy that would have been utilized by the fruits, goes to the leaves. As a result, fruits get affected in quality and quantity.

Nonetheless, we were able to enjoy some red, juicy watermelons at the beginning of summer.