Monday, December 31, 2012

Food security for Goats & Sheep with CO4, Agathi

Here is wishing all our blog followers a very happy and prosperous 2013 filled with good health, wealth and peace. May the new year bring joy and success to everyone. 

Here at Savera Farms, 2012 was spent in expanding our cultivation and development and 2013 would be spent in consolidating what he have developed so far. Having said that, we also plan on diversifying into animal husbandry in the new year. Some of you have already seen the developments around the goat project at the farm.

As you probably know, before getting into any animal husbandry project, it is imperative to ensure that there is enough fodder available internally in order to reduce operational costs. General guidance that I have been able to collect so far :
  • Daily intake of 3-4 Kg of Green fodder & 1/2 kg of dry fodder is recommended
  • 1 acre of fodder is sufficient for 30 animals
  • 50% acreage should be CO4, COFS29 and 50% acreage should be leguminous like Agathi, Velli Masal (Hedge Lucerne). 
  • Leguminous take 70-90 days for harvest while CO4 take 45-50 days.
A variety of fodder ensures the animals get a balanced and nutritious diet. One has to cultivate any of Monocotyledons which comprises of Maize, Jawar, Hybrid Napier, Gunea Grass , Oats and Para grass. These fodders are rich in energy and are used for supplying energy to animals and this should contain 66% of the diet.Additionally, you have to also grow any of the 1 Dicotyledons like Stylo , Lucerne, Berseem and Subabul. These fodders are rich in protein and helps in Body building of animals and Milk Production.

We started our fodder cultivation in August in a phased manner since we were hoping to start the operations in November. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, we shall be procuring a mix of goats and sheep in a few days from now. CO4 Slips can be procured from your local KVK center at a very reasonable rate of Rs 0.20 per slip. 

Slips were procured as whole pieces (approx 5-6 ft long). Smaller pieces of 10-15 inches were cut before planting. 

Existing drip infrastructure of watermelon (from last year) was used to irrigate the fodder. Although rain gun is the preferred source of irrigation for fodder crops. For now, we have intercropped it with mango.

At approx 1 month. Timely rain led to rapid development.

Ready to be cut and fed..

Agathi seedlings : In addition to CO4, we have planted Agathi as well. Seeds were procured and saplings were developed in portrays.

Approx 1 month old on the field 

Young seedlings have tender leaves and is well munched by rabbits. A net in place to obstruct rabbits from eating away the seedlings. The experiment was fairly successful as there was a good survival rate.

Growth in Agathi was not as uniform as CO4 and invited a whole lot of weeds during monsoon. (Maybe due to its nitrogen fixing qualities)

Apart from CO4 and Agathi, Subabul has been planted along the goat shed and in other open areas.  Hopefully, this was a good insight on the fodder cultivation. Stay tuned for more info on the goat and sheep that we procure in a few days. As mentioned in the previous post, feel free to mail me at regarding more info on the goat marketing consortium.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Transformation of Agri related Organized Retail in India

A few months ago I read an article on Dr Ashok Gulati, who has had an illustrious career in policy making at the national and international levels. One of his enduring publications is part of a key-note presentation around Role of Organized Retail in India. While parts of this presentation were published as early as 2008, I can certainly relate to his assessment and recommendations at that time.

During our first season of Watermelon, our issues were not those of production – the impediments became immediate access to sales channel and marketing. Now that we have started to see a small but regular harvest of Moringa, we have regular consumers of our produce but challenges largely remain the same when our production will increase in 6-8 months. 

There are several data points published here by Dr Gulati, some of them are encouraging trends and others are ripe opportunities to be harvested by an enterprising Agri-prenuer!

1 - Agri-food system is under threat but rapidly transforming
  • Organized retail (food & grocery) is rapidly expanding    
  • Other front end players (processors, logistic suppliers, etc) are responding
  • But, the farm sector is fragmenting

2 - Changing Production Basket~ All India

Comments : At Savera Farms, we have decided on a portfolio of Long, Medium and Perennial agri crops. To alleviate risks and fluctuations in land crops, we will also venture into animal husbandry .

3 - Transforming Agri-food System

A noticeable trend in recent years is that of entry of major corporate firms. These players are entering at the front end in organized food processing and retailing. As a result of this growing integration, farmers are likely to experience much greater interface with corporate world, some working very closely with them and others in tandem. The key issue that remains for us is to see how it can benefit the farmers. Will the growing competition amongst the front-end players deliver better prices, markets and value chain services to the farmers?

Comments : We believe the new paradigm will be between producers > processors > marketers, as highlighted above. Savera Farms would be interested in exploring go-to market and distribution arrangements with volume processors or traders. Our focus will remain on varieties of premium mango, Moringa, timber and fresh meat (on-hooves). We hope to generate positive synergies for a win-win situation for all involved.

4 - Organized retail in India is an unfolding revolution.  

There is a huge potential for growth and expansion in the organized (food) retail, here are a few key metrics to consider :
  • Total retail $322 bn in 2006/07 likely to grow to $590 bn in 2011/12. That is ~13% per annum growth!
  • Organized retail is set to grow at 45-50% p.a until 2011-12. Organized retail share (as part of total retail) would grow from 4% in 2007-2008 to 16% in 2011-2012.
Food accounts for nearly 60% of the retail pie in India but remains at >2% under organized sector (2008). There is a huge opportunity to be explored in organized food distribution and retail. Below is how India compared in market penetration (%) of top 5 grocers in 2008.

5 - Fragmenting of Indian Farm Sector. 

This is a function of our rural social-economic trend. Agricultural holdings have become a commodity instead of being means to a sustainable living. People routinely divide and sell their current holdings, often rendering them unsustainable for production. Average holding sizes had shrunk from 4 ha (1970s) to less than 2 ha by 2003. Yet, there is fortune at the bottom of the pyramid (<2 ha holdings).

  • Marginal & small farmers are quite competitive at the farm production level
  • Low marketable surplus; high transaction costs; going through mandis; long unorganized supply chains;  eat into their net returns.

Comments : Current fragmented agri practices have become unsustainable at the bottom of the pyramid. Our experience is leading us to study economies of scale in production and explore large volume marketing arrangements. Organized agriculture is the need of the hour and consortium of progressive farmers may be the way to go. Studies confirm that farmers have benefited in the past through farm-firm tie-ups (contract farming, cooperatives, producers 'organization). This allows for reduced transaction & marketing costs, better prices & access to niche markets

Where do we go from here ?

At Savera Farms, we are fast becoming convinced that the Indian Agri sector can still hold its own. We are encouraged to see a steady and increasing flow of educated, dedicated and determined generation of new agri-prenuers come into the system. Recommendations from Dr Gulati that we subscribe to are :
  • Clusters of agri-practitioners to create scale
  • Farmer consortiums are better equipped to leverage govt sponsored production, mechanization and marketing programs.
  • Informed farmers are better able to withstand fixed asset and land value fluctuations
  • Use of modern technology in enhancing information dissemination is key for decision making
  • Focus on agricultural education and R&D opportunities is required to stay current.
We are in talks with a few fellow agri-prenuers around forming a consortium in areas of common interests (land crops or animal husbandry) and welcome suggestions or participation from the reader community as well.

Credits :
Transforming Agri-food System: Role of Organized Retail in India, Dr Ashok Gulati

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tractor mounted spraying (Moringa)

With this post, we complete 2 years of blogging today! 

Our journey into this new territory has been full of interesting experiences, most of them good and all of them educational. They say, a road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. However, a couple of years back when we embarked on this project, we undertook a journey not taken by anyone within our family and friends. In the true Techie fashion, we have learned on-the-job, taught a few and are glad to be more than hanging on!

I feel content that we kept our focus intact and tried not to deviate from our goal. Across our crops, we have concluded UHD / High Density planting of 3 Mango varieties, developed a small forest of Melia Dubia plantations, within 7 months started generating revenue from Moringa pods and finally the farm looks lush green where we have CO-4 fodder. Much progress has been made since the 5 palm trees that dotted our southern acreages a couple of years back. A lot of people have been instrumental in guiding us along the way and I am grateful to our families, friends and supporters who are often wiser and smarter than us.

Today's post are 2 videos on a subject that we cannot stress enough - mechanization of farm operations. Mechanization is the need of the hour and any progressive farmer has to keep abreast with the latest tools and machines available to make the maintenance phase as efficient and 'labour independent' as possible. At this time we spray every fortnight and it usually takes us 6 hours for our 850 trees. We hope to reduce our spraying to one-half to (once a month) with a solid dose of organic spray.

A recent addition to our farm machinery is a tractor mounted sprayer system. These are videos of when it was initially put to test. Videos can be accessed in the following links:


You can also view these and other videos at our YouTube Channel :  Savera Farms Youtube Videos

As always, if you have embraced efficient methods of mechanization, we are always looking to do things better, faster, cheaper. At the moment we are exploring various configurations of Rain-Guns for our fodder acreages. If anyone has experience with the Sprayer systems or Rain-Guns, we look forward to some recommendations and words of advice..