Sunday, December 29, 2013

Organisation Profile : Mango Nurseries

In the last couple of years, we have bought over 10,000 mango saplings from a couple of nurseries in Tamil Nadu. Although there are a lot of nurseries but only a handful have been in the business for generations. Like most businesses, new clients are established by word of mouth. When we were looking for suppliers, we were recommended a few well established, big nurseries in Salem and Dindigul.

If you think of a renowned nursery in Salem that has been in the business for over 3 generation, only one supplier would really fit the bill. We are not going to name the nursery. Unfortunately, our experience was not as stellar as their market reputation seems to be. In 2011, we were in the midst of developing our farm. After placing the order (and advance) with this nursery, we had to push out the pick up date by two weeks. We were repeatedly assured that our saplings were available and may be picked up at our convenience. However, at the time of pick up we were informed of a sudden storm / heavy monsoon which had damaged the saplings. Since our inception in 2010, we cannot recall any heavy or damaging monsoon activity and we called his bluff. Later we heard anecdotes that our saplings were sold to another client, possibly who was willing to pay more and pick it up right away. We did not do business with them again.


The second nursery we procured Mango saplings from is a few kilometers from Batlagundu in Dindigul district. We have been happy with the quality although we saw greater mortality in the bigger plants compared to the smaller ones. Based on subsequent discussions, we concluded that seed quality is key to a sapling's ability to endure field transplantation trauma. If possible, one should always try to check robustness of seed stock being used by the nursery. The proprietor of this nursery is easy to get along and so far has kept his word with quality and timely delivery. While the rates may tend to be pretty fixed and on the higher side, the travel distance was much shorter for us. Overall, we would recommend them.

Those of you who have procured saplings from other nurseries, feel free to share your feedback to benefit others. For specific questions on the above commentary, feel free to contact us directly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Agriculture Innovators and Disruptive Technology

Over the past year, we came across several agriculture innovations and related start ups. Most of these services are localized to their area of origin while others are truly ground breaking and still in beta mode. Looking at the world vegetation and water risk charts below, it is not surprising that most of these innovations come from location with water deficit. Along the same lines, it is to be expected that most research is focusing on revitalizing barren landscapes and developing creative irrigation methods. 

Worldwide vegetation cover
 Global water deficient area

Despite varying degree of product maturity, we felt all of these were interesting and full of promise. Below we share a couple of such companies which our community may find interesting or even inspiring. Power to the pioneers!

Just Awesome

International Fertilizer Development Center  (www.ifdc.org)
Fertlizer Deep Placement (FDP) technology is a simple technology spreading very rapidly in Bangladesh and is being up scaled up in other Asian countries for production of rice and other crops. They claim the results to date to be excellent. In Bangladesh about 2.8 million ha involving more than 4 million farmers is under FDP technology. With flood irrigation, farmers are using 35% less urea fertilizer and yet getting 15-18% increase in yield.

Aquanue (www.aquanue.com)
Aquanue’s SICRA system is a proven aquaculture technology that has been developed over the past 40 years. The aquaculture system can grow high-value groupers (and other species) in half the time taken in sea cage systems, with one-tenth the mortality. The business is modular, scalable, organic, and has a low environmental footprint.


Really Cool..

iCow (www.icow.co.ke)
iCow is a mobile phone based agricultural platform aimed to increase small scale farmer productivity at the same time reducing risks. This platform sports the worlds first mobile cow calendar monitoring the gestation cycle of the cow. Farmers claim to increase milk yields by up to 3 liters per animal after using iCow for 7 months. With a name like 'iCow', our bovine friends are feeling the Steve Jobs affect as well..

XA Warehouse Farming (www.verticalfarms.com.au)
This is an automated growing system that is scalable to meet demand with low labor, power and water inputs, and high crop yields. The focus is on urban farming, often in warehouse location, with the intent of designing high yielding systems for rapid ROI.


Love to try it!

Coolplanet (www.coolplanet.com)
Poised to revolutionize the energy and agricultural industries with its clean energy system, Cool Planet has developed a patented process that converts non-food biomass into gasoline. The benefits? Less dependence on importing oil, improvements to agriculture and impacting climate change. The clean, renewable fuel can be distributed and used in today’s vehicles with no change to existing infrastructure.

BioLumic (www.biolumic.com)
Their claim is an innovative new UV lighting technology that provides the ability to control plant size, growth and increase stress tolerance. Though limited to Greenhouse applications and indoor cultivation, their product could be god-send for greenhouse operators in significantly increasing yeild and reducing time-to-market.

On a closing note, some may notice that none of the above are Indian organizations. However, this does not mean that grass-root innovation does not occur all over India - the fact is probably quite the contrary. Unfortunately, access to such information is not always easy. Our readers should feel free to use this forum and can take the initiative to bring those to light for greater collaboration and information sharing with our community.

Credits : Maps of the world

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fodder Security : Maize Cultivation

At Savera Farms, we currently produce a large part of our fresh fodder needs for our goat operations. However, there are additional ingredients in the goat feed which are critical as well. In general, goats require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber (bulk) and water. In our case, of meat goats, calorie intake is an important and usually the most limiting nutrient. For meat production, goats have to be able to gain lean fat. Similarly, any deficiencies, excesses and imbalances of vitamins and minerals can limit animal growth, lead to health problems and result in wasteful feeding expenses.

Multiple factors affect nutritional requirements of goats: maintenance, growth, pregnancy, lactation, fiber production, activity and environment. As a general rule of thumb, goats consume at least 3% of their body weight in dry matter feed. The exact percentage varies according to the size (weight) of the goat, with younger animals needing a higher percentage intake during the growth phase. Environmental conditions also affect maintenance requirements. During cooler (or wet) months, we noticed that goats require more feed to maintain body heat. The added stresses of pregnancy, lactation and growth further increase nutrient requirements as well.

Keeping in mind our growing demand for quality goat feed, we planted a few acres of Maize in hopes of reducing per unit feeding cost. The crop has been in the ground for a few weeks and has started to show signs of life. Gap filling was performed after 15 days of initial sowing. Estimated germination rate is about 80% based on the seed dispersal method used. Given we have no prior experience with Maize, we are eager to see how this crop performs.


We are drip irrigating the crop twice a week for about 45 min. To further minimize cultivation cost, we are not using any fertilizers. Flyash was used in small quantities during soil preparation and it seems that it was a wise choice.


We expect our goat feed demands to continue rising as our initial herd has now stabilized and we plan to continue growing it in size. Current suppliers of goat feed or ingredients like Maize (powder form) can reach out if interested in working with us. Partnering with experienced producers allows us to focus on our core activities and we can outsource other tasks for additional job / employment opportunities in an already stressed industry.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Harvesting Moringa Leaves

Earlier this year, during the summer months, Savera Farms started working on Moringa leaf production. Once our saplings were about 45 days old, we transplanted them in the fields around first week of September. Some of you may recall, we setup a sprinkler system for Moringa. After initial signs of promise, we realized the sprinklers were not very effective due to strong wind patterns which would disperse the water in non-target areas and lead to wastage. Fast forward several more weeks after installing drip irrigation we witnessed a healthy growth spurt. With the arrival of winter monsoons, our Moringa plants started to look supple and distinctly healthier. The photo below does not do justice since we were several meters away due to an irrigation ditch in between.


Since the monsoons stuck around for a few weeks, it made for a challenging task to harvest and process the leaves. Though we are well into drying and packaging our initial batch, we are still trying to optimize our drying and processing practices. With Moringa leaves, the goal is to quickly dry the harvest, preserve the nutrients and introduce minimum contaminants. In India, most Moringa leaves are collected from existing trees or plantations which were not planned for high volume production. In contrast, we decided to proceed with intense density cultivation, similar to a tea leaf plantation. When the plants were around 4 feet tall, we started to harvest. The expectation is to be able to harvest every 45 days going forward. In an effort to optimize our Moringa for higher leaf yield, we started pruning the trees to about 3 feet level. The rationale behind this was to maximize foliage at lower heights for easy harvest. In an phased manner, we will convert the trees into Moringa 'shrubs' to increase leaf production.


After pruning, the bright green leaves were placed on a drying hammock for air drying. Direct sunlight was avoided under the 75% shade net. After 2 days of air drying, the leaves were crisp and easy to crush. After another day of drying, the leaves were brittle at which time they are expected to contain less that 10% moisture. During the drying process, the leaves turn to a darker shade of green. We expect to conclude packaging our first batch in the coming days and for the next batch we will begin investigating automated or mechanized dehydrators. They should offer a more efficient and controlled drying environment.

Our journey with Moringa leaves has just begun, more to come so stay tuned!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blog Access Issues : Domain Transfer

We are changing homes..and the move is always a little painful!

Some of our readers may have noticed that over the past two days our blog and email has been experiencing access issues. That is because we decided to transfer our domains. Access to the blog using saverafarms.com is restricted at the moment while we switch our domain registrars and hosting service.

While access via saverafarms.com and info@saverafarms.com will be restored no later than Dec 10, 2013, access to the blog is available via the alternate URL : http://techie2aggie.blogspot.com. For immediate email needs, please use saverafarms@gmail.com.

Apologies for the inconvenience and keep blogging!

Updates : 
12/8 : Our email is back up, feel free to reach out to us on info@saverafarms.com
12/9 : Access to www.saverafarms.com has been restored as well. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the news : Supply Shortage for Meat Animals

Savera Farms started their goat operations earlier this year but we have been studying the domestic meat market for close to 2 years now. Despite several non-vegetarians each of us may personally know of, meat consumption in India is among the lowest in the world. Several studies have shown meat consumption in India being traditionally low but despite our historical & cultural preferences, there is a distinct change in tide with rise in per capita consumption. Rise in demand can be largely attributed to changing lifestyles, better product availability and affordability.


Despite the low(er) nationwide demand, meat consumption is no longer only for the upper echelons of society. The prices remain high in parts of the country depending on the type of meat. It may be easy to assume that prices are purely driven by demand & supply but as seen even in developed countries, meat production is among the most expensive across all types of food production. There are a few retail players in the Indian market who have successfully tapped the latent demand and created self sustaining brands. We feel there is a lot of room for growth with significant market size for raw, processed and value added meat products.


The crux of many issues in the Indian food chain remains around lacking infrastructure - for production, processing and distribution needs. However, niche players who have been able to develop specific competencies have been successful in mitigating known issues. Over the last few years, monsoons in Tamil Nadu have been intermittent. Bountiful in select areas, the monsoon were meager in most of the state causing drought like situation in many districts. In instances of smaller herd operations, their source of feed is either pasture grazing or rain fed fodder production. With compromised food supply, meat animal (cattle, goat, pig) availability in parts of the state has suffered. Since the last census, in 2007, net availability of meat animals has decreased by close to 36%. In case of meat goats, the herd count impact was more severe with reduction of 225,000, a net reduction of almost 44% !

Interested herd owners may contact the Animal Husbandry Department which is trying to implement several State government schemes such as Accelerated Fodder Development Programme, Drought Mitigation Scheme, Scheme for Poultry Development, and supplying hybrid animal varieties to farmers. At Savera Farms, we will start animal acquisitions from other producers in early 2014. While we continue to rapidly grow our herd, we also recognize that our supply will have intermittent gaps. As our repeat customer base grows and sales channels develop, we see the importance of partnering with other herd owners to service the market demand. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to work with Savera Farms as a supply partner for meat goats.

Credits : The Hindu , Collapse of Industrial Civilization

Monday, November 11, 2013

Calling Mango Producers : Remove middlemen, sell to Savera Farms!



The summer of 2014 will herald the first season of Mangoes at Savera Farms. Given this is our first season and our plantation is still largely juvenile, we are not expecting a heavy yield but we are still excited. With close to 9,000 trees between our ultra-high density (UHD) and regular plantations, even the initial lower yields should result in several tonnes of fruit. Apart from readiness tasks around harvesting, a successful operation will require several time bound priorities post fruit picking and during distribution. A few such activities are listed below. For those looking to read up, here are a few public domain publications from Mexican and Filipino Mango producers.
  • Initial Fruit Inspections
  • Setup of Packaging house
  • Fruit washing, sizing and labeling
  • Hot-water / post water treatment
  • Ripening
  • Packing line
  • Package design and sourcing
  • Storage rooms
  • Audit & record keeping
Each of these activities can become an operation in itself depending on processed volumes. Developing competency in these processes becomes critical if the goal is to attain high volumes and high margins. At the end of the day, each producer has to consider investing in these tasks based on their go-to-market channels and expected revenue.
At Savera Farms, premium Mango varieties include Imampasand, Alphonso and Bnaganpalli which are a mix of shy and heavy bearers. We have been fervently working to develop our go-to-market channels and direct (volume) customers. We also look at this as an opportunity to develop relationships with other Mango orchards and producers. If any producers have a mature Mango orchards and are looking for an alternative channel to sell their fruits, please contact us! Our preferred fruit procurement area is around Madurai, Chennai and Trichy but we would be happy to work with producers from other areas as well. Remove multiple layers of brokers, agents and middlemen who want to profit at the expense of the farmer-producer.


At Savera Farms, we look for long term purchase contracts and strongly prefer to work with direct producers and orchard owners. There are several opportunities and we are looking to team up with enthusiastic, motivated agri-preneurs who can become reliable suppliers. Contact us!


Disclaimer : Pictures are for reference and from public domain

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pruning Mango : Season 2

Our Imampasand and Alphonso mangoes turned 2 years this October. Most of them have already been pruned twice. With the onset of this years monsoons, the vegetative growth was accelerated and it was time to control the foliage and shape the canopy. The right canopy makes a difference in the trees ability to flower and later during fruiting during later years.

There are conflicting theories on whether to prune above or below the whorl, which is the inter-modal ring found in the branches. In traditional cultivation, the cut is made above the whorl to attain maximum shoots. In UHD, since the tree structure is smaller, it is important to control the shoots to avoid overcrowding. By cutting below the whorl, you would typically get 2-3 shoots which is ideal for UHD form of cultivation.



It is important that you allow enough sunlight to penetrate the foliage which involves pruning secondary branches present in the center of the plant. These branches will not bear fruit and you want to decrease non productive foliage as much as possible so that the necessary nutrition goes to the productive branches. Tertiary branches are typically found on the side of the canopy and are fruit bearing. It is imperative tertiary and above branches are not too long to avoid sagging of fruits and branches due to weight.



Before Pruning, with multiple secondary foliage.

After pruning, with healthy tertiary branches which will grow into multiple fruit bearing branches

Alphonso and Imampasand are both premium Mango varieties with wonderful texture and fragrance. With all the desirable qualities, these varieties do have a constraint since they are shy bearers. Not only is the annual fruit yield significantly less than Baiganphalli or Dusheri varieties but significant fruit yielding in these premium varieties often occurs in alternate year. Producers planning new orchards should take the expected yields into account and consider the right mix of heavy and shy fruit bearers.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fodder Cultivation - Bajra & Maize

This year the retreating monsoons commenced rather late at Savera Farms. Significant rains came pouring in only around mid October. When the monsoons finally set in, we grabbed the opportunity to augment our fodder acreage using traditional rain fed method. Occasionally our fodder mix includes Bajra and Maize and we needed to increase the supply. This is our first attempt into land crops like these so we are anxious to see how these fare at Savera Farms. We were told to expect the first harvest in about 90- 100 days, sometime in February 2014.



We are already feeding our goats CO4, Agathi, Subabul in addition to the concentrate mix. A treat of Bajra and Maize fodder usually gets them pretty excited. While we chose rain fed irrigation for most of the acreages, we planned for drip irrigation as a back up as well. Rain fed acres were broadcasted with seeds after initial soil prep. Since these crops are annual harvests, namely during monsoons, our drip fed areas should be able to secure uninterrupted production during lean monsoon months.


There are several fodder crops available and our currently choice of Bajra and Maize was driven by season, resource requirement and net cost of production.We were advised line spacing of 15 cm by 60 cm though there were various options discussed. Minimal investment was made on land preparation but keeping an eye of self-sustainability, soil enhancement using goat manure was done. For those interested in learning more, here is a brief article on goat manure. A couple of rounds of disc plough and 5 fingers seems to be sufficient prior to direct seeding. With recent showers, sprouting was seen in about 4-5 days as seen here. This section includes drip feed acres will be supplement with urea. The expectation is to harvest in excess of 18-20 tonnes per acre due to controlled irrigation and fertigation.


Those with interest in cultivation and production capabilities of Bajra and Maize, please get in touch with us. We would like to consider long term procurement contracts. Ideal producers would be within 200-250km radius from Sivagangai with some cultivation infrastructure and experience.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore

A few weeks ago, we visited Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore to attend a course on Post Harvesting techniques of Fruits and Vegetables. CFTRI campus is in the heart of Mysore town and easily accessible. The building is elegant and was donated by the King of Mysore back in the days. Despite the urban setting, the campus is lush, green and very well kept.


Our course focused on several aspects of post harvest processes and techniques ranging from diseases & control measures, maturity standards, treatments for enhancing or reducing ripening, technologies related to Controlled Atmosphere (CA) and Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP). Discussions included Pesticide Residue analysis, Nutraceticals, Packaging design & performance evaluation, waste utilization of fruits, Irraditation technologies and HACCP standards for export purposes. The list of covered topics was comprehensive and provided a good overview over a large spectrum of activities. However after the topic was introduced, at times we were left yearning for more details and additional / contextual insights. Most lectures were theoretical in nature while there were a couple of  practical demos as well. For hands-on operators like us, a few more demos would have been very beneficial. We also felt at times professors had contrasting opinions on progressive technologies like MAP and its viability on fruits, especially Mango. It was a challenge to extract commercially pliable information from them as a lot of this data is still in research phase but the staff was usually tolerant of our relentless quest for practical details!

On a lighter note, I thought I was done with chemical equations for life after my first year engineering course. However, if you really want to understand the genesis of fruit spoilage, the equations/chemical phenomena will come back to haunt you. For me, it was a pleasant surprise to see some of the familiar equations again. Overall, the course provides a good baseline and understanding of fruit spoilage process and what should be done to curb the wastage. Any plans to introduce additional market driven, field tested and commercially applicable facets to this course will make it more attractive to existing operations. For additional details, contact CFTRI, Mysore.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reader Poll : Direct to Consumer Model

Over the last couple of months, we have been studying multiple go-to-market approaches for some of our products. Marketing in an immature retail supply chain is never easy and India's business culture adds a few more twists to the equation. The winds of change are here though, the consumer is more savvy and discerning. To be successful, retailers will have to step up their game. Based on our limited survey in Chennai, the primary marketing challenges include :
  1. Established supermarket chains like Food World and Nilgiris usually do not have independent producer friendly policies and transaction policies.
    • Generally speaking, their retail model is geared towards established and heavily advertised brands. 
    • Fees for promotional displays or activities can be prohibitive.
  2. Producer to mandi to market supply chain remains strong and vicious. 
    • The ubiquitous middleman continues to dilute operational efficiencies and sap profits.
    • Current government programs to alleviate middleman malaise are generally limited in scope and impact.
  3. End consumers are becoming more aware of their food content and source.
    • Interest is organics in still small but slowly growing.
    • Small, niche gourmet retailers are tasting success in urban settings.
Overall there is opportunity on multiple fronts each with aggressive growth projections  - retailing, packed supply chain, cold chain, packaging, production, etc. During our search we came across several start-ups in the food retailing space. Packaging innovation and niche food segments seems to be current drivers. We would like to poll the readers to better understand how valuable are the following purchase experiences for packed fruits (Mango, Sapota, Apples, etc) and packed meats (Fresh Chicken and Mutton).




- Competitive pricing with direct sales from producer.
- Direct shipment to your location in protective packaging.
- Convenient, clean, resealable storage cases.
- Repeat customer and volume incentives.
- Easy ordering options over phone, email or online.
- No hassle returns or exchanges.
- Published production location, process and information.



Please take a few moments to rate the importance of each factor in your potential purchase decision. Rate between 1 - 3, with 3 being most important. Looking forward to hearing back..

Monday, October 7, 2013

At ~4% of all entrepreneurs, Indians are at #2!!

It was a little moment of pride when my alma-mater, Duke University, published a profile on the current breed of entrepreneurs. Savvy technocrats in Silicon Valley have long established their mark in the US. That profile is now changing with Indian origin professionals being recognized for innovative offerings in Medical, Logistics, Telecom and Retail industries. As a nation (and being a perennial optimist), I feel we have many attributes in our favor - Education, Youth, Ambition. We now have to take the constraints, which are just as many, into stride and strive to overcome.

This info-graphic limits the scope to US start-ups and we are the largest non-native demographic of entrepreneurs. I can only try to imagine our collective impact and influence in nations like UK, South Africa, Germany, Australia. Based on the survey taken for this poll, it was not as urprising that people became entrepreneurs for building wealth (who doesn't!) but that just as many people found their motivation in not wanting to work for someone and have a strong desire to own a company. It is clear that this polling debunked some of the common myths that many of us unjustly burden ourselves with. Over 36% of the people came from lower middle class so limited start-up budget is not the biggest barrier to entry. Vast majority of the people were married and most of them had at least 1 child, so while family responsibilities are important, that is definitely not the reason to stall your idea.


We all need a way to shake away the self-doubts and find our way to the greater potential that we can be. Carpe diem friends! Toasting to everyone's success..

Monday, September 30, 2013

Organization Profile : Jain Irrigation


Vendor Profile :
When we started out in 2011, we decided to drip irrigate our entire farm due to the enormous savings in water, power and labour. We invited multiple drip irrigation solution providers and eventually decided to settle with Jain Irrigation. Savera Farms may be their larger non-institutional client in Sivangagai and immediate districts. Having worked with them for over 3 years, we now have a fairly good sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

Good  Stuff :
Jain Irrigation has a fairly good presence in this area owing to Shakti Sugars. However, they have recently closed their office in Pilloor on Sivagangai-Madurai road. Jain Irrigation recruits quite a few young energetic diploma holders for their site installation projects, however deeper domain knowledge is required. They have been fairly successful in penetrating government funded subsidy programs. They are well penetrated in the local district agriculture or horticulture department so there is a good chance the agri officer will recommend Jain products. Upper management has been accessible based in Udumalpet, Tamil Nadu. There have been instances when we have escalated to their VP and they have assisted with expediting various resolutions and installation delays.

Not Excited About :
Over the years our satisfaction levels have started to dip significantly. Their local area depot closed down in Sivagangai due to weakening sales. The local dealership has essentially become a shell with most items not in stock. The local office stocks minimal inventory and sometimes have to source materials from as far as Jalgaon Maharashtra. There has been a lot attrition/re-assignment of on-site staff lately and we have had to work with a new / different coordinator every 3-4 months. Company organization and middle management has seen significant re-assignment as well. Amusingly, we once had an agronomist doing collection of outstanding balances.
Although they claim to be the cheapest in the market, one should be careful to take their designs on face value. Cheapest/minimal amount of pipes may not be best option for every farm. For instance, their initial design was to irrigate our Mango and intercrop fodder with the same submain pipes. The benefit is that you can service two crops with one submain pipe, but the downside is you cannot control the irrigation/fertigation etc. So while a two submain pipe is more costly, you can control the irrigation based on need of the crop. After all, we are doing precision irrigation, aren’t we ? You have to make the entire system user friendly, even though that may cost you a couple more master valves to control a certain segment of the farm. I did not see these ideas coming from them since they had a single point agenda – reduction of cost!

Overall, Jain Irrigation has been a long term partner with Savera Farms. They have made valuable contributions but doing business with them has not always been smooth. We have had to spearhead several issues and escalate to the upper management. Since most of their business is subsidy based, prompt installation has not been a priority. We have been called a demanding customer, not sure it that is a compliment or if we are stretching them a little too much!

**Disclaimer**
The above views are based solely on Savera Farm experiences with this vendor.
Readers may take our feedback into account but must make their independent assessments.
The vendor has not sponsored or directly attempted to influence this commentary.
Reviewed vendors may contact us directly for corrections or concerns if needed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Felicitations at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai


Some of you may recall that earlier in the year Savera Farms was presented in a Dina-Malar new paper feature. Among others, this article also caught the attention of Dr Kamaraj, Head of Electrical Engineering Dept at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai. Soon after, the department extended me an invitation as Chief Guest during their Electrical Engineering Association Day celebrations with over 300 students.



It was an honor to share my experiences, about how we started Savera Farms, my adjustments from the western way of life and the journey since then. Students were sharp and presented well articulated questions around our venture, current operations, and challenges faced in the current market environment. In many ways, it was a welcome break to engage with inquisitive minds. More importantly, it was heartening to see that the young minds realized the pivotal role of agriculture in our economy.


At Thiagarajar College of Engineering, most students are from nearby locales and many have agricultural land holdings. There were several queries around the dire need for procedural transparency and a predictable revenue model in agri-operations towards which I was able to share some of our risk mitigation strategies and managing barriers to entry.


 During my interactions with industry professionals across IT, Banking, Retail or Sales, I consistently see a desire among people to step away from the 'pressure cooker' state of existence many see in their future.  The alternative of managing their ancestral lands or exploring agriculture is very tempting but few venture due to lack of attractive returns. The corporate environment can be a wonderful source of learning since similar principles should be applied in the agriculture line of work as well : Feasibility studies, Market research, Team management, Long term planning, Financial cadence, Risk / issue mitigation, etc. Like every new venture, in the beginning there is a learning curve, buckets of patience and access to experienced mentors can be invaluable. Hopefully, I have helped ignite a few minds to think out of the box, be bold and try to pursue their passions instead!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Goats like to kid around!


The last couple of weeks have been quite active at Savera Farm's 'goat-osphere'! A few weeks ago, over a span of 2 days, we were glad to welcome 3 deliveries resulting in 4 kids. All the kids were around 3-4 kgs and the delivery process was fairly smooth. Fairly smooth, since we were largely uninvolved - which is not necessarily a good thing. Over time, we would like to better develop our processes to predict and better manage deliveries. With that said, Tellacherry kids unlike Kanni are lactating well which is a huge relief since we had to manually nurture and feed the earlier Kanni kids for several weeks.

A day after the birth, the kids were on their feet and a few days later, they were strong and confident enough to hop around the cell. For several weeks after birth the does and kids will remain separated from the main herd.
Some kids have to be guided initially before they identify with their mothers.

While other kids get to business right away. Feeding time!
Post delivery, kids need to be cleaned and inspected
Our first set of twins, hoping for several more!

In an hour or two, the newborns start to settle down and the does can become quite protective

Here are a couple of key metrics we found helpful :

Parameters
Range
Notes
Temperature
102.5 - 104
Depends on ambient temperature
Pulse rate
70 - 80
Beats per minute
Respiration
15 to 30
Per minute
Stomach movements
1 - 1.5
Per minute
Puberty
7 weeks - 8 months
Separate bucks from does at 2 month
Stomach movements
1 - 1.5
Per minute
Estrus/Heat Cycle
17 to 23
Days
Gestation
143 to 155
Days
Life span :


Does
11-12 years
Often death in does is kidding related
Bucks
8-10 years

Productive kidding
8-10 years
For Does
Full growth size
At 30-33 months
Most keep growing until year 3

With the kiddings steadily becoming the norm at Savera Farms, our foray into goat rearing is steadily moving to the next level. While we are encouraged the flock is increasing, it also comes with added awareness and responsibility. As we acquire experience and develop the needed skills, we constantly work with more experienced operations for advice and best practices. At the moment, we are trying to understand how larger herd operators manage simultaneous kidding of 200-250 does. Feel free to share your advice and readings.