Thursday, February 28, 2013

Farmer Profile : Nalla Keerai (Good Greens!)

It's been a while since our last farmer profile. We highlight enterprising and entrepreneurial initiatives related to agri production or distribution under this section. Those of you who are recent joiners at Techie2Aggie might want to check out the labels on right for previous farmer profile postings. These profiles are always inspiring and at Savera Farms they definitely spur us into action.

Nalla Keerai (Good Greens) is a great example of a group of young agri-prenuers trying to bridge the debilitating  gap between farm and fork in India, all of this while propagating healthy eating! Currently, they are operating in and around Chennai but have plans to start operations near Madurai area in a couple of months. One of our blog followers is currently cultivating various greens in Arupkottai (near Madurai) and plans to collaborate with Nalla Keerai, making it a win - win collaboration from producer - consumer perspective. Great way stay local and support local.

Feel free to post comments if you'd like to get more details on the Arupkottai operations. Read more on Nalla Keerai's story here.. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Right amount of GAP is great!

In the past year, we have received several questions around best practices and methodologies. To some, we have been able to respond contrasting our experiences with their unique situation and circumstances. However, Savera Farms is in the learning phase as well. We lean on advice and materials from those who have tread this road before us and have several years of experience on us. This posting is a growing collection of references we have used around GAP - Good Agricultural Practices. All of this is in the public domain and freely available.

  • GAP in Indian context. Very extensive guidance on various aspects of farming operation setup and procedures, including plantation crops. Click here 
  • Comprehensive study on Indian produce export potential with details on production, post-harvest management and grading requirements for various international markets. Click here
  • Key stats on the state of Indian agri. Interesting, detailed and with detailed trend analysis which shows we may be loosing our agriculture lead to other countries in many areas. Click here 
  • Overall cultivation, harvesting and packaging GAP. Focus on fresh vegetables and dairy. Has a self assessment section, aligned for American producers but applicable for India as well. Click here
  • Fairly recent publication on Indian Poultry and Egg Production Industry. Not in depth on GAP, provides high level recommendations. Lists key industry indicators and contacts. Click here
  • For those in Paddy, this Thai govt document seems pretty comprehensive Rice production SOP (standard operating procedure), includes record keeping templates. Click here

If any Agri-Consultants decide to leverage this material or contents of our blog, please do not charge aspiring agri-prenuers for such information. Please remember you got it at no cost so pass on the favor. It's just good karma! We have heard of some unscrupulous types leveraging our images & documentation for profit. :-(

In the meanwhile, hope you enjoy the following picture, it certainly rings true and close to home at Savera Farms! It is a true labor of love.

All materials are copyrighted by respective publishers. Enjoy the read!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Paddy waste : NOT the best mulching source for Mango Plantations

Post Pongal is always a good time to hoard on all the paddy waste we can procure from the neighboring farms to mulch our mango plants. This year around, there was stiff competition from Kerala since large quantities of hay was exported out to the state. Nonetheless, we were able to procure about 10 tractor loads - all for free.

However, when I was writing the post initially, the title did not have the NOT. A few days into mulching, we found that there was termite around some plants. On researching further and talking to some experts, we found that paddy waste attracts a lot of termite and does not decay very fast. Although there was a repetition in the activity of mulching and then de-mulching, but we are happy, we arrested the problem in time.

Last year, we used the agri waste from watermelons to mulch. As they say, there should be no waste on the farm and whatever you can find should be used to enrich the soil and the plants. Benefits of mulching are maintaining soil moisture, temperature and controlling weeds. The link here elaborates well on the different types of mulch, advantages and disadvantages.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Moringa market trends - An eye opener!

Last year, Moringa started yielding at 6 months. Our gross yield was not significant since the trees were still so small and young. Nonetheless, it was a delight to see long, smooth, green pods. These smaller volumes were not economically feasible for Chennai or other bigger trading markets at the time. Later, during October - December months, the yield further decreased due to monsoons and mild temperatures.

Profuse flowering was seen in January and we are all excited to see what we have in store as far the yield is concerned. It was about the right time to analyze the market and seek potential retail customers in the big town - Chennai. So, we made a trip trip to Koyambedu Vegetable market in Chennai last week to get a sense of the prevailing rates and seasonal procurement practices.

We were able to connect with a couple of big wholesalers/commission agents and discovered that the current wholesale selling rates (end of January) was about Rs 35 - 45 per Kg. The rate is expected to remain in this range for the next 2-3 months. During summer, the average rate drops to Rs 20-25/Kg due to higher supply from within the state, primarily Theni, Dindigul and Tirunelveli.

Moringa from western states starts coming into Tamil Nadu during monsoon months, starting from August through December. Due to reduced local availability, the rates shoot up to Rs 80 - 120 per Kg. This little exercise gave us clear insight of the market dynamics for Moringa trading and exposed opportunities to maximize revenue based on seasonal availability from other parts of the country. Having comprehended the wholesale trends, we visited some of the bigger vegetable shops and retail chains. What we found was quite baffling for us - Moringa was retailing at Rs 70 - 90 per Kg. Contrast this with what we got at farm gate recently - Rs 15-18/Kg! This demonstrates the disparity in the entire supply chain, unfortunately this was somewhat expected. Producers have to bridge the gap between farm-to-fork by embracing innovative, aggressive marketing techniques to maximize returns.

This trip was an eye opener for sure and it was encouraging to see retailers welcoming producers for direct sales, without middlemen. Till the time, producer gets significantly more than farm gate rate and the retailer procures cheaper than wholesale rate, I would say it is a win - win situation for all! Everyone in the supply chain earns more and the inflationary trends are under check.

At this time, we are looking for the most efficient and cost effective way to transport produce from Sivagangai to Chennai. Any recommendations from those who have done it in the past? At Savera Farms, we can definitely use everyone's help and guidance. :)

Finally, my thoughts go back to our goal to form a group of producers to leverage such opportunities collectively - connect with us directly if you are interested in working together. Feel free to share encouraging market trends or stories where producers have opportunities to bridge the farm to fork (retail) gap.