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!

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 :

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

11-12 years
Often death in does is kidding related
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.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Moringa - Out & About!

Moringa leaf cultivation is an important part of Savera Farm's short term crop portfolio. Over 10,000 saplings were initiated in polybags during last week of June. Typically, saplings are ready to be transplanted in about 45 days, but we decided to delay the task due to meager summer monsoons. In our nursery, the saplings had grown rigorously and were overdue their day in the sun!

During August, we saw the arrival of torrential rains to the tune of 15 mm in one day (yes, we have an udometer!). The temperatures were right, with plenty of humidity, and it was the right time to move the leafy herbs into the fields. Some of you may remember, we are planning on sprinkler irrigation for our Moringa acreages. We are following a grid of 2x2 ft. The depth of the plantation is a periodic 8 ft, followed by a pathway of 4 ft. In other words, the labor would not have to go more than 4 ft inside to harvest the leaves.

During a recent visit to the agir-fair, we discovered machines which can be used for leave pruning at tea farms, etc. There are several providers with varying specs, ranging from petrol driven to battery operated and we are excited to try out these pruners on our Moringa plants. We still have a couple of months before harvest, so stay tuned on our experiences.

After ploughing the field, pit creation and preparation was performed. It took approx 22 man-days to dig 10,000 pits and about 40 man days to plant them. Appropriate amounts of pressmud manure was applied before planting the saplings. We have utilized seeds from our in-house PAVM variety which is currently successfully producing drumsticks.

For those of you, who are interested in cultivating moringa for leaf or pod purpose, we can provide disease free and healthy sapling. We are always looking for producers interested in partnering around bulk production. Similarly, traders or processors may connect with us for their Moringa leaf requirements. Our acreages and cultivator network will continue to grow in the coming months.