Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Azolla Cultivation 101

To supplement our growing fodder needs, we have been busy developing alternate (and hopefully cheaper!) sources. Once such alternative on our list was Azolla. Due to competing priorities, Savera Farms Azolla initiative had been on the back-burner but recently we have begun our Azolla trials. 

For those who may not be familiar, Azolla is a great source of protein and we are hoping to reduce a significant portion of concentration mix once our initial attempts are successful. It is quite easy to cultivate and one does not need many resources to get started. Supposedly, it is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins and several key minerals. On a dry weight basis it contains 25 - 35 percent protein, 10 - 15 percent minerals and 7 - 10 percent of amino acids.

During our trials :
  • 10-15 kg of sieved soil was uniformly spread over the Silpauline pit.
  • Slurry was made of 2 kg cow dung and 30 g of Super Phosphate mixed in about 10 L of water. This was poured onto the sheet and additional water was added to raise the level to 10 cm. 
  • About 0.5-1kg of mother azolla culture seed material was spread uniformly over the water. After a mild stirring of soil and water, the Azolla bed was allowed to settle.
Sieved soil with cow dung slurry 
  • Fresh water was sprinkled over the Azolla immediately after inoculation to make the plants upright.  
  • In about 5 days, sprouted Azolla had started to spreads across the bed. In the coming days, this is expected to develop into a thick mat.

                                                                    Azolla in Silpaulin pit

  •  Per our instructions, a mixture of 20 g of Super Phosphate and about 1 kg of cow dung will be added once in 5 days in order to maintain rapid multiplication and encourage a daily yield of 500 gms.
  • About 5 kg of bed soil will be replaced with fresh soil, once in 30 days to avoid nitrogen buildup. Periodically, fresh water will be replenished as well. 
  • Mature Azolla beds are expected to yield upto  25-40 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. Their rapid, thick development is represented in this staged visual.

There is a lot of research being done on Azolla and it has proved itself to be a legitimate source for fodder supplement and even biomass for renewable fuel production. In India, several organizations like Natural Resources Development Project (NARDEP) have been spearheading the use of Azolla for rural applications. Here are a few tips from them :
  • It is important to keep Azolla at the rapid multiplication growth phase with the minimum doubling time. Therefore biomass (around 200 g per square meter) should be removed every day or on alternate days to avoid overcrowding.
  • The temperature should be kept below 25°C. If the temperature goes up the light intensity should be reduced by providing shade. If possible, it is best to place the production unit where it is shady.
  • The pH should be tested periodically and should be maintained between 5.5 and 7.
  • The Azolla bed should be cleaned, the water and soil replaced and new Azolla inoculated once every six months.
  • Wash the Azolla to get rid of the cow dung smell. Washing also helps in separating the small plants which drain out of the tray. The plants along with water in the bucket can be poured back into the original bed. 
  • For use as a livestock feed, the fresh Azolla should be mixed with commercial feed in 1:1 ratio to feed livestock. After a fortnight of feeding on Azolla mixed with concentrate, livestock may be fed with Azolla without added concentrate.

This was an interesting video we found online touting the overall potential and opportunities with Azolla. Hopefully this will spur a few of you onto an entrepreneurial track!

Credits :

Monday, January 20, 2014

Future belongs to nations with grains not guns

MS Swaminathan is one of the pioneers of India's Green Revolution. While most of us have only read about the Green Revolution and even fewer have actually experienced the impact, Swaminathan has lived through it. Giving up on a lucrative career in medicine, he pursued Agriculture Research and went on to become an architect of India's paradigm shift from being a grain deficit state to surplus in less than 30 years.

NDTV recently honored Swaminathan among the 25 greatest living Indians. In this recent interview several interesting points were discussed. We found the interview a grounding experience because it was a good reality check with a peek from the past. It is clear that the current, younger generation is not very interested in pursuing the agri sector and maybe rightly so with volatile agricultural returns and easier wage alternatives. However, in this interview Swaminathan reiterates the struggles faced by our predecessors to attain our current state of self-sufficiency and shares his opinion about what the future may hold.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, 
but by the responsibility for our future.
                                                                            -  George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Algae control : Shadenet to the rescue

At Savera Farms, a large part of our irrigation is done using drip lines. Accompanying infrastructure includes extensive network of pipes, valves and a few storage tanks. Currently we have two storage tanks which service our daily needs. Over the years, we have battled a few maintenance issues with these tanks with one being the frequent issue of controlling Algae blooms. Some of you may recall our earlier posting on this topic where we received a few useful tips from the readers.

At certain times of the year, Algae blooms become a significant problem for us. We have discovered that rising temperatures and sunlight are Algae friendly if other supporting conditions are available.
Our assumption that monsoon / winter months, would contain Algae growth proved incorrect. Due to the Algae, our sand filters would often get choked with thick green sludge resulting in pressure variance between inlet and outlet valves and stress on the filter.

 The big 'green' problem

Finally, it was decided to take the bull by the horns. 8 columns were erected on the perimeter of our tanks and one in the center to help support a canopy. Shadenet (75%) was re-purposed to form a canopy over the pillars. Additional flaps were designed on four sides to prevent any direct sunlight penetration during sunrise and sunset. Initially, we thought this solution may be excessive in effort and limited in impact but we were determined to give this a try.

Wire was streteched along the perimter and diagonals of the tank. 
                                                         Shadenet was stiched to the wire.  

Cool, clear waters. Note the brick is visible in 5 feet depth

Side flaps were stitched in the end to further reduce penetration of sun rays

 A week after the shadenet implementation, crystal clear water can be seen in the tanks. Algae growth has been almost completely eliminated. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this solution shall prevail. In the coming months, with the onset of summer, we will have a better idea how the shadenets hold up and to what extent our localized ingenuity worked.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Best wishes for a great 2014!

As the past year fades away, we wish for our friends, supporters and partners-in-passion a new year which brings with it new hope and greater resolve. May 2014 be another year when each of us grows in our pursuits, reach great heights and accomplish the goals which escaped us in the year past.

For us 2013 was a year when Techie2Aggie blossomed as a channel for Savera Farms to seek collaborators, connect with future partners and establish a meaningful trade networks. We knew that our readers are often from locations far, far away from Sivagangai and even India. A few days, before new years day, we sat down to look at our Cluster Map for 2013 and were fascinated by the expanse of nations which had visited Techie2Aggie. Appreciating the power and reach of internet was never more tangible for us.

To everyone who has been an active participant on this blog, we thank you. We always look for community engagement and reader feedback to our postings. Many of you respond with great questions and hopefully we were able to answer a few of them. Some of you provided us practical advice and guided us towards better operations, again we appreciate the engagement and support.

Let's keep it going for the 5th year in a row!