Farming goes hi-tech



Arya agri-tech solutions promotes technology-intensive farming in Kerala

Precision farming, highly automated farming, remote monitoring and controlling operations with the help of data supplied by drones.  This is how technology-intensive modern farms function. Drones move around to collect data. Farmers manage plant health and nutrition management as they optimize production and quality with drones helping out. From irrigation to plant health and nutritional system,  technology-intensive high-tech farms can make a difference in the farming sector: 

An agro-tech start-up company called Arya Agriculture Solutions, Kerala, is helping farmers go high-tech and make farming sustainable so as to produce safe and pesticide-free vegetables. If the farmer wishes to build an organic farm, they pitch in with technical support there as well.

These kinds of companies are particularly relevant today when food shortage and supply chain disruptions are emerging as major concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide lockdown. This calls for focusing on local food production, strengthening local manufacturing businesses as well as building up local, regional and intra-regional supply chains and making them more efficient.

ARYA AGRI SOLUTIONS

State of the art agro-tech solutions can help farmers more sustainable and generate a decent income for farmers.   Information and communications technology (ICT) have begun revolutionizing the farm sector in India. Today, drones perform soil health scans, monitor crop health, and assist in planning irrigation schedules, applying fertilizers, estimating yield data and providing valuable data for weather analysis.

When a group of five enthusiastic youth met at a training workshop on agro-farm-business, it turned out to be a venture called Arya Agri Solutions. Those friends are Venu S Nair, Arun Sadanandan, Sarath T, Boby George, Shaji Thachilethu, Akhil Raj. It’s a multidisciplinary team consisting of a bioengineer, a diamond designer, a quality controller, IT Engineer and Electronic and electrical engineer.  

E- Agriculture in Action

Smart farming is data-driven, enabling farmers to take action based on accurate information on soil conditions. Extracting this data had previously involved physical visits to the field and gathering metrics manually. Equipped with agriculture smart sensors, drones can collect and deliver this data – needless to say, they can also do it in a faster and more precise manner. Not only can agriculture drones inform farmers on soil conditions using thermal, multispectral and hyperspectral technology, they can also detect field areas inflicted by weeds, infections and pests. Based on this data, farmers can decide on the exact amounts of chemicals needed to fight infestations, and not only help reduce expenses, but also contribute to better field health. 

Source: E-agriculture in Action: FAO, 2018

This multidisciplinary team brought to the table a diverse set of skills and expertise. Together they are making efforts to turn around agriculture and farming in Kerala. They promote high-tech farming and help farmers adopt cutting edge technology in the Kerala context. “We are trying to popularise farming. And want to make it profitable as well. Without it being profitable the farming as an occupation will disappear. 

Organic for those who particularly wish for it, it but we promote good agricultural practice (GAP)” Akhil says.

While states like Kerala have significant agricultural potential, it lags behind most states despite favourable climatic conditions and its fertile soil. Farming is not yet considered as a safe livelihood option. While commercial crops like rubber has been a mainstay for several decades in Kerala, people are slowly considering other options including vegetable cultivation mainly to meet their daily consumption requirement. Kerala brings its vegetables from other neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka etc.

Smart farming is critical for making farming in Kerala more sustainbale and profitable. Without  high tech , the farmer breed will become exint soon. And  That’s the only way farming can be made profitable, says Akhil, team leader at Agro-tech solutions.

They are leading a silent revolution in the agriculture sector in Pathanamthitta district. Traditionally while talking about farming and agriculture, the districts that come to mind used to be Idukki, Wayanad, Palakkad and Pala in Kottayam. While there used to be rice cultivation in Kuttanad in Alleppy and spices in erstwhile Central Travancore region, including in the present Pathanamthitta region, at least for 40 years there was not much agricutlrue production used to come from this region, owing to shift to Rubber cultivation as well as economic properity brought in by the remittances of Non Resident Indians.  

How they started: 

Their agro-business journey began in 2019.   Venu narrated that story as follows:  “ We met at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Pathanamthitta while attending the ARYA project, which is Attracting and Retaining of Youth in Agriculture. It was a training programme on agriculture and farming. There while we learned more about farming and practices, we decided to do something by contributing more at the community level. And this is how our company was formed. We started in March 2019. Krishi Vigyan Kendra gave us knowledge free of charge with free tea in the morning and lunch and tea in the evening. 

At ARYA Agri Business solutions, ”We try to bring back the relevance of farming and agriculture in our society. Every household can have a small kitchen garden, which will ensure pure vegetables to the people. Vegetables that are now available in the market are not necessarily hundred percent safe. Pesticide content is often high, so if we can make vegetables in our kitchen garden, that will make a difference in food security as well. 

The farm house that they set up is high-tech, operated using most advanced technologies available. In addition to vegetables from this farm, they also procure from other farmers as well. There are sixteen farmers from whom they procure currently. And more farmers are expected to join with their farm development services activlely supporting farmers who are keen on agriculture.

Marketing support for farmers

Farmers are provided with marketing support if they find it difficult to market their produce and get a good price. Arya procures vegetables after evaluating farms for good agricultural practice (GAP). Organic produces are specially procured for marketing.

Those who are keen on setting up their own model of technology intensive farming are provided training and aided with technology adoption. They reach out with help in setting up farms successfully. Since marketing support is also part of it,  anyone who is interested in farming can fearlessly produce more  earn their livelihood as well. The market is vast with expanding customer base.

In addition to home delivery in nearby areas, Eco-shop retail outlets managed by the Agro-tech solutions are also a sure market for them with their loyal and regular customers. Ecoshops are an initiative of the Kerala’s government’s agriculture department.  “We were given the responsibility of managing an EcoShop in Maramon which was loss making, but we took over it and made it profitable,” Akhil said.

Poultry, honey bee and food processing

Their venture is not limited to vegetables alone.  Vegetable cultivation as a standalone activity need not be sustainable, therefore related activities and value addition are also on the agenda for Arya.

Akhil says: “Each of us study and specialize in a particular sector. So, our expertise also grows. We provide technical help as well as supply all the needed equipment. We started supplying chicks and cages. We also make smart cages for hen and bee hives. Beekeeping is a low investment venture due to which farmers, can engage in this along with other farming activities. And  beekeeping help generate additional income. Interestingly the global honey market size was valued at USD 8.4 billion in 2018. And the market for it is growing and expanding fast. Shifting consumer preferences towards a healthy, nutritious, and natural alternative for sugar as well as artificial sweeteners, which is honey, is visible.

We help in fish farming.  Our fisheries division promotes biofloc fish farming, with our own modifications”.

Biofloc fish farming is sustainable and environmentally-friendly process of aquaculture that controls water quality and harmful pathogens along with providing value-added creation of the microbial protein feed for aquatic farm structure.

Together we combine all these sectors and create value. Smart cages for poultry are categorized into different standards such as A type l, and H type hi-tech cages/smart cages. In addition to that, we also provide an innovative broiler cage breeding system. We supply smart cages that need minimum effort on the farmer’s part, and are of different sizes. Some of the other value-added products we offer are:

·        Fruit processing and Jam production:India is the world’s largest producer of bananas, papaya, mangoes & guava etc. Pinapple is yet another fruit grown in Kerala.  However, there is a lot of wastage due to lack of processing and cold chain facilities. But this offers tremendous opportunities for agro-business entrepreneurs.

·         Banana powder manufacturing : It has numerous health benefits. Owing to the increasing awareness regarding the health benefits of banana powder, the market has bright growth prospects. The product is a foremost source of calories & carbohydrates and is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and magnesium. The other nutrients in banana are vitamin B6, protein, dietary riboflavin, fiber, iron, niacin, etc. It is beneficial in preventing dehydration, ageing effects; it improves nutrients absorption and cures indigestion (dyspepsia). It protects against the blood pressure fluctuations due to the potassium content in it. It also helps in treating depression as magnesium helps in relaxation of muscles. Other benefits of banana consumption include strengthening of bones, improvement of digestion, vision improvement, etc. Banana powder market is anticipated to reach a value of US$ 1,311 Million by 2024.
 

    Organic Candy: Honey candy production: The natural and organic sweets and candy market is growing segment as consumers as are more aware of the ingredients used.

Entrepreneurship in agro-businesses

There are also total agro-business offers for interested youth entrepreneurs, for instance a machine to make dried and dehydrated Garcinia Cambogia, or Malabar Tamarind (Kudampuli). This has been used in traditional fish curries instead of tamarind giving the dish a sour taste. And it’s a product in high demand and used in many South Indian cuisines in Kerala due to its unique taste.

Apart from that there is another machine to process jackfruit as well. “We are planning to transfer the technology and help entrepreneurs with all aspects of setting up their units, if they come forward.

An innovative high-tech mushroom production farm is another project that they have in mind, which will help them sell it at reasonable prices.

In order to help farmers set up and kickstart agriculture as an income generation opportunity, they are also providing farm developing services. “We provide training, technology, labour supply and help in preparing a detailed project report (DPR). In addition to that our project division is also into farm design and development with a focus on farm tourism.” Akhil adds.

Farming as a knowledge-intensive activity

Often those who get into the agriculture sector forget to recognize the knowledge aspect involved in it. What they forget is that the knowledge and information passed onto us through several generations need to be acquired from those who have that knowledge. Without that. farming can lead to failure.

In addition to that it’s important to combine traditional knowledge with technology and modern farming practices. Akhil says it’s more knowledge intensive than capital intensive. “One should have a passion for it and interest to learn more about the climate, seeds, farming techniques and best practices. We give training to those who are interested in farming and new techniques in agriculture. We have a model farm, which is being developed as a technology-intensive high-tech farm, situated near Maramon at Kuriyannor in Pathanamthitta district.

We work in tandem with government organisations to give maximum benefit to farmers.

Akhil adds that they don’t consider promoting conventional farming, as that is extremely labour intensive. Therefore, they focus on developing techniques and tools which are less labour intensive at minimum investment. Technology intensive and less labour intensive technologies are the only way through which farming can be made profitable. Else the farmer breed will become extinct. Their goal is to make good vegetables available at affordable prices, without affecting the profit margins of the farms.

For more details contact:

Akhil, Arya Agri Solutions +91 89407 02200

Market for drones in farming sector

A recent PwC report estimates the agriculture drone market to be worth USD 32.4 billion. The advantages that “an eye in the sky” provides when combined with analytic tools that can interpret the data and images to actionable information have ushered in a new revolution.The use of drones for precision agriculture is gaining momentum because of their capability to deliver the most up-to-date info fast and efficiently. The evolution of drone software and its overall affordability also account for the increased application of drones.

Source: PWC, FAO

ICT in agriculture

Climate change has a major impact on food security. More than 815 million people are chronically hungry and 64 per cent of the chronically hungry are in Asia. The world needs to increase food production by almost 50 per cent by 2050 to feed a population of nine billion, yet resources such as land and water are becoming more and more scarce.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are playing an increasing role in addressing problems faced by agriculture. The challenges faced by agriculture from climate change alone are enormous and the need for farming communities to adapt and become resilient is key to feeding the world’s growing population. Harnessing the growth and transformative potential of ICTs provides a tremendous platform not only for addressing some of these challenges but also for accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Source: FAO

Precision farming

Precision farming combines sensor data and imaging with real-time data analytics to improve farm productivity through mapping spatial variability in the field. Data collected through drone sorties provide the much-needed wealth of raw data to activate analytical models for agriculture. In supporting precision farming, drones can do soil health scans, monitor crop health, assist in planning irrigation schedules, apply fertilizers, estimate yield data and provide valuable data for weather analysis. Data collected through drones combined with other data sources and analytic solutions provide actionable information.

Organic farming

Organic agriculture is an integrated production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity  It emphasizes the use of natural inputs (i.e. mineral and products derived from plants) and the renunciation of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic agriculture follows the principles and logic of a living organism, in which all elements (soil, plant, farm animals, insects, the farmer and local conditions) are closely linked to each other. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, following the principles of these interactions, using the natural ecosystem as a model.

Source: Training manual for ORGANIC AGRICULTURE, Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), 2015

For more details contact:

Akhil, Arya Agri Solutions +91 89407 02200

Koshy P

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