DISTRICT PLUS

When techies take to organic milk

An automatic milking machine at the organic farm owned by farmers Nataraj and Jagadish; (right) fodder for cows is grown without chemical fertilizers.— Photos: Prakash Hassan

An automatic milking machine at the organic farm owned by farmers Nataraj and Jagadish; (right) fodder for cows is grown without chemical fertilizers.— Photos: Prakash Hassan  

“Many villages will become either old-age homes or deserted places if there is no early intervention technology and captive investment in the agriculture sector,” says Shashi Kumar. He is not a traditional farmer but a postgraduate from Illinois University, U.S. He was Lead Architect with Wipro Technologies but left his lucrative job a year ago to be part of an initiative to set up organic dairy farms in rural areas of Hassan and Tumkur districts.

Akshayakalpa Farms and Foods Pvt. Ltd., headed by veterinarian G.N.S. Reddy, is probably the first dairy industry to produce organic milk involving farmers in the State. Dr. Reddy has the support of many techies like Shashi Kumar in his endeavour.

The project, promoted by Akshayakalpa, is to establish 300 organic dairy farms to produce organic milk in the first phase. The company entered into an understanding with the State Government at the recent Agri Global Investors' Meet. As of now more than 1,500 farmers have shown interest to be part of the mission. However, the company has decided to reduce the number to 300 in the first phase.

Expenditure

Each farm incurs an expenditure of Rs. 21 lakh, which includes 25 cows, advanced cow shed, automatic milking system, a bio-gas plant, a bio-digester, fodder chopper, chilling unit, sprinkler set and fencing. The company has tied up with State Bank of India, State Bank of Mysore, and Kalpataru Grameena Bank for financial support to the farmers. So far eight farms have been completed and around 60 are in various stages of implementation.

“The prime intentions of the project are two. One is to produce organic milk and make farmers independent of the State power grid. With 25 cows, a farmer can get 200-250 litres of milk per day. With that the farmer will be getting a net profit of Rs. 70,000 in a month. Our model meant for a five-acre land includes a bio-gas plant of 40 cum capacity, sufficient to run the pumpset for eight hours in a day,” Dr. Reddy said.

Mr. Shashi Kumar, who has joined the firm as an extension officer, said that the whole exercise was to give an opportunity for the youths to return to villages. “Unless the present generation is shown that they can earn well in their agriculture fields, nobody will be there to take forward agriculture for future generations,” he said.

Techies' role

Shashi Kumar is not the only techie to quit his job to join hands with this venture. Four of his colleagues also quit their posts with a similar intention. They have set up a firm — Stellaps Technologies — to provide technological solutions for food and agro industries. They are Ranjith Mukundan, Praveen Nale, Ravishankar Shiroor and Venkatesh Seshasayee. These techies have developed a milking machine, which minimises labour as well as sense a cow's health condition. Each cow has been given a number. The experts keep track of the cow's health from the head office. Soon the company will have pedometers to keep track of the movement of cows.

Sensors

Shashi Kumar explained that 25 cows could be milked by one labourer in 1.5 hours. “The milking system is equipped with sensors to generate data regarding body temperature of cow, the quantity of milk and the status of mastitis. The system sends the data to the central server where data will be analysed. The system helps to provide medical intervention at the pre-clinical stage itself.” Milk from the milking system is collected in chilling unit. The milk is chilled to 4 degree celsius to ensure high quality.

“Manual labour has been reduced considerably in the farm. Cow dung and urine are flushed into a biogas plant. The gas (methane) generated in the plant is used to operate a generator to produce power for eight hours in a day. This will be enough to operate irrigation pumpsets and other machinery in the farm,” he said. Further, the slurry from the bio-gas plant is led to a bio-digester. The filtrate is pumped out through a sprinkler system to the farm. “The cultivation is completely organic. Chemical fertilizers are avoided at all levels.”

Nataraj, a farmer of Mankikere in Tiptur taluk, owns an organic farm developed with the help of Akshayakalpa.

As of now he has 14 cows and earns a net profit around Rs. 30,000 in a month. The income will go up to Rs. 70,000 as the number of cows increase.

“I am happy with the results of this venture. We don't have labourers. Our family members are enough for the work. The best part is that we are getting power to run the pumpset from the bio-gas plant. Earlier we had to wait for the power supply to lift water.”

Sathish G.T.



IT experts are involved in setting up organic dairy farms and helping youth return to their villages



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