Village folk leaving their barren farms to seek better livelihood is old story. The reverse migration among urbanites who go back to their roots to take farming is the new trend! Agriculture seems to become a fashionable business for educated youth as well as well experienced professionals working in other industries. For services industry professional like me, a visit to the sprawling venue of Kisan Expo in Pune was quite an eye opener!
There were around 300-400 stalls occupied by a diverse range of companies displaying farm tools, machineries, pesticides, fertilizers, dairy animals, fish breeds, etc. Kisan Expo organizers claimed that 11,000 farmers from Gujarat, 8,000 farmers from Karnataka, 3500 farmers from MP had participated, along with thousands from Maharashtra. Although I cannot vouch for that, I could see a large crowd of farmers at all venues. It was surprising to see farmers filling up entry forms and willingly paying Rs.100 entry fee!
Agriculture has always been a serious business for the rural farming community, but now ‘agricultural services’ has become the buzzword. Both small entrepreneurs and large companies offered a wide spectrum of services such as soil fertility management, groundwater survey, weather forecasting, poly greenhouse construction, organic farming certification, pest management, biotech-based tissue culture, market linkage services, etc.
As a person who is inclined to see innovative businesses, I was thrilled to see some interesting ideas being implemented in the Indian agricultural sector, which is considered the most retarded in terms of innovation! Here are some of the innovative ideas displayed in Kisan Expo:
Coimbatore-based Eco Green Unit displayed some wonderful banana fibre handicraft products extracted from waste banana plants. They had two varieties – the silky smooth thread harvested from fresh banana plants that can be woven into garments and the rough coarse fibre from dried plants, which are used for making carpets, baskets, ropes, etc.
Fine Trap India is an innovative device for biological control of borer pests. It is a simple tool that is non-toxic and cheap as well.
Nuciterra Magigro Bags are high density, co-extruded plastic bags filled with Cocopeat, compost and other nutrients that are designed for use in greenhouse hydroponic vegetable and flower crop production.
Hydroponics seems to be the next big thing in agriculture; it is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without any soil. The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics has established India’s first vegetable hydroponics garden in a rural school near Bangalore.
Hifield AG offered micro-nutrients of amino acid and humic acid made from sea-weeds, which are used as the base for producing bio-fertilizers.
Numerous stalls for organic products and bio-fertilizers were such a relief, since chemical fertilizers were conspicuously rare!
Global Green Agri Nova’s Perfekt Pesticide is a phytotonic made from herbal extracts which repels sucking pests and makes the plant disease resistant.
Plastic fencing net for plants was another curious product. This simple metal reinforced net helps ward off grazing animals.
Plastic & polymer material were everywhere – pipes, sapling pouches, mulching covers, tissue culture trays, greenhouses, etc.
Low cost manual milking machine that can extract 1.5-2 litres of milk every minute. Raghava Gowda P, a dairy farmer from Karnataka has created this innovative machine.
Tissue culture has become the norm for seedlings in agriculture since high-yield varieties can be easily propagated and there is higher rate of plant survival. Sophisticated biotech labs are churning out saplings of sugarcane, banana, vegetables, etc. for the benefit of farmers.
Drip irrigation is increasingly becoming the norm in horticulture due to innovative water storage techniques and water piping solutions.
Solar power panels for lighting and wind power water pumps are making big inroads into the rural areas.
Further, numerous market research firms, consultancy firms, govt agencies, were discussing about creating aknowledge park for agri-business in order to promote farm mechanization
Even Café Coffee Day found it good enough to host a stall and found flourishing business as well!
I hope all this frenzied business activity would radically change the ground reality for our farmers and bring better prospects from them.