India’s organised dairy sector’s growth is expected to rise as much as 25 percent by FY 2017-18. But it’s not all good news! According to the National Survey of Milk Adulteration 2011, as much as 70 percent of the milk sold in the Indian market is adulterated and unfit for consumption. Ten individuals decided to leave their plush jobs and bring about a change in this dismal sector.
Shashi Kumar was working with Wipro Technologies for nearly 20 years when he decided to quit his job along with eight other colleagues. He went on to become the co-founder of Akshaykalpa in 2010 with Dr G.N.S Reddy, who was the vice-president of Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF).
Akshayakalpa Farms and Foods Ltd. is the first organic dairy farm of its kind in Karnataka. The team works with the goal of enabling rural entrepreneurship and wealth creation among farmers in and around Tiptur, Arsikere, Channarayapatna, Chikkanayakana Halli, Kadur and Holenarasipura.
The perks include providing high-quality and nutritious milk to the end beneficiaries, boosting economic profits for farmers, bringing technology that is bridging the urban-rural divide, and helping reverse urban migration.
While the other eight techies – Ranjith Mukundan, Venkatesh Seshasayee, Ravishankar Shiroor, Ramakrishna Adukuri, Praveen Nale, Giridhar Bhat, Ramkumar Iyer and Mohammed Ashraf pitched in to start Stellapps technologies pvt. Ltd that provides automated milking machines to Akshaykalpa
The team decided to survey 5000 young people who migrated from villages and of the entire lot selected 20 of the most active youngsters to be a part of this farming model.
They recognised individuals who migrated to cities like Bengaluru and Mysore to earn a livelihood through various odd jobs. The company also tied up with multiple banks to support the farmers.
The team believes that cows must be in the right frame of mind for maximum yield of high-quality milk. After a research of over a year, the team came up with the ideal size for a dairy farm – 25 cows.
“Less than 25 cows won’t give the required output to gain profit after investing in the entire project, and it is not possible to give personal attention to each cow if there are more than 25 cows,” says Shashi Kumar.
Each farm spends Rs. 21 lakh, which includes 25 cows, automatic milking systems, a biogas plant, a bio-digester, fodder choppers and a chilling unit among other facilities that enhance productivity.
Akshayakalpa works with farmers to set up organic dairy farms that are owned and looked after by farmer families. The farms are entirely automated and self-sustained.
Chilling the milk is mandatory at the farm level, the farmers are taught closed loop soil health management and drudgery free farming operations. The team ensures clean and stress-free housing for the animals. They are on a grass-based diet, and regular veterinary check-ups are done so the cows can produce milk that is antibiotic and hormone free.
All of this results in milk which is natural and wholesome. The milk is also untouched by the human hand and thoroughly chilled, right from the farm until it reaches the customer’s doorstep.
“To put it simply, we give you healthy milk from happy cows and empowered farmers,” says Shashi Kumar while talking to TBI from his farm in Tiptur, Karnataka.
Farmer families are allowed to make use of the resources at their disposal to help them earn a steady income and improve their standard of living.
The techies at Stellaps Technologies have developed a milking machine, which minimises labour as well as sense a cow’s health condition. Each cow has a number. The experts keep track of the cow’s health from the head office.
Shashi Kumar said a farmer could milk 25 cows in less than two hours. The milking system is equipped with sensors to generate data regarding body temperature of a cow, the quantity of milk produced and detection of breast infections.
The system sends the data to the central server where it is analysed. Milk is collected and kept in chilling units. The milk is chilled to 4 degree Celsius to ensure high quality. Due to this automation system, manual labour has been reduced considerably on the farm.
Cattle dung and urine are then sent to a biogas plant. The gas (methane) is used to operate a generator that produces power for eight hours in a day.
The material is enough to run irrigation pump-sets and other machinery on the farm. Further, the slurry from the biogas plant is led to a bio-digester. The filtrate is pumped out through a sprinkler system to the farm. The cultivation is entirely organic, avoiding chemical fertilisers.
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.
The firm has tied up with a private company to market the product in Bangalore. The makeshift arrangement is made to process 9500 litres of milk every day, collected from about 160 farmers who grow organic fodder on five acres each of their and can milk 10-12 litres per cow.
The company is earning a turnover of 1.75 crores per month out of which 60-70% is paid to the farmers
“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. Also, a poor and marginal farmer cannot go for such an investment. It is people like us who had left the villages for good, who have to come back and make communities sustainable and bring the youth back,” says Shashi Kumar, a poor farmer’s son from Guddahatty village in Karnataka.