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How IFFCO Kisan Tech-led Farming Practices Benefit Sugarcane Farmers

It is an IoT-based automated drip system in which the pump is managed remotely using a standard 2-G connection via an app and water flow is regulated according to soil requirements. There are also soil sensors installed on the ground that are linked to the app, allowing the user to monitor soil conditions and nutrient deficiency.

Abha Toppo
Farmer in his Sugarcane Field
Farmer in his Sugarcane Field

Kalyan Singh, 40, a manager at a 4.5-acre farm in Sikandari village in Uttar Pradesh's Bijnor district, turned off the power and wondered how the water pump started automatically. Later, he realized that the pump had been operated by someone in Delhi, 130 kilometres away.

It is an IoT-based automated drip system in which the pump is managed remotely using a standard 2-G connection via an app and water flow is regulated according to soil requirements. There are also soil sensors installed on the ground that are linked to the app, allowing the user to monitor soil conditions and nutrient deficiency.

Soon after, Singh became acquainted with technology-driven farming, and in less than two years, he realized its significance. He has now begun to persuade others to do the same. B Though the farmers in the village are convinced of the new technology-based practices, they are still waiting to see the return from the sugarcane crop, which is now ready for harvest.

"Profit is the most important factor in determining whether it (technology intervention) is good or bad," said Bhagwan Tyagi, a farmer from the same district.

Pilot Project by IFFCO Kisan:

In 2020, IFFCO Kisan launched a pilot project on a small farm in Sikandri owned by Vikash Karanwal, who lives nearby in Chandpur, first levelling the land with laser and then fencing it with wire.

It hired Singh as a full-time farm manager at the site because the owner has other commitments. In Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, the company is running 12 other similar projects. According to company officials, based on their success, the model will be expanded to other states for commercial launch

"Before we started, crop yield was very low." We decided to do things differently, leveraging our technological expertise. So we proceeded with drip irrigation, preparing well-distanced trenches and automating it so that we could control it via an app. In addition, we have installed a weather station and soil sensors to help us monitor the plant's nutrients and growth," said IFFCO Kisan's Managing Director Sandeep Malhotra.

According to an agreement with the owner, IFFCO Kisan has invested 11 lakh in the capital while sharing half of the operational expenses, which are estimated to be 3 lakh in the first year. In addition, the company will handle post-harvest issues such as marketing. Due to the issue of cane arrears in Uttar Pradesh, where payment to farmers was excessively delayed by some sugar mills, IFFCO Kisan decided to make "natural jaggery" with as few chemicals as possible.

While farmers in western UP typically use up to two bags of di-ammonium phosphate fertilizer and five bags of urea per acre of sugarcane, the farmer in this project used only four bags of DAP and 14 bags of urea, in addition to avoiding 1esticides commonly used by other farmers.

"We spoke with a local kolhu (jaggery crusher), and we will have the sugarcane crushed there in our presence to make jaggery that will not contain any additives that are commonly found in market jaggery," Malhotra explained. IFFCO Kisan is in contact with a number of leading companies in order to sell "natural jaggery" in bulk via a business-to-business model.

Out of the 140 tonnes of expected cane output, the company intends to produce 13-14 tonnes of jaggery, which it hopes to sell at a price of $60-80/kg, depending on demand.

"Even if it is sold at an average price of 60/kg, the net profit after expenses, including the manager's salary, will be 4.2 lakh in the first year," a company official said. "So, profit will be 100%, but it could be more," he explained.

If the same amount of cane is sold to a sugar mill, a farmer will receive up to 4.9 lakh (including production costs) based on the State cane price of 350/quintal, according to the official, who added that the payment was subject to change.

Amrik Singh, another farmer from Prempuri village in Bijnor district, grows sugarcane on six acres of his total farm land, and he has been growing organic sugarcane on one acre for the past three or four years. "A company paid $400 per quintal for my organic sugarcane." "I am ready to convert my farm to organic if I get guaranteed buyers," said Singh, who expects his non-organic cane harvest to be around 320 tonnes this year, with a yield of 550-640 quintal per acre.

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