Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF) will assist 37 innovations from startups in the agricultural sector that focusses exclusively on coconut farming.
While traditional methods of farming are quite popular in India, farmers are slowly realising the need for innovation to increase yield and productivity. New-age farmers are increasingly looking for solutions to assist traditional methods and reap rich dividends.
But there is still a gap between innovation and cultivation. This gap arises because of various factors including lack of awareness, archaic farming practices, and rigid mindsets that refuse to adopt new technology and keep pace with changing times.
This where the Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF) has stepped in with a social initiative, Innovate to Cultivate, that attempts to narrow the gap between innovation and farming.
Launched in August 2018 in Mumbai, the initiative has so far seen 37 innovations from startups, selected across various farming categories and the foundation will help these startups make inroads into the market.
Much before Marico Innovation Foundation brought entrepreneurs on board, Marico’s Kalpavriksha programme provided information to farmers on key areas like the right fertilisers and nutrients to be used, and how best to use water that is available. It also sought to acquaint farmers with new technologies to better their yield and in turn, increase their income from farming.
A team of six agronomists was deployed for this purpose and was able to reach out to 3,500 farmers from 100 villages that benefited from this project.
Uday Raj Prabhu, Executive Vice President and Head Procurement of Marico Limited explains,
“With Kalpavriksha, we witnessed a 20 percent growth in farmers’ income in just a year. When we keep on adding more farmers, the 20 percent productivity shows an increase of 50 percent in an individual’s income.”
To scale the impact and increase productivity, out-of-the-box solutions were the need of the hour. Understanding the same, MIF developed the Agri Cohort, inviting agritech startups into its fold to help farmers keep up with technological innovations in farming.
Marico Innovation Foundation with a team of agricultural scientists and innovators on board will aid entrepreneurs in every step.
MIF also took the entrepreneurs on a tour of a coconut farm in Pollachi, so that they could understand first-hand, the problems farmers faced, and what type of innovation could help them. They could converse with the farmers, understand the ground reality and help serve them according to their needs.
Right from understanding the nuances of the coconut business to understanding the soil quality, the visit mapped the different aspects of coconut farming.
From the experience gained during the visit, entrepreneurs will modify and alter their ideas to solve several issues faced in coconut farming, in irrigation, pollination and pesticides, to name a few.
"When I see a problem in the farming sector, I see it as a mechanical problem and understand how I can solve the problem with my knowledge,"says Ayush Nigam CEO and Co-Founder, Distinct Horizon.
It is a startup that uses a machine based on Urea Deep Placement (UDP) principle, which helps farmers reduce the usage of fertilisers by 30-40 percent for its crop, as it is seen that most of the fertilisers end up being consumed by weeds instead of the crop. The machine here channelises fertilisers to the roots of the plants and enhances the productivity by 25 percent.
With such startups on board, farmers will receive sustainable solutions for their problems and increase coconut yield.
“There still remains a gap because the farmer is still wary of how technical knowledge will help him. So, certain entrepreneurs explain the post-impact scenario of using these solutions while communicating to them, and that works,” he added.
Bhushan Jambhelkar, CEO of Vasumitra, which works on providing suitable organic farming solutions in terms of carbon-rich and ionic fertilisers, explains,
I don’t explain the technicalities of my product to the farmers, but I do tell them the impact it will create in terms of increase in production and yield.
Embracing new-age solutions, especially innovative practices is the way forward for farmers and Marico Innovation Foundation with its agri-cohort is ensuring that they are future-ready, in every way.