October 23, 2021

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Agritech firm partners with IARI to offer solutions that can prevent stubble burning

India's power ministry, revised policy of biomass pellets, agricultural waste, thermal power plant, farmers in north indian statesIndia's power ministry, revised policy of biomass pellets, agricultural waste, thermal power plant, farmers in north indian statesIARI has licensed this technology to 12 companies for mass multiplication and marketing of the bio-decomposer.

Over 5.7 million acres of rice paddy stubble is burned on farms in the northern parts of India every year, leading to environmental issues, depletion of soil quality and loss of flora and fauna. The stubble smog engulfs Delhi and its surrounding areas during October and November. This year, an agri-tech start-up firm based out of Bengaluru — nurture.farm — hopes to make a difference.

The firm has partnered with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to improvise the Pusa decomposer by providing capsules developed by the institute into a ready-to-use spray solution and use this to stop the stubble burning to some extent.

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Dhruv Sawhney, chief operating officer, nurture.farm says the main challenge in agriculture is to drive adoption and scale of technology, make the technology work financially and change the mindsets of users. The technology has been available and the start-up hopes to scale up this in a viable manner by bringing more users onboard.

The Centre has been advocating the use of Pusa decomposer, a low-cost microbial bio-enzyme that can decompose crop residues, including stubble from paddy crops, in a bid to prevent farmers from setting them on fire. In 2020, the government provided Pusa Decomposer, developed by ICAR-Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), to several states on a trial basis for crop residue management.

IARI has licensed this technology to 12 companies for mass multiplication and marketing of the bio-decomposer.

“nurture.farm connected with IARI and converted the capsule into a  water-soluble powder form, which removed a major barrier towards scaling the technology. A campaign was launched for 3 months in Haryana and Punjab through which we onboarded 26000 farmers with a capacity of 5 lakh acres through the app. We then deployed 700 plus machines in the identified clusters and have begun spraying,” Sawhney explained. In the last fortnight, the company has covered over 20,000 acres and hopes to cover 10,000 acres daily this season.

Sunil Pabbi, head, Division of Microbiology, ICAR-IARI, Pusa said that the decomposer is a microbial solution that can turn stubble into manure. “The institute has come up with PUSA decomposer technology, which is a four capsule kit so that it is easy to carry and store. A solution is needed to be prepared for spraying this. The process has started so that by the time of harvesting, the solution will be ready for spray,” he said.

Last year around 300 farmers used this in 1,950 acres and this time it is expected that 844 farmers with 4,200 acres will be using it. The Delhi government has made a committee of 25 members to reach out to farmers and execute the drive. The farmers only need to fill forms and the government will spray the bio-decomposer solution on their field for free.

According to Sawhney, the best-case effort till now was 2000 acres that the Delhi government pushed last year. The company is confident of hitting 10,000 acres a day and hopes to complete its target of 5 lakh acres in 40 days. At present, the company is funding this effort from its pocket. There is an initial shift required and once this takes off and it can be subsidised by the government, he explained. The company hopes to do business once the farmers get on board through the app.

The company says that it will be covering 10% this year, 50% next year and, thereafter, 100%, “We are looking at various avenues to cover costs for this. There are interested parties including government funding. IIM Rohtak our regulatory compliance and audit partner will be verifying our claims and we will be publishing a report at the end of the initiative this year which will give confidence to all concerned parties,” he said.

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