Sugar cane farmer uses IoT-tech to automate drip irrigation and monitor soil condition & nutrient deficit: IFFCO
Kalyan Singh, 40 years, a manager at a 4.5-acre farm in Sikandari village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, turned off the electricity and wondered how the water pump began automatically. Later, he realized that the pump had been handled by someone in Delhi, 130 kilometers away.
It is an IoT-based automatic drip system in which the pump is handled remotely using a standard 2-G connection via an app and water flow is adjusted 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 deficit.
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. Though the farmers in the hamlet are convinced of the new technology-based procedures, they are still waiting to see the return from the sugarcane crop, which is now ready for harvest.
‘Profit is the most important criterion in determining whether it (technological intervention) is good or harmful,’ said Bhagwan Tyagi, a farmer from the same district.
In 2020, IFFCO Kisan initiated a trial project on a small farm in Sikandri owned by Vikash Karanwal, who lives nearby in Chandpur, first leveling the field using laser and then fencing it with wire.
It hired Singh as a full-time farm manager at the location since the owner had other commitments. In Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, the business is undertaking 12 more comparable projects. According to corporate authorities, based on their performance, the concept will be spread to other states for commercial launch.
‘Before we started, agricultural output was quite poor.’ We opted to approach things differently, utilizing our technological skills. So we proceeded with drip irrigation, preparing well-distanced trenches and automating it so that we could manage it through an app. In addition, we have installed a weather station and soil sensors to assist us to monitor the plant’s nutrients and development,’ 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 expenditures, which are projected to be 3 lakh in the first year. In addition, the organization will handle post-harvest difficulties like marketing. Due to the issue of cane arrears in Uttar Pradesh, where payment to farmers was excessively delayed by certain sugar mills, IFFCO Kisan decided to manufacture ‘natural jaggery’ with as little 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 experiment used just four bags of DAP and 14 bags of urea, in addition to avoiding 1esticides usually used by other farmers.
‘We spoke with a local kolhu (jaggery crusher), and we will have the sugarcane broken there in our presence to manufacture jaggery that will not include any additives that are commonly seen in commercial jaggery,’ Malhotra explained. IFFCO Kisan is in contact with a number of top corporations in order to offer ‘natural jaggery’ in bulk via a business-to-business strategy.
Out of the 140 tonnes of planned cane yield, the business 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 expenditures, including the manager’s salary, would be ₹4.2 lakh in the first year,’ a business official said. ‘So, profit will be 100%, but it may be higher,’ he explained.
If the same amount of cane is sold to a sugar mill, a farmer will earn 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 payout was subject to change.
Amrik Singh, another farmer of Prempuri village in Bijnor district, growing sugarcane on 6 acres of his total farm area, out of ten acres, and has been farming organic sugarcane on one acre for the past three or four years.
‘A corporation paid ₹400 per quintal for my organic sugarcane. I am willing to convert my farm to organic provided I receive guaranteed customers,’ said Singh, who expects his non-organic cane crop to be about 320 tonnes this year, with a yield of 550-640 quintal per acre.