HARVESTING THE GAP | PLOUGH TO PLATTER
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
The Rural Post brings to you a series of amazing stories, “Plough to Platter”. This is a series of success stories of farmers and their innovations. Here is the story of Mr. Venkata Narasimha Raju interviewed and reported by G. Srikanth Reddy.
Name of Farmer: Mr. Venkata Narasimha Raju
State: Andhra Pradesh
Initiative: Pressurised cold chamber for uniform ripening and storage of fruits
In every crisis lies an opportunity is a widely known saying but put to practice by those who commit to work on that opportunity and come out successful. This is yet another story of an ordinary farmer who saw flaws in the present agricultural practices but instead of blaming fate, he put his efforts to correct it. This is the story of Mr.Venkata Narsimha Raju, the owner of COLDSPACE AGROTECH PVT. LTD., who uses scientific techniques to uniformly ripen the fruits so that they are good quality and thereby yield better returns to the farmer.
Q. How did the journey of Coldspace start?
Back in the 2000s, I had an aquaculture pond in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh which was doing well and had good market demand. Even then the marketing of fish or aquaculture products is done raw without removing the cut, tails, and other waste as it was thought that processing will de-shape the produce and will make it not marketable. (Even today most aquaculture products are exported in that manner). The demolition of our lake by officials in 2006 hit us hard. But we moved and saw opportunities in mango processing. Mangoes are mostly produced in AP and Telangana but the processing infrastructure is low. So we entered this space to bridge that gap in 2011.
Q. How will your Coldspace ripening chamber benefit farmers?
Any good business works with the motive of helping its clients, in our case it is farmers. The availability of cold storage gives the farmer the power to store his produce and sell when there is a good market price and especially for fruits as all produce do not ripen at the same time. This frees them from the clutches of middlemen who take advantage and offer minimal prices for a one-time harvest purchase. There is more need for such infrastructure in our country.
Q. What operations do you perform in your cold storage and how did it grow over the years?
As of now, we are operating with pressurized ripening of mango and banana and storage of apple and other exotic fruits. We faced difficulties at the beginning (2011) to convince farmers to sell us their produce and started with 400 tonnes of mango and steadily growing to 2500 tonnes capacity presently. The best thing is that most farmers are repeated customers which is a good sign and withdrawal is as low as 2%.
Q. How do you get your sourcing -directly from farmers or middlemen?
We highly encourage farmers to sell us directly but still few farmers are hesitant to take the opportunity and still sell to vendors. We hope they realise the benefits soon. We also source from 2 FPO’s working in mango and with them the work is easier and more organized. See, even here we see an opportunity.
Q. What are the future plans of your organization?
We are planning to expand more into the storage of sensitive fruits like Apple and Exotic fruits just like Mango and increase the capacity of our cold storage while not compromising on farmer welfare.
Q. What is the pressing need in today’s farming culture?
I will be wrong if I say only one. There are many gaps to fill and many opportunities to explore. The major one is organizing the market. I have seen situations where the farmer was unable to pay for transport charges to the truck driver even after selling in mandis and fled. How worse can the situation go!! We need more accountability and an organized market which will result in more infrastructure for processing and storage. Without that, only traders use these for their advantage and the farmer stays far from development.
Q. So what can farmers do to improve their situation now?
They just have to realise their potential. The success of many FPO’s and opportunities in infrastructure should be utilized for their benefit. They just have to take that extra risk for some period which will pay them 10 times more. For example, there are paper bags lined with polythene inside and can be used to cover young mango fruits on the tree to protect it from fruit flies and other pests. It ensures good fruit shape and size but costs some money (can be prepared with low cost ). Still, farmers ignore and leave it open. In the latter case, wastage is about 20% and the rest are also not of good quality. But if he adopts the former method he gets excellent produce which can fetch him 60% more his revenue just by increasing costs to 5%.
Q. Thank you, sir!! Your story will definitely be an inspiring read to farmers and our readers, any suggestions for our readers?
I think you are losing track. It is written in the first line of the article In every crisis lies an opportunity. You just have to see it. And thanks to THE RURAL POST for taking an initiative to share such stories and should go a long way.
Don’t forget more interesting stories are on the way... :)
Reported and Edited By -
G. Srikanth Reddy