Deepak Fertilisers to focus on value-added portfolio-based solutions

Subramani Ra Mancombu | | Updated on: Feb 12, 2022
Mahesh Girdhar, President, Crop Nutrition Business, DFPCL

Mahesh Girdhar, President, Crop Nutrition Business, DFPCL | Photo Credit: RAHAULG

Firm views the industry from nutrient perspective, says senior official

Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd (DFPCL) has decided to shift the focus of its business from commoditised fertiliser to value-added portfolio-based solutions, a top official of the company has said. 

“Our journey over the last four years has been strongly driven by value-added solutions. Hence, we have moved to completely differentiated value-added crop nutrition solutions. We are innovating continuously. We see the industry from the nutrient perspective and not product perspective,” said Mahesh Girdhar, President, Crop Nutrition Business, DFPCL.

Single granular fertiliser

This has come in handy for the firm as it has helped three million farmers to experience its product - Smartek - launched in 2018. 

“We began by producing 10,000 tonnes of Smartek in the first year and last year, we produced 4,50,000 tonnes last year. Overall, we have produced one million tonnes that have been used by these three million farmers,” Girdhar said. 

Deepak Fertilisers is seeing a good response for its latest product - Croptek, whose feature is that it is a single granular fertiliser that has eight nutrients including sulpher, zinc and boron that will be key for certain crops. 

The product, which was introduced after three years of field research, has been launched for onions and gives a 10 per cent higher yield and reduces expenses on fertiliser and crop inputs by 10-15 per cent.

‘Balanced thali’

Conceptualised nearly five years ago, the product underwent a series of trials across various locations. It was also extensively tested in the fields of more than 450 farmers for over three cropping seasons since 2019. 

“It is another product of our innovation and it has a proprietorship nutrient unlock technology that enhances the use of sulphur,” the DFPCL crop nutrient official said, adding that Croptek will be introduced for sugarcane this month. 

Farmers prefer such a concept and Deepak Fertilisers promoted this by pointing out the concept of a “balanced thali” (balanced food plate). It was the first in the country to provide complete crop nutrients by working with farmers on “seeing is believing” model. 

Everything has to be right

Explaining the firm’s decision to focus on value-added nutrients, Girdhar said this was based on the fact that application of balanced nutrients is the key to plant’s growth.

“Fertilisers or nutrients aren’t just a couple of products such as di-ammonium phosphate and urea. Plants needs nutrients - 16 of them in all - to yield to the potential and produce quality fruit,” he said. 

Besides nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, plans need secondary nutrients such as sulphur, magnesium and calcium besides 10 mico-nutrients, including zinc, iron and boron. 

“Plants require right nutrients at the right time at the right stage with the right dosage. The method of application has to be right. Currently, nitrogen requirement is met by urea but the efficiency of use is only 30-50 per cent. The nitrate gets leaked in soil or atmosphere and is wasted due to oversupply,” the chemical firm’s official said.

Key issue

Again, phosphorus gets fixed in the soli becoming calcium phospate in alkaline soil and ammonium phosphate in acidic soil. The use of efficiency is just 20-30 per cent of the application on the plant. 

“A key issue in nutrition management is the efficiency of use. This can be addressed through water-soluble fertilisers, where the nutrient is mixed with water - and foliar applications whereby the nutrient is powder or spray based,” Girdhar said. 

In the case of water soluble fertilisers, though there are six million hectares under drip irrigation, only 20 per cent of the farmers opt for such fertigation.

Proprietary product

“The Covid pandemic has taught the awareness of micro-nutrients being significantly low in plants. But their use efficiency increased through water-solution fertigation. For nitrogen, the efficiency of use increased to 95 per cent, for phosphorus 50 per cent and for potassium it is 80 per cent,” he said. 

Nearly four years ago, Deepak Fertilisers decided to address this key issue of nutrients and fill the void in that space. It then came with a proprietary product Smartek, which was launched after over 35,000 field trials, including in-house and at agricultural universities.

“Smartek unlocks nutrients and make them available to the plants. In particular, it will keep phosphorus in a form that will be available for the plant and the technology also enhances the root system rather than mix with calcium or ammonium in acidic or alkaline soils,” Girdhar said.

Formulation for different stages

The product increases yield by 10-12 per cent and can be used in crops such as sugarcane, onion, cotton, soyabean, groundnut, maize, potato and rice. 

The company, a leader in western parts of the country where drip irrigation is practised by many farmers, created another product “All in 1” that is a balanced formulation which can be used at different stages of the crop. 

“This is mainly for tomato and grapes where its usage enhances the quality of the fruit and ensure fruits are of uniform size, improves yield and colour,” he said, adding that the product enhances shelf life besides offering quality and quantity benefits.

Approach, target

DFPCL had developed balanced nutrients for certain crops and drawn a complete schedule. Its approach for solution is crop-specific. “We are targeting specific cash and high value crops such as cotton, onion, sugarcane, pomegranate, grapes, soyabean and maize besides almost all other horticultural crops,” Girdhar said. 

The company images its 350-strong ground workforce to interact with farmers. Its market development officers have been given the responsibility to go and meet farmers, hold demonstrations and prove the benefits of the products.

“They also educate the farmers on balanced nutrients. We primarilyy work in five States - Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra, Telangana and Karnataka,” he said. 

In the north, it also works in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Overall, the firm has its presence in 12 States and targets only 9-10 crops.

Digital engagement

Deepak Fertilisers engages with farmers digitally and personally. “Our digital engagement includes holding seminars on mobiles and doing live programmes on Facebook. We reached out to 17 million farmers in 2021 through digital engagements and were in an one-on-one touch with over one million growers,” Giridhar said. 

The firm also has an app which gives details on providing crop inputs at the right time. It also has a feature to compare farmers’ return on investments. 

Deepak Fertilisers also has a government-accredited laboratory to test soils and 30,000 soil samples are tested every year. “If we can’t provide a solution through our product, we tell growers what is available in the market,” he said. 

Published on February 12, 2022
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