The burps and flatus of cattle that result in methane emissions could soon be controlled through feeds, which, in turn, could be counted for carbon credits if Pune-based eFeed has its way. Cattle across the globe emit a lot of methane through burp and flatus. “It is difficult to analyse or measure methane emission because you cannot put a sensor on every cow,” said Kumar Ranjan, Founder e-Feed.

Also read: Green future of farming: AI’s role in promoting healthy cattle, sustainable planet

Though many companies claim to have built a sensor to measure methane emission, the challenge is to measure every single cattle. “One of the ways we have been able to identify is through artificial intelligence.  Over the last two years, the amount of data we have got on the feeding pattern and methane emission is basically a direct function of feeding. 

“So if you feed poor quality raw material, you get more methane. If you feed good quality stuff, you get less methane, to put it very simply,” said the founder in an online discussion with businessline.

 Kumar Ranjan, Founder e-Feed

 Kumar Ranjan, Founder e-Feed

The start-up has been able to analyse data and it is currently working in many such areas. The company sees this as an important step when the Centre could allow carbon credits for dairy companies. This could turn the focus on companies such as eFeed which has the data, software besides offerings. 

Recorded data

“My entire offering will become important for the dairies in the country to evaluate the methane emissions,” said Ranjan. The company, which has a manufacturing unit in Lucknow produces supplements and premixes for cattle that have been found to cut methane emissions by 13 per cent,” he claimed. 

“This means, over a period of time, my products can reduce methane emissions by 13-14 per cent and there is recorded data. We really want to get the focus on methane emissions and that it is important. At the same time, we are able to do that by using our software to analyse methane emissions and reduce it by the products we make,” Ranjan said.

eFeed is currently developing the product and it will be launched shortly.  “Our plan is that once we launch the product, we will talk to bodies such as Gold Standard Verra, which are into carbon credits and we will work with them to get the methodology registered. If everything goes well, the Gold Standard Verra can agree that e-Feed’s process decreases methane emission,” the company’s founder said. 

This will allow dairy companies to use products that reduce methane emissions. Though eFeed would like to rope in farmers, Ranjan said his company was currently focussing on solving the productivity challenge. 

Animal management

“The entire methane and the carbon piece is for the dairy companies and large agencies, large bodies who want to work on methane emissions and offset their carbon footprint,” he said.  

On eFeed, he said it is an animal management company currently working with the cattle farmers across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh through an app or digital platform. “We have a mobile application for farmers to identify the deficiency in the animal. This is like a diagnostic tool where you can select animal species,” Ranjan said. 

Farmers will provide details on the feed they give to their cattle and the total milk production. Certain questions are posed to the farmers on the app to know about the animals. “On that basis, we calculate the deficiency of the animal and recommend a feeding pattern that should be the ideal feed to get the maximum milk output,” the company’s founder said.

At the back-end, eFeed has machine learning to identify the deficiencies to provide the recommendations, which are localised. “What we mean by localisation is that if a farmer is in Uttar Pradesh, we tell him he has X amount of raw material and Y amount of byproducts. He can use these. We will not recommend a crop or grain not in that place,” Ranjan said.  

Improving animal health

eFeed took up a factory near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh last year and produced concentrate feed and protein fat. Another product is premix, which is a supplement with a good amount of amino acids, minerals, vitamins and all essential things for the animal to perform better basically. “They improve the health of animals and provide more milk output. On average, milk output increases by 30 per cent when a farmer uses our product for almost a month,” he said.  

Otherwise, eFeed is basically a technical firm that uses software with a staff of 40. While it has an office in Lucknow to run operations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, it has a research and development wing in Pune under the National Chemical Laboratory.

Venture capital firms such as Omnivore and Better Capital have funded eFeed and from the Government, it has attracted Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s fund.  

About three lakh farmers have downloaded the eFeed app and nearly one lakh are active. “Of the one lakh farmers, we have recorded a database of 10,000 and 3,000 farmers are active on the app daily,” Ranjan said. 

Four prevalent problems

On prevalent problems that eFeed has observed among animals, he said they face four problems. One is timely heat. “Animals don’t come into a timely heat, which is very important for getting pregnant,” he said. Second, most of the time, during pregnancy, calves die, as they are not being conceived properly. 

The third problem is total milk output being low. The fourth problem is fat and the quality of milk. “Farmers are awarded or rewarded on the fat and SNF (solid not fat) value of the milk. Because the animal’s health is bad or the feeding is poor, they don’t get the right fat or the right SNF,” he said.

The milk quality is affected since the grains and crops used for feed animals develop mycotoxin fungus. “You cannot remove mycotoxins  from the milk by boiling or by chemical processes. There’s also aflatoxin which is a proven carcinogen. This is a huge problem,” Ranjan said.

On the quality and follow up mechanism, he said the company partners with local collection centres. There are about 50 such centres in the three States in which it operates currently. The progress of the animal is monitored from day zero and three feedback loops are taken on Day 7, 15 and 30.  

Also read: Global body set up to preserve, improve genetic quality of Indian indigenous cows

eFeed next plans to expand to Maharashtra and Odisha. “We are just building a kind of stack over there,” he said.  Most of the services on the app are offered free and the company earns through the feed it produces. “Whichever products we are making, we make money if the farmer buys that. We have been kind of expanding our business across the three States through this way. We do almost  ₹1 crore-plus of revenue and get a good margin. So that way we are operationally profitable as well,” Ranjan said.