The dairy industry is often held up as a great Indian agri success story. India has nearly 540 million livestock animals, the most in the world. It produces 190 million tonnes of milk, the highest in the world. But the good news kind of comes to an end here. India’s milk productivity is 50% less than the global average.

Indian cattle produce only an average of 1000 Kg of milk per lactation cycle compared to 7000 Kg in Europe and a staggering 10,000 kilos in tiny, arid Israel. In the dairy industry, what you feed the animal is what determines the quality and quantity of milk. And India has an acute cattle feed crisis.

The land available for fodder production has remained stagnant at 5% of the arable land for decades while cattle population and milk demand keep burgeoning. There is a 12% gap between the demand for green fodder and its availability. Lack of fodder means India’s dairy farmers are operating at only 50% of their potential.

A new and young Bengaluru-based start-up called Hydrogreens founded by 38-year-old Vasanth Madhav Kamath is trying to address this crisis with a unique model that he calls ‘fodder-as-a-service’ for farmers who cannot afford to grow it themselves. The firm grows the green fodder in a low-cost, microclimate controlled vertical farming system that can ensure year-round availability of fresh, pesticide-free, high-protein supply. Even in 40-50 degree Celsius temperatures with just half a bucket of water.

TR Vivek is in conversation with Kamath on how his innovative business can help Indian dairy farmers tide over the crisis.