Milking homegrown technology

Vishwanath Kulkarni | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on January 30, 2015

Utterly butterly local Nataraj shows the indigenously developed milking machine used at his farm in Tiptur, Karnataka GRN SOMASHEKAR

GNS REDDY, Veterinarian and founder-CEO of Akshayakalpa Foods Pvt Ltd

Dairy company near Bengaluru multiplies farm incomes with homegrown solutions

Automated milking machines, bulk chilling units and modern cattle sheds with rubber mats for cross-bred cows are the norm for over four years now in the coconut heartland of Tiptur, some 140 km northwest of Bengaluru. Farmers-turned-dairy entrepreneurs here swear by ‘organic’ produce and high returns.

Aside from the existing 20 modern dairy farms, another 80 will launch over the next few months.

A striking feature at these farms is that the equipment they use have been designed and developed locally, in line with the recently launched Make-In-India campaign. Akshayakalpa Foods Pvt Ltd, a start-up floated by veterinarian GNS Reddy, is powering this ‘organic white revolution’, fostering entrepreneurship among ordinary farmers. Now, the US firm Venture Dairy has not only picked up a stake in the firm but is also keen on replicating the model in South America and South Africa.

Under this model, a husband-wife team can take care of 25-odd animals without drudgery and earn up to ₹60,000 a month.

Nataraj, a farmer in his early forties at Mankikere, on the Tiptur-Huliyar road, has stopped growing ragi and bajra as inter-crop in his four-acre coconut farm. Instead, he grows green fodder and maize for his 25-odd cows.

Akshayakalpa picked his farm to showcase and promote organic dairying. Over the past four years his income has seen a quantum leap, he has cleared his loans, and his farm relies entirely on a bio-gas plant for energy.

From about six cross-bred cows, his herd multiplied to over 25, producing about 130 litres of milk daily and generating more than ₹60,000 a month. Barely five years ago, his annual income used to be ₹50,000.

Akshayakalpa’s commitment to buy the milk at ₹30 per litre is a big draw for the farmers in the region, who otherwise get ₹26 per litre from co-operatives, inclusive of a government subsidy of ₹4 per litre.

Vasant Kumar, a 35-year-old engineer who left a lucrative job in Bengaluru to return to his village Bommalapura five years ago, was drawn to Akshayakalpa’s initiative. He has 19 cows and ten of them yield about 100 litres of milk a day, fetching him ₹30,000 per month. Unlike Nataraj, he has hired farm hands, as his landholding is larger.

Vidyadhar in Kuppur village has just embarked on his association with Akshayakalpa. The cattle shed is ready, while the silage — storage space for conserved green fodder — is under construction. A 500-litre chilling unit is in place, crucial to store milk below four degrees centigrade to ward off bacteria. Akshayakalpa staff collect the chilled milk twice a day and transport it to the packaging-cum-dairy centre at Dasarighatta, 45 km away.

The organic milk is preserved in a cold chain, right from the farm to consumers’ doorsteps in cities like Bengaluru, Mysore and Tumkuru.

The company has stringent guidelines and Reddy vouches the entire process is certified, with the cows mainly fed on green fodder grown without chemical inputs. Nor are hormones injected or oil cakes fed to boost milk production.

It takes about 18 months to induct a new farmer into the Akshayakalpa model, starting with growing organic fodder. It costs about ₹21 lakh to upgrade or modernise such a farm with 25 animals. The automation of dairy operations reduces the drudgery, and younger generation of farmers are attracted to this, Reddy points out.

To enrol with Akshayakalpa, the farmer has to sign a bilateral pact with the company for technical services and a tripartite with the bank or financing agency. Akshayakalpa takes the onus of repaying the financing agency on behalf of the farmer.

The company’s brand of organic milk, curd, paneer, ghee and khova among other products are increasingly available at retail outlets in cities such as Bengaluru. “We are handling about 4,500 litres of milk on a daily basis. By April, we expect to procure 10,000 litres,” says Reddy, whose dairy and packaging unit has a capacity of around one lakh litres per day.

“The model is excellent and, at the same time, challenging. Needs a lot of commitment from the stakeholders,” says Narayana Upadhyaya, Managing Director of Aditi Organic Certifications Pvt Ltd, which has certified Akshayakalpa’s fodder cultivation process under the National Programme of Organic Standards (NPOP), alongside its processing units and some of the products.

Published on January 30, 2015
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