Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Indian fruit growers who export to international countries face several challenges in exporting their produce. Two major challenges are (a) currency exchange rates not favouring exports and (b) Controlling Chemical Residues in their produce.
Farmers can address challenges of the falling rupee by diversifying into alternative markets for their produce including Indian retail chains, Indian wineries and other fruit processing units.
Chemical residues in the final produce can be reduced with more enviornmentally-benign approaches to crop protection such a new range of fungicides and insecticides that are of biological origin. The use of chemicals can also be limited by developing a weather-pattern based disease trend map of the fruit region.
Agrocom is using such technologies in assisting the Grape Growers of Nasik to help reduce their residues so that they are well within the Maximum Permissible (Residue) Limits (MRL). Agrocom provides a real-time disease advisory to several grape growers in Nasik Valley based on such a fruit disease map. The message that goes out every morning informs them which diseases are most likely to occur. The forecast is made from the weather records collected from Agrocom’s disease station network – Akaashdoot – since certain weather conditions favour certain insects and diseases that are known to cause economic damage of the crop.
Agrocom plans to deploy 60 such weather stations across Maharashtra. Two dozen stations are already live and are currently being used to monitor the fruit disease map. Agrocom is also looking at other ways of reducing MRLs in fruit crops. Biological sprays that can be used in the Pre-Harvest Interval are being investigated (since no chemicals can be used in that period) Technologies for improving spraying are also being investigated, a lot of sprays do not cover the entire crop in conventional methods. Wineries in Nasik valley also use Agrocom’s technologies to help procure chemical-free varieties of grapes for crushing.
Agrocom Pvt Ltd, is an IT company started by engineers at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The founders of Agrocom have extensive experience in Communication Technologies and Agriculture. The list includes – Dr Krithi Ramamritham, currently Dean R&D at IIT Bombay, Anil Bahuman, the CEO & Managing Director, Dr Kadabhai, Head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra-Baramati, Yogesh Kulkarni, Director of Pune NGO – Vigyan Ashram and Dr Bishnu Pradhan, who has over 35 years experience in R&D and Management in the area of Electronics and Telecommunications. The advisory board includes Sunil Kulkarni and Jaiguru Kadam (both also part of the company’s management), and Vivek Balaraman and Nishikant Bhalerao who come from other organizations.
Agrocom provides weather forecast data, weather-dependent crop loss data, disease forecast data for helping eliminate some of the risks involved in commercial farming. The technologies are useful for macro-level planning as well as precision farming at the farm level, helping reduce chemical residues by appropriate design spraying schedules for crop protection.