Last week I visited CCD (Covenant Centre for Development), a Madurai based NGO, to observe their mango and medicinal herbs processing operations. Along the way, I saw their “agro-service” operation. They have bought a machine (2.3Lakhs without subsidy) that does paddy transplanting.
Here are a few snaps showing the transplanting and machinery:
Advantages of using the machine over traditional manual transplanting:
- Requires less planting material (and therefore seeds) per acre.
- Uniformity of spacing, rows, etc. makes it easier to apply a uniform quantity of pesticides later if needed
- No need to find and manage casual farm labour
- Lower cost compared to farm labor (at least in southern India)
- If the agro-service operation is professionally run, reliable and timely service can be a huge advantage
According to CCD, their single machine is so much in demand that farmers book it 18 days in advance and even pay a Rs. 1000 advance for booking. CCD charges Rs. 2800 per acre and is able to cover about 1.5 acres per day. With 2-3 people required for nursery cum machine operation, it appears to be a profitable business.
As they were describing their (very limited) operation, I was already wondering whether this could be viable as a stand-alone business? The answer seems to be yes. However, transplanting being a seasonal business, the question is how do you generate income in the off-season? Are there complementary crops/machines that can be leveraged during non-paddy season?
Secondly, would such a business be attractive to rural youth? And, could we (should we?) reduce the financial risk to the youth by leveraging different kinds of asset ownership/finance mechanisms, or possibly, franchise models? Answers yet to be discovered…