Paddy technology

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:

Paddy is grown in rectangular batches in a nursery

Paddy transplanting machine being loaded on to a truck

Recently planted paddy. Left-over planting material for use in case of plant mortality

Neat rows of machine planted paddy

Advantages of using the machine over traditional manual transplanting:

  1. Requires less planting material (and therefore seeds) per acre.
  2. Uniformity of spacing, rows, etc. makes it easier to apply a uniform quantity of pesticides later if needed
  3. No need to find and manage casual farm labour
  4. Lower cost compared to farm labor (at least in southern India)
  5. 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…

A turkey that insisted on being photographed. Its role in the business is yet to be clarified!

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6 Responses to Paddy technology

  1. Liby Johnson says:

    Richa,, the farm machinery service business can be a viable enterprise idea; if taken up as part of State-sponsored initiatives. In the current context, a fully market capitalized business will take quite long to break-even, primarily for two issues; one, equipment costs are quite high; two, maintenance of machinery is expensive. Both of these can be addressed with much larger scale demand for the machines.

    An interesting non-market intervention is happening in Thrissur district in Kerala, where the local Panchayat and a NGO have got together to set up a “Green Army”; trained farm labourer men and women who provide both the labour input and the machinery, on hire. I have not seen the detailed economics of this operation.

    • Richa says:

      Liby, Thanks. I am aware of Jaikumaran’s work on creating Food Security Army in Thrissur. It is a model that combines skilled labor and small-farm equipment. Muthu Velayutham’s CCD model that I described above is similar with a few differences.

      The point you raise about capital requirements is very important. I have come across farmers in Maharashtra who’s fields are ploughed by tractors which are driven down from Punjab. I presume the Punjab farmers send their tractors south in the off-season. Tractors are also being used for non-agri purposes. About 40% of use of tractors is for non-agri purposes — I see them hauling all kinds of construction debris in Bangalore.

      And just today, I read about Maharashtra state govt. attempting to create farm equipment “banks” from where farmers can rent equipment of different types. However, the article doesn’t mention whether they mean tractors or small-farm equipment of the type we are discussing.

      If you have come across any equipment rental businesses, do drop me a note. Would like to figure out the economics of such efforts.

  2. Devi Murthy says:

    Hi Richa,

    You observation are quite valid, which is why I am in the process of developing a rice transplanter targeted at small/marginal farmers. The equipment will be manually operated, light weight, uses the traditionally nursery and the pricing is targeted such that the farmer can afford to buy it himself. However it would be nice to see if there are other was of propagation such as deploying the equipment through farm entrepreneurs as a rental or service model.

    It would be great to share more, do let me know how to get in touch, you could reach me at …

    Thanks!
    Devi

    • Richa says:

      Dear Devi,

      Thanks for reaching out to me. Would be happy to connect directly and share what I know and learn more about your work. I have edited out your email address from your comment.

      Regards,
      Richa

    • Nemani says:

      Hi, Devi Murthy,

      Could you please send us the details of paddy transplanter developed by you? I have seen your machine up close. Can it be modified for young, single seedlings (System of Rice Intensification)? Request you to send your mobile and email for further communication.

      Thanks, Nemani…

    • sujit upadhyay says:

      Hi Devi,
      I am happy and impressed that u guys are working for rice transplanter machine for poor farmers. As a mechanical engineer i am really intersted to know about your work and hope to help my poor villagers for the same.
      request u to contact me on mail id.

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