Ag Tech News
Technology to practise eco-friendly farming and increase yield
Vijay Yelmalle teaches agriculturists – both urban and rural – how to apply technology to practise eco-friendly farming and increase yield.
Mr. Yelmalle spent the first two years doing extensive research in technologies like hydroponics and aquaponics, which involve farming without soil. “These technologies make farming sustainable. The main reason for farmer suicide is unsustainable conventional farming,” says Mr. Yelmalle.
He began by growing vegetables on his terrace in Mumbai and giving them to his family and friends. After the success of this initiative, he began CRAFT in 2014 with four employees and a personal investment of ₹30 lakh.
The beginning was challenging. “I began CRAFT to become a leading service provider in alternative farming technologies. Despite being one of the leading companies in the field, business was not good, as not many people knew about these methods,” he says.
Mr. Yelmalle had to devote a good deal of time educating people and destroying misconceptions: most of their knowledge came from YouTube videos, and they would come to him asking how to produce 200-400 tonnes of vegetables in one acre, with no idea of the cost it entailed. Many others were not aware of the volatility of the agricultural produce market, while some thought hydroponics or aquaponics were forms of magic, and required no technical skills.
CRAFT has a pan-India customer base. “We have sent supplies and do-it-yourself kits to hundreds of people which cost anywhere between ₹2,000 and ₹40,000. Till date, we have trained almost 1,500 people in hydroponics, aquaponics, urban farming, commercial aspects of the technologies etc,” says Mr. Yelmalle.
CRAFT helps its customers set up farms and provides consultation and training at Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. Mr. Yelmalle stays in touch with his clients on WhatsApp to help with problems they face.
In addition, CRAFT has developed two sustainable business models. One is focused on the health of urban dwellers. This model is about growing vegetables in urban spaces and supplying fresh, nutritious produce to subscribers from nearby areas at market prices. The other model, called ‘Rural Integrated and Digitalised Economical Aquaponics’ relates to the economic sustainability of marginal farmers using aquaponics. Mr. Yelmalle is also looking at establishing an institute to bring in