Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Sustainable Technology - Driving Resilience for the Indian Farmer

In conversation with Mr Jai Shroff, Global CEO, UPL ltd.

Published: Mar 4, 2022 10:15:57 AM IST
Updated: Mar 4, 2022 10:25:08 AM IST

Sustainable Technology - Driving Resilience for the Indian FarmerQ1. What are some of the most prevalent issues that farmers are facing today?

India’s farmers sustain India’s 1.3 billion people, while Agriculture and its associated sectors are also the largest source of livelihoods in the country. Despite following the best farming practices like crop rotation, precision agriculture and mulching, the farmers’ yields across crops have been stressed over the last few years. Farmers are forced to use more water, fertilisers and electricity. They have been spending a huge part of their income on land that is producing lower per unit input used. In doing so, they are negatively affecting the fertility of their farms. Farmers across India are increasingly having to grapple with stressed crops and sub optimal harvests. A disruption in weather patterns driven by climate change is further dampening their prospects.

Q2. What are companies and organizations doing to tackle these issues? As a global leader, what are the steps that UPL has taken to resolve farmer’s issues?

Companies are working on solutions to reverse this decline. Some are engaged on the technology front, harnessing the power of mechanisation and connected technology to boost farm prosperity. We at UPL, are committed to building a future of seamless sustainable agriculture which augers well for farmers across continents. Our resolve to drive innovations in the areas of crop protection, soil health, post-harvest solutions and plant simulation is mainly to identify the pain points of the farmers and offer a comprehensive solution platform to them with the intent to enhance their resilience against climate risks and ensure maximum farm yield at affordable costs. Thus, at UPL we are constantly developing environment friendly crop solutions aimed at boosting the productivity of India’s farmlands while putting them back on a sustainable footing. One of the company’s key offerings in realizing this vision is the groundbreaking technology ‘Zeba’.
Sustainable Technology - Driving Resilience for the Indian Farmer
Q3. What are the solutions that UPL is offering? What is Zeba? How does the technology work?

Ever since the inception of the company, we have demonstrated our undying commitment to sustainability. Technology holds the key to precision farming and improving productivity, with UPL working proactively to dovetail advanced mechanization with digitalization of services. UPL is also equally committed to developing technology to provide sustainable solutions to farmers at every stage of the crop cycle and help make agriculture more profitable and sustainable. At UPL, “Open Ag” Reimagines Sustainability by combating climate change and reducing the carbon footprint.

 Zeba is an naturally derived, starch-based, super absorbent tech. Intended for in-furrow application, Zeba increases the water holding capacity of the soil, improves the nutrient use efficiency in the crop’s root zone and has a positive effect on the soil microbiome, thereby maintaining soil health. It can absorb 400 times its own weight in water and release it as per the crops’ need. It is effective for six months in the soil and is completely biodegradable, decomposing naturally and harmlessly into the soil. These properties mean crops consume less water, reducing agriculture’s water footprint, which further leads to lesser electricity being used for irrigation. The absorption of nutrient molecules also means less fertilizer use per acre.

Q4. What has been the impact of Zeba so far on Indian agriculture?

Zeba was used across two lakh acres of farmland in 2021 by 1,35,000 farmers across India. Crop agnostic, it was used in the cultivation of 19 crops across the country in various agro ecological zones. The impact it had was huge. The use of Zeba saved 58 billion litres of water in just one year, enough to supply the needs of ten cities with a population of 5 million each. Nourishing the crop alongside watering it, Zeba also led to a 25% reduction in the use of fertiliser, which also reduced the amount of labour required compared to the regular operations cycle.

All in all, the use of Zeba delivers savings of Rs. 1,500 per acre on electricity and Rs. 1,000 per acre on labour. Not only did it save farmers money, it boosted their profitability with crop yields going up by a minimum of 15%. In total, Zeba has earned the average farmer an additional income of Rs. 22000+ per hectare on additional spend of less than Rs. 4850.

Q5. What is the impact of Zeba on the environment specifically?

The Green Revolution back in the 60s unlocked a new level of farm productivity for Indian agriculture. Today, technologies like Zeba are doing the same. The impact that Zeba’s revolutionary technology has had on the environment is remarkable. The technology does so sustainably, without leaving any environmental footprint. If anything, it contributes to the sustainability of agriculture, breaking it out of the vicious cycle of falling yields and growing resource use and putting it on the path to ever-increasing productivity and prosperity.

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