Vidarbha as a name whenever heard, evokes many thoughts and sentiments, most of which are gloomy. Drought, farmer suicides, water distress and many such stories haunt the region and the minds of those, who care about the state of agriculture in India. The story of small and tribal farmers in Maharashtra is no different than that of farmers in other states of the country. At Happy Roots for the last 18 months we have been trying to build a sustainable food value chain that connects farmers directly with processors (F&B Industry) and end consumers. This would help our farmers own a bigger share in the food value chain and make farming an occupation of choice and not one of sustenance.
Today, as I write this, we have taken a significant step to change the face of agriculture in Vidarbha. We are transferring the power of earning profitable incomes in the hands of our farmers and giving them the right to choose what to grow and sell it directly to the industry, at the rate they deserve.
In the water distressed region of Vidarbha, we are experimenting with a crop that has not been grown here before. We call this the Barley project.
The Barley project
The Barley project is an ambitious crop demonstration project that covers the entire value chain from pre-harvest (sowing & growth) to post-harvest (processing & marketing). It is a tri-party project between farmers in Akola district (led by Chetana foundation), Happy Roots and Brewcrafts Microbrewing (popularly known as Doolally). Barley, has never been commercially grown in Maharashtra and this is the first time our farmers are trying a hand at it. Barley, as the beer connoisseurs would know, is one of the main ingredients in your favorite bottle or mug of beer. Most of the craft breweries in India import malted Barley or get it from the northern belt in the country. This seemed like a great market to tap and at the same time presented a perfect model crop for demonstration. The idea is to grow barley, process it and sell it to microbreweries as a value added product. The value addition might happen at a later stage but discussions with the State government and industry is already in progress.
After a lot of research done together with Chetana, KVK and ATMA we finally got hold of the three best Barley varieties in India and the sowing happened over the past weekend.
What are the outcomes of this project:
- Ownership of the value chain right from sowing to value addition & marketing
- A crop that makes them higher money than other similar commodities
- Local employment, skills development and freedom from middlemen
For industry (microbreweries)
- Consistency and Transparency in supply chain
- Control over quality and Grain traceability
- Savings both financial and in terms of time, which helps them focus on what they do the best – Make awesome beer (:
Though we will bear the fruits of this project 110 days from now, I immensely thank Suketu Talekar (Founder, Doolally) for sponsoring and supporting this project. It is not easy for anyone to come onboard a project like this (considering all the risks attached to farming a new crop), but Suketu being the dynamic entrepreneur he is, without blinking an eye gave us his whole-hearted support. I can’t thank enough, Rahul Bole, State co-ordinator, Chetana foundation; who is always enthusiastic about seeking a brighter future for farmers in Vidarbha and is ready to take on any risks for the greater good.
Happy Roots now has been five months into commercial sales and we manufacture and market healthy snack food products. Our production volumes are still not very high as we are growing; however we are focusing a lot on our backend to create larger impact for farmers. The Barley project is one such initiative and we are doing much more by using technology; to bring farmers and F&B industry closer to each other. Updates to follow soon.