WS Telematics, a Delhi-based company, is providing low cost and easy to operate soil testing machines to farmers. The company plans to increase its reach to every gram panchayat to help farmers enhance productivity by getting their soil samples tested. Mohd Mustaquim reports
Santosh Jha, 34, a farmer at Bhalpatti village in Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, tests his soil samples on his own and buys fertilisers for his paddy and maize fields as recommended by his soil testing and fertiliser recommending machine.
He does not have to rush to the nearby Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Farm Science Centre), at Jale for soil testing. During his visit to Pusa Krishi Vigyan Mela in New Delhi in March 2015, he bought a Digital Soil Test and Fertiliser Recommendation Kit. The kit not only tests soil samples of his fields, but also recommends the quantity of fertiliser for maize and paddy.
Soil health scenario
Though, Green Revolution increased the farm production sharply in India and made the country self reliant in food production and even exporter of many cereal grains. However, due to lack of awareness and availability, farmers use easily available urea in large quantum while ignoring the phosphorous, potassium and other micro-nutrients. “We were absolutely unaware about this machine, even about soil testing. Earlier, I used to pour fertilisers, mostly urea and DAP, randomly,” says Jha.
The insufficient availability of these fertilisers is also a major roadblock in using them adequately. The excessive and non-judicious application of fertilisers have deteriorated the soil fertility in many parts of the country.
Furthermore, it is also polluting the groundwater and environment. Due to this, the Bhatinda region of Punjab today has become infamous for being the centre stage of the deadly disease, cancer.
Including KVKs, there are around 1,000 soil testing laboratories functioning in India. However, they are not sufficient to test soil samples of every farmer. If a progressive farmer wants his soil samples tested, he has to wait for 15 days to one month to get his chance in the laboratory. Also, the big number of KVKs are lacking manpower and basic infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi had been working on an innovative low cost and affordable soil testing machine called, Pusa Digital Soil Test and Fertilizer Recommendation (STFR) Kit, for more than a decade. Later, its commercial manufacturing license was awarded to WS Telematics, a New Delhi-based company, which launched the machine last year. The kit not only tests the soil, but also recommends the crop-wise fertilisers.
Now, the company is supplying the kit to the individual farmers, farmers’ groups, universities and KVKs. The kit comprises of Digital STFR meter, a mini shaker, accessories kit, glassware kit, reagent kit and a thermal printer. The individual farmers, who are not educated enough, can easily operate the machine due to its simplicity, just after two-days of training.
“I have studied only till 9th class, but I can operate the machine easily,” says Jha.
The kit has testing features for organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, sulphur, boron, electrical conductivity (salt content), pH test for acidic or alkaline nature of soil, lime test for acidic soil and gypsum test for alkaline soil.
About the machine, Wazir Singh Dahiya, director of the company says, “The soil testing can be done within one and half hours at the doorsteps of farmers. The system gives accurate and reliable digital results. It helps in determining the available nutrients in the soil and the dosage of fertilisers, preventing deterioration.”
“We have developed two models. The basic model priced at Rs 30,000 does not have a thermal printer and connectivity facility with the computer. Thus, after testing the soil, the farmer has to note down the results and fertiliser recommendations manually. However, the second model, which costs at about Rs 45,000, can provide printed results and the data can be stored in a computer for long-run,” Dahiya further adds.
He claims that five samples can be tested simultaneously in one and half hours time. Each sample needs a reagent chemical, which costs Rs 100, to be mixed generously. On the sale of the machine, the company provides a kit of 50 reagent samples.
Pusa Krishi Vigyan Mela brought a big breakthrough for the machine. “Before the Mela, the machine was covered in an IARI’s programme, broadcast by Doordarshan. It resulted in farmers’ curiosity and many of them came to the fair just to the purchase the machine. In three days, around 70 farmers booked the machine,” says Dahiya.
The machine was fully launched with all features in November last year. So far, the company has sold 400 machines.
WS Telematics has sold the machines across the country, from Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, to Northeastern states.
So far, the company is reaching to the farmers directly. Alongside, it has made a small network of distributors in a short span of time. “But, many people have shown interest to be part of our distribution network. So, we are increasing the numbers,” informs Dahiya . He wants to increase the reach to every village of the country, at least every gram panchayat.
A machine can sufficiently serve a village or gram panchayat. A villager can set up a small scale entrepreneurship by testing soil samples of the farmers.
“The government has recently launched soil health card scheme. Here, without any burden on the government, we can test soil of the country and also develop entrepreneurship in the villages,” Dahiya adds.
Without making awareness among the low educated people and farmers, it is very tough to make this product successful. Thus, the manufacturer promotes the machine through local media campaigns and sends direct messages to the farmers. Besides, it participates in the agriculture fairs.
To avail the benefits of the machine on larger scale, the company wants the government to provide subsidy for the machine to small and marginal farmers.