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Indian firm catches the eye of Harvard Business School

Tuesday November 30, 2010 11:54:53 AM, Arun Kumar, IANS

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Washington: An award winning drip irrigation technology developed by an Indian company that has caught the attention of the Harvard Business School holds out hope for poor farmers from earthquake-hit Haiti to Africa.

Jalgaon (Maharashtra)-based agro, pipes, processed foods and irrigation major Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd (JISL), which has won Unesco's Water Conserver Award and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) honour for its inclusive, sustainable business model, has been working with small farmers in Haiti and has now been invited by several African nations to help them out.

"In Haiti we are working with the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and Coca-Cola for developing a business model for small farmers," Dilip Kulkarni, president Agro Foods, Jain Irrigation, told IANS on phone from Boston, Massachusetts.

Kulkarni, who was in Boston last week to present the company's business model at an agriculture symposium at the Harvard Business School, said: "We have developed a technology for mango production in Haiti where Coca-Cola is launching a beverage called Haiti Hope."

Jain Irrigation, he said, was giving technical support in terms of agronomy, technology of cultivation and starting a food processing unit in Haiti. The processing unit may, however, take a couple of years more to come up due to the conditions there.

By donating 100 percent of the profits from the sale of designated Haiti Hope beverages, the project will help facilitate Haiti's recovery and create opportunity for 25,000 mango farmers and their families by developing a sustainable mango juice industry, Coca-Cola says.

"We have now been invited by Africa," said Kulkarni detailing ongoing efforts to replicate its business model in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland and Uganda over the last six months. The company recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kenyan Irrigation board.

With Kulkarni came two farmers from Maharashtra, Hemchandra Dagaji Tatya and Rajendra Hari Patil, to share their experiences and present their success story in using technology for agriculture at the Harvard Business school.

Patil, a graduate in chemistry who once taught science and mathematics at a village school in Bhadgaon, told IANS how he once could not make two ends meet with his meagre income from his rain-fed 1.5 acre farm.

Since switching to drip irrigation he has increased his annual income to Rs.4 million, cultivating banana, ginger, sunflower and cotton on seven acres of his own land and 60 acres of leased land.

Patil won the "Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Ratna Puraskar" in 2009 from Bharat Krushak Samaj, New Delhi, and "Udyan Pandit" 2010 award from the Maharashtra government.

Tatya, who received the 'Kantabai Jain Pandhara Kanda Navtantra Puraskar' in 2003 for highest productivity of white onion, detailed how he too had doubled his income since taking up contract farming with JISL.

Yield levels were marginal and profits low due to flood irrigation and irregular use of fertilisers for Tatya who grows onions, banana, cotton and maize.

But "micro-irrigation and fertigation has helped me raise the yield levels. The quality of the farm product has drastically improved, resulting in better prices in the market", he said.

The pioneers of micro-irrigation systems in India, JISL is said to be the world's second largest drip irrigation company with 146 offices worldwide.

Playing a lead role in the state-sponsored micro irrigation scheme in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, JISL is engaged in contract farming for onion and vegetables, banana, mango, papaya and tomato puree, with over 10,000 farmers.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at







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