Imagine if a farmer could improve soil fertility and rejuvenate it by simply mixing in it with a non fertilizer substance, and what if this could result in increased crop yield year over year, reduced water and chemical fertilizer requirements. Such a product could really help the farming community in India especially with the farming industry is marred by droughts and other such problems, and a Mumbai based startup has found opportunity in this.
Based on a technique used by Amazonians a long time ago, Anulekh, the startup, has developed Biosat, which can reduce water requirement, chemical fertilizer use and result in better crops.
What is Biosat?
The soil in the Amazonian region, with its infamous rain forests, is said to be very fertile. Researchers have discovered that one of the main reasons for this high fertility in the soil is because of an additive in the soil consisting of charcoal, bone and manure which was added to the otherwise relatively infertile Amazonian soil. This additive thereby gave the soil a very high charcoal content and the name ‘Terra Preta’ or ’Amazonian dark earth’.
Terra Preta soil was said to created by the pre-Colombian Amazonian between 450 BC and AD 950. They had used an additive called ‘Biochar’ in order to increase soil fertility which was made by burning crop residue in dug out pits over a period of time, which resulted in something similar to charcoal.
BIOSAT is a Biochar based soil additive developed by the startup. The company has tied up with Government Agricultural Universities in India, like Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth(MPKV), to conduct field testing and research further on the product.
How is it being used?
One of the field experiments was conducted on capsicum plants at a farm in Nahsik District of Maharashtra. The field result showed that the plants grew taller, flowered more, had greener leaves, had healthier and thicker roots and also sprouted more capsicum nodes. This was the result compared to the same crop treated with fertilizer in the same farm.
Similar tests have been also conducted on crops like Grapes, Pomegranate,Onion, Tomatoes & Chilies in other states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu as well.
Some important benefits of applying Biochar to soil:
Increase in microbial activity
Increase in water retention capacity of soil
Reduction in nutrient leaching
Better uptake of nutrients by roots
Increase in PH of acidic soils
Alters soil texture & structure
Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers
Sagar Bhansali, Director & Co-founder, Anulekh said “BIOSAT will give 30-40 % increase in yield in first year ( 70-80 % in second year ) , 25 % less chemical fertilizers & 25 % reduction in water requirement.” Biostat will also bring down input costs for farmers, he says.
Another important feature of Biochar is that it acts as a carbon sequestration tool. Carbon Sequestration is the process of capturing and securely storing carbon dioxide and preventing it from being released immediately into the atmosphere. Biochar is an organic matter in a stable form that does not decompose for hundreds of years. Organic matter in its natural form decomposes in a few years that results in release of carbon emissions & other greenhouse gases.
Currently it costs around Rs 14 per kg. The application rates will vary a bit depending upon on the crop & soil. The company says that on an average the farmers will require around 1 tonne / acre / year and with regular usage and over a period of time this should come down.
In a country like India with a low agricultural productivity, erratic monsoons, overuse of chemicals fertilizers, farmer suicides and high food inflation, a product like BIOSAT should really help the farming community. Almost 50 % of India’s workforce is dependent on agriculture and a rise in agricultural productivity will have a significant social, environmental & economic impact on the whole country.
This Startup Coverage is part of NextBigWhat’s ‘India. Get Independent. #StartupCampaign’, supported by Canaan Partners and Shopify India. During this campaign, NextBigWhat will profile upcoming Indian startups. If you want to have your startup featured, please submit details here.]