In Maharashtra, India, a series of droughts between 2013 and 2015 led to a significant shift in agricultural practices. Startup Entrepreneurs from Maharashtra, Saurabh Kadam and Prasad Deshmukh, found an opportunity in onion farming, a crop that could grow quickly and was economically viable, especially during the water-scarce periods. This marked the beginning of their journey towards revolutionizing onion farming through mechanization.
Saurabh Kadam, who holds an MTech in Civil Engineering from the Sangli-based Rajarambapu Institute of Technology, decided to switch careers from his construction business to agriculture. Partnering with Prasad Deshmukh, they focused on developing machinery for onion farming. This decision was influenced by the intensive labor requirements and inefficiencies they observed in traditional onion cultivation practices in their region.
Their first significant innovation was a mechanical seeder designed specifically for onion seeds. Onion seeds are delicate, and existing seeders on the market were not suitable for them. The machine they developed was manually operated, ensuring gentle handling of the seeds, and it also reduced the amount of seed and labor required for planting. By 2015, they had manufactured their first machine and started selling it, with an average of 300 units sold annually.
In 2019, realizing the broader potential of their innovations, Kadam and Deshmukh established their own startup. Their entrepreneurial journey received a significant boost in 2020 when their firm was recognized under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)’s Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RAFAR). This recognition brought them an investment of Rs 15 lakh and incubation facilities at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Kashipur, Uttarakhand.
Their next breakthrough came with the development of an onion transplanter. This machine, attachable to a tractor, facilitates precise and efficient transplantation of onion saplings. Transplantation, a labor-intensive process in onion farming, was significantly streamlined with this innovation. This not only reduced labor costs but also improved the overall yield and quality of the crop.
The transplanter, in particular, gained international attention. Soon after its launch, the startup started receiving queries from other onion-growing countries. Their first export was to Morocco in April 2023, followed by shipments to Tanzania and Palestine. The international demand highlighted the global relevance of their innovations in agricultural mechanization.
Despite these successes, the startup faces challenges. The fluctuating prices of onions and the general downturn in the market have impacted their business. However, Kadam and Deshmukh remain focused on their goal of achieving complete mechanization in onion farming, a feat not yet accomplished in the industry.
Their journey is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of farmers and entrepreneurs in the face of adversity. The droughts, which initially posed a significant challenge, became a catalyst for innovation and transformation in the agricultural sector. Kadam and Deshmukh’s story is not just about mechanizing farming practices; it’s about adapting to environmental changes and finding sustainable solutions in agriculture.
Today, their startup is not only contributing to the agricultural sector in India but is also making a mark internationally. Their story inspires many, demonstrating how adversity can lead to innovation and how localized solutions can have a global impact. As they continue to research and develop more user-friendly machinery, Kadam and Deshmukh are setting new standards in agricultural mechanization, particularly in onion farming.
Their work symbolizes hope and progress for many farmers, not only in Maharashtra but around the world, showing that with the right approach and technology, agriculture can be both sustainable and profitable, even in the face of climatic challenges. The journey of onion farming by these two startup entrepreneurs from Maharashtra is a powerful reminder of the potential that lies in innovative thinking and perseverance in the agricultural sector.
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