|Industry||Organic Milk and Milk Products|
|Shashi Kumar, Dr. G.N.S. Reddy|
Akshayakalpa is the first organic milk brand in India. The company manufactures, markets and sells organic milk, and organic milk products. The organic products include farm fresh Milk, A2 Milk, curd, ghee, butter, paneer, and artisan Cheese under the Akshayakalpa brand.
Genesis of Akshayakalpa dates to years 2001-2009, where the Youva Chethna program led by Dr. G.N.S. Reddy from Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation encouraged like-minded people from urban areas to contribute in kind and cash to train young people and women in need in rural regions to take up agriculture/farming as a vocation of choice.
Nine Techies, including Akshayakalpa co-founder Shashi Kumar and his friends Venkatesh Seshasayee, Ranjith Mukundan, Ravishankar Shiroor, Ramakrishna Adukuri, Praveen Nale, Giridhar Bhat, Ramkumar Iyer and Mohammed Ashraf, then working with Wipro Technologies, were some of the earliest contributors to the Youva Chethana Program.
The idea of young people being trained to take up agriculture/farming as a vocation of choice was transformed into idea of rural entrepreneurship model under Akshayakalpa in the year 2010, when the above-mentioned techies seed funded Akshayakalpa in November the same year. The initiative was also crowdfunded by several other employees of Wipro Technologies.
The organization was born as a farmer entrepreneurship initiative where young farmers who had discontinued farming operations due to economic non-viability are identified and groomed to relocate back to farming by providing bank linkages, farmers outreach and technical services and access to markets. Akshayakalpa handholds the farmer on a continuous basis and ensures economic viability of the farming operations. Akshayakalpa's aspiration is to help a farmer family earn a net income of Rs 1 lakh a month.
The founding team was known to defy corruption, which is common in Indian bureaucracy and refused to pay bribes at various levels while seeking clearances and licenses to begin operations.
Today, the company is working with farmers in and around Tiptur, Karnataka and grooming them to be entrepreneurs by transforming their farming operations from livelihood focused to wealth creation opportunity.
Akshayakalpa works with farmers to set up small organic dairy farms that are owned and looked after by farmer families. The farms are optimally automated/mechanized and self-sustained.
The company has stringent guidelines regarding the maintenance of the farms and the cattle. The cows are mainly fed on green fodder grown without chemical inputs. No hormones are injected or oil cakes fed to boost milk production. It takes about 18 months to induct a new farmer into the Akshayakalpa model, starting with growing organic fodder. Each farm invests Rs. 21 lakhs, financed by Akshayakalpa partner banks, which is utilized to build the farms. The farms are made up of twenty-five cows, automatic milking systems, a bio gas plant, a bio-digester, fodder choppers and a chilling unit among other facilities that enhance productivity.
After a research of over a year, Akshayakalpa came up with the ideal size for a dairy farm – twenty-five cows. “Less than 25 cows won’t give the required output to gain profit after investing, and it is not possible to give personal attention to each cow if there are more than twenty-five cows,” says the CEO and co-founder Shashi Kumar.
The farms associated with Akshayakalpa have the same design. They are airy, steel-roofed sheds, with rubber mats on cemented floor for animal comfort. The cows and calves are stall-fed but not tethered. They are free to graze. The emphasis is on cleanliness. The dung has to be promptly cleared. It is flushed into a digester attached to balloons of biogas, which is used as cooking fuel and for producing electricity. The slurry from the digester is pumped into fields. The milking is done with machines and chilled on site. This is dairying designed to take out drudgery.
The farmers are taught closed loop soil health management and drudgery free farming operations. This is important for women who have to do household chores as well. It is also meant to persuade youth to stay in villages. Akshayakalpa ensures clean and stress-free housing for the animals. They are on a grass-based diet, and regular veterinary check-ups are done so the cows can produce milk that is antibiotic and hormone free.
Chilling the milk is mandatory at the farm level. The milk is chilled to 4 degree Celsius to ensure high quality. The system sends the data to the central server where it is analysed. Milk is collected and kept in chilling units. Due to this automation system, manual labour has been reduced considerably on the farm.
Cattle dung and urine are then sent to a bio-gas plant. The gas (methane) is used to operate a generator that produces power for eight hours in a day.
The material is enough to run irrigation pump-sets and other machinery on the farm. Further, the slurry from the bio-gas plant is led to a bio-digester. The filtrate is pumped out through a sprinkler system to the farm. The cultivation is entirely organic, avoiding chemical fertilizers.
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