Interesting news hit the agriculture industry on April 4, 2022 where the Karnataka government announced that it would focus to grow crops without using chemical fertilisers and insecticides on 4000 acres to encourage and evaluate the growing of chemical free fruits and vegetables. Once the yield is good these techniques will be taught to the local farmers. This indeed is an encouraging move by the government with innumerable benefits for all.
Multiple institutions have studied the health implications of consuming fruits and vegetables laden with chemicals and reports have been generated to make the consumer aware of these issues. But there is not much an average consumer can go to ensure what he is consuming does not have harmful chemicals attached to it.
It has become a common practice with many farmers in India to inject hormones, copper sulphates etc to make them grow faster and look appealing. Vegetables are often contaminated with dirty water, untreated manure, coloring agents during the production and storage stage.
Many farmers who live close of industrial units and grow / harvest their produce often have toxic metals in their produce as they often use the waste water from these industrial units to water their crops. Although the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FAAAI) has implemented many guidelines to raise the quality and safety of the unorganized fruits and vegetables sector, much needs to be still accomplished.
State government plays an important role for implementing the availability of quality and safe produce to the consumers. Infrastructural support like providing common cold rooms, ripening chambers, hygiene stations for handlers, waste disposal areas are some of the features added by the state government.
Large-scale training, certification programs and capacity building sessions are also undertaken on periodic basis by the government to acclimatize the farmers of the new and improved methods of farming.
Although the government has appointed training partners and auditing agencies for accomplishment of these goals but the gap between the strategy creation and its actual implementation on ground requires intensive work and monitoring.
Shift in consumer and farmer mindset
Consumer awareness and more importantly the rise in consciousness to consume chemical free produce has also in turn encouraged local growers to look at slowly upgrading their farming practices from traditional methods to methods which use minimum chemicals or is simply organic, which would entail the use of natural ingredients and special bacterial culture.
More farmer groups are encouraged to grow their crops in this manner, which does not hamper the overall production output and improves the quality. Since there is a better acceptability of such produce amongst the customers, it is eventually a win-win for all.
Health is the new wealth
With the pandemic that raged for a while, it created a subliminal impact that made people in general more conscious about health and nutrition. This consciousness created a surging demand for healthier and nutrient-rich products.
Data reveals that post-pandemic, consumers have begun choosing healthier alternatives when consuming food. In fact sustainable food varieties have also made their way to many new-age restaurant menus and households!
Customers are now paying more attention to health impacting ingredients by getting into the details of the label. And this new attention by customers is all thanks to the relevance of social media; driving restaurants, food companies and manufacturers to be attentive to what they claim. We are moving to an honest label age as millennial call it.
Companies are also investing in technology to attain a ‘green’ and clean image. A recent ING data shows that consumers want healthier food choices on store shelves in the future. 43% of consumers already look for healthy choices, and 18% want eco-friendly products and packaging and this 18% would only grow further to induce green and clean adoption.
Changing trends in farming
With the rise of farmer’s market and innumerable Agri-tech start-ups, agriculture is indeed undergoing a sea change. Agri-tech innovations have managed to develop exciting new ways to use technology to make farm to fork a reality by using supply chain technology that offers precision and intelligence.
Many agritech starups; mostly innovators in this space use tech to protect crops and maximize outputs without compromising on the clean aspect of the produce and nutrition aspect of the food being produced. Such changes that facilitates better yield, high in nutrition produce and cost saving distribution is creating strategic structural changes to agriculture overall; thus making the farming a lucrative profession and this is a welcome change for India.
Indians have always practiced natural farming for thousands of years using age-old wisdom. But over the past two decades the incidence of chemical usage to increase production and meet the demands of the growing population has led to rampant usage of these chemicals by the farming community. Regulations are great but implementation with clear cut benefits to the farmers have to be clearly communicated for the farming community to grow produce which is chemical free.
(Vinay Raghu Prasad is Founder & Director, Atomaday-agritech revolutionary brand. Views are personal.)
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper’s PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)
Published on: Saturday, April 09, 2022, 10:49 PM IST