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Sunday, May 09, 2021

How a group of cane growers grew a company from scratch

Chormule and his fellow directors were traditional cane growers across the cane belt of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka and by virtue of their agricultural practices, were ‘champion farmers’.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
Updated: April 23, 2021 10:39:54 am
Hailing from families of farmers whose main source of income was the cane crop, these men knew the crop like the back of their hand, Chormule said. (Express)

In November 2019, when Ankush Chormule and his five fellow directors decided to launch Ganna Master — the speciality product aimed at better per acre yield for cane farmers, they had almost zero experience of markets. What they had was immense ‘on field’ practical knowledge about the cane crop.

Chormule and his fellow directors were traditional cane growers across the cane belt of South Maharashtra and North Karnataka and by virtue of their agricultural practices, were ‘champion farmers’. “As against the normal 50-60 tonnes per acre, our individual acreage was around 100 tonnes per acre. What we aimed to do with the Ganna Master Kit was share our package of practices with farmers so that they, too, can increase per acre yield,” said Chormule, whose family grows cane over nine acres in the village of Ashta in Walva taluka of Sangli district.

Even before they hit the markets, Chormule, who has a PhD in agricultural entomology, and his team was working with cane growers in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. Through their Facebook group Hoy Amhi Shetkari (HAM), the team has been in touch with over 4 lakh cane growers across the sugar producing states.

The team is advised by a retired soil scientist form the Mahatma Phule Agricultural University. (Express)

Hailing from families of farmers whose main source of income was the cane crop, these men knew the crop like the back of their hand, Chormule said. Sugar mills pay farmers per tonne of cane procured, so higher the tonnage, higher the payment

“Besides basic minerals and nitrogen fixers, cane requires boosters and micro-nutrients to enable better growth and increase per acre tonnage. In our personal fields, we take spraying of amino acid, fulvic acid and cytokinins to accelerate the vegetative growth of cane,” he said. Similarly, potassium humate,vitamins and organic phosphates have given a good result in increasing the girth ratio and preventing cane from lodging, Chormule said. The directors, most of whom are administrators of Hoy Ami Shetkari group, have been guiding farmers through their Facebook page on how to improve agricultural practices.

“Of course, these act like tonics, the farmer should ensure the basic remains strong and he adheres to proper planning for the crop,” he said.

The team is advised by a retired soil scientist form the Mahatma Phule Agricultural University. Besides Chormule, the team includes Suresh Kabade, Amol Patil, Prakash Khot, Vijay Magdum and Prasad Pawar.

While working with farmers, the group had zeroed in on five chemicals, which gave the best result. The final kit has Master root, Master Bonus, Master Growth and Master Speed to be either sprayed or applied through water. Applied individually, these would cost Rs 1,000 per application but the Kit offers them same at Rs 2,600. Before going on the stalls, the kits were distributed free-of-cost to farmers to be applied over 300 acres. “The results were very successful…in fact, it was enough for us to launch our company,” he said. Before joining the company, Chormule was on the staff of a Singapore-based input company but resigned to join the Ganna Master Agro Industries Private Limited.

The company started with a modest investment of Rs 10 lakh and directors working from their homes. Social media, especially Facebook, was the platform of choice for spreading the word. “Our initial operations were restricted to the districts of Sangli and Kolhapur. But since then, we have spread to all the cane growing areas in Maharashtra, Karnataka and even in Uttar Pradesh,” said Chormule.

From selling 200 kits a month at first, the company now sells over 2,500 kits a month. The company has followed a very lean but organic model for growth. “Our aim was to reach the farmer directly. So, we have managed to keep the overheads less,” he said.

Hailing from families whose main source of income was farming, the group understood the complex economics of agriculture perhaps better than any one else. “We act as cane consultants but with firmer roots on the ground,” said Chormule.

Since its launch, the company has expanded its footprint and invested in packaging and a storehouse in Pune. This year, the company has launched on a trial basis Onion Master, Turmeric Master and Vegetable Master kits for other crops.

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